GOOD Ideas for Cities: Public Spaces That Promote Activity

In many U.S. metropolitan areas, half of the population is overweight. How can we redesign streets and public spaces to encourage exercise?


The statistics are not on Americans' side when it comes to obesity. In Oregon's Multnomah County, for example, half the population is overweight, which is fairly representative of many counties around the country. Some of the blame can be placed on the way our lives have been designed for cars. So how to transform our cities to make citizens more physically active? As part of GOOD Ideas for Cities Portland, Official Mfg. Co. presented their idea for creating public spaces that encourage healthier lifestyles. The team developed several infrastructure improvements, from giant kinetic sculptures to encourage active play to pedal-powered parking meters that required physical activity to park. But they also wanted people to see they had a choice for activity when taking transportation. So a new feature would be added to the online transit planner that would allow a user to "add exercise" to their transit plans.

Challenge: Today one of every two adults in Multnomah County is overweight or obese. The way we build our cities is part of the problem. How might we re-think our public spaces to promote public health and more active lifestyles?

Department of Planning, City of Portland: Eric Engstrom, principal planner

Official Mfg. Co.: Mathew Foster, Jeremy Pelley, Fritz Mesenbrink

To learn more about this idea contact Official Mfg. Co.

Video by Paul Searle

GOOD Ideas for Cities pairs creative problem-solvers with real urban challenges proposed by civic leaders. To learn more visit


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