Health & Safety References and Experts

The following references will open as a PDF file unless otherwise noted. Be sure to also review the transit safety section on the transit references and experts page. The references on this page are in the following categories:


Fat City: Questioning the Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Obesity (304-kb pdf)
Author: Jean EidHenry G. OvermanDiego Puga, and Matthew A. Turner
Citation: Draft of 30 October 2006, 24 pp.
Summary: To the extent that there is any correlation between suburbs and sprawl, this study finds that it is due to self selection. In other words, suburbs don’t make people fat, but fat people prefer to live in suburbs.
Quote: “We show that previous findings of a positive relationship most likely reflect a failure to properly control for the fact the individuals who are more likely to be obese choose to live in more sprawling neighborhoods. Our results indicate that current interest in changing the built environment to counter the rise in obesity is misguided.”
The Association Between Urban Sprawl and Obesity: Is It a Two-Way Street? (108-kb pdf)
Author: Andrew J. Plantiga and Stephanie Bernell
Citation: Draft of August 11, 2005, 30 pp.
Summary: A slightly earlier study that reaches the same conclusions as the one listed above.
Quote: “The association between sprawl and obesity reported in earlier studies is due largely to sorting rather than to impacts of the urban environment on physical activity and weight.”
Stepping Towards Causation: Do Built Environments or Neighborhood and Travel Preferences Explain Physical Activity, Driving, and Obesity? (824-kb pdf)
Author: Lawrence Douglas Frank, Brian Saelens, Ken E. Powell, and James E. Chapman
Citation: Forthcoming in Social Science & Medicine
Summary: The lead author has published several papers claiming that sprawl causes obesity. But this one, like the ones above, finds that it is largely due to self selection.
Quote: “Only those that prefer the most walkable environments reported significantly more walk trips.”
The Myth of the Fat Suburbanites (32-kb rtf)
Author:Randal O’Toole
Citation: Thoreau Institute Vanishing Automobile Update #25, 2002,
Summary: Claims that suburbs make people fat are based on junk science.
Quote: “Obesity seems to be more prevalent in central cities than in the suburbs and it appears to be caused more by eating habits and incomes, not by changes in physical activity or the built environment.”
Excess Deaths Associated With Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity (136-kb pdf)
Author:Katherine Flegal, Barry Graubard, David Williamson, Mitchell Gail, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Citation: Journal of the American Medical Association, April 20, 2005, pp. 1861-1867.
Summary: A careful analysis reveals that previous estimates that obesity causes 300,000 deaths per year were exaggerated. Actual deaths due to obesity were fewer than 112,000 per year. Moreover, being merely overweight but not obese was not associated with excess deaths.
Quote: “The impact of obesity on mortality may have decreased over time, perhaps because of improvements in public health and medical care.”



New Urbanism and Crime (51.7-mb PowerPoint)
Author: Stephen Town, Architectural Liaison Officer, West Yorkshire Police
Citation: Presentation given at the 2005 Preserving the American Dream conference
Summary: All of the major design features of New Urbanism make neighborhoods more vulnerable to crime.
Quote: “New Urbanists maximise permeability and facilitate crime. The charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism states, ‘The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, but not at the expense of accessibility and openness.’ This shows that New Urbanists care more about their ideals than about safety.”
Designing Out Crime: The Costs of Policing New Urbanism (web file)
Author:Peter Knowles, Architectural Liaison Officer, Bedfordshire, England 
Summary: Developments built to New Urban standards, with alleys, common areas, mixed uses, gridded streets, and numerous pedestrian paths, are very vulnerable to crime. When compared with developments built to “secured-by-design” standards, New Urban developments suffer four to seven times as much crime and cost five times as much to police.
Quote: “New Urbanism’s position on community safety is entirely subjective and based on fundamentally false premises.”
Creating Defensible Space (3.2-mb pdf)
Author:Oscar Newman
Citation: US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1996
Summary: 120-page book outlining the principles of defensible space as developed by American architect Oscar Newman.
Quote: “A family’s claim to a territory diminishes proportionally as the number of families who share that claim increases. The larger the number of people who share a communal space, the more difficult it is for people to identify it as theirs or to feel they have a right to control or determine the activity taking place within it. It is easier for outsiders to gain access to and linger in the interior areas of a building shared by 24 to 100 families than it is in a building shared by 6 to 12 families.”
Designing Out Crime: Building Safer (37.8-mb (yes, MB) Word document)
Author:Stephen Town, Architectural Liaison Officer, West Yorkshire Police
Citation: West Yorkshire Police, 2004
Summary: Outlines the key principles of “secured by design” (the British version of Oscar Newman’s defensible space). 
Quote: “Creating defensible space has the simple aim of designing the physical environment in a way that allows residents to control the areas around their homes. This is achieved by clearly defining, allocating and organising space as far towards the private end of the spectrum as possible.”
Closing Streets and Alleys to Reduce Crime: Should You Go Down This Road? (200-kb pdf)
Author:Ronald V. Clarke
Citation: US Department of Justice, 2002
Summary: Closing alleys and creating cul-de-sacs by closing one end of streets can play a significant role in reducing crime in areas where crime is a problem. 
Quote: “A study in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that the more entrances to a street, the more crime on that street. Most research supports the idea that burglars avoid houses in cul-de-sacs.”
Was Lowry Bridge a Span to Crime (452-kb Word document)
Author:Mike Kaszuba
Citation: Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 29, 2005
Summary: A Minneapolis bridge was closed for repairs for one year and major crimes in a neighborhood adjacent to the bridge dramatically declined while crimes elsewhere in that precinct actually grew. The bridge will be reopened this summer.
Quote: “Between May, shortly after the bridge closed for repairs, and December, the Marshall Terrace neighborhood reported a 41 percent drop in major crime compared with the same period in 2003, including fewer auto thefts, half the larcenies and a slight drop in aggravated assaults.”
Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods: How New Urbanist planners sacrifice safety in the name of openness and accessibility (web file)
Author: Stephen Town and Randal O’Toole
Citation: Reason magazine, February, 2005.
Summary: Reviews the history of defensible space, secured by design, and New Urbanism and shows that New Urbanist prescriptions are almost exactly the opposite of what is needed to minimize crime.
Quote: “British New Urbanists consider Hulme, in Manchester, a model of New Urban design. . . . The latest Police Crime Pattern Analysis found that it suffers three and a half times the national average rate of crime.”
Permeability, Access Opportunities, and Crime (576-kb pdf)
Author:Stephen Town
Citation: West Yorkshire Police
Summary: Cul-de-sacs can significantly reduce crime, but if they are penetrated even by a foot path, crime rates can hugely increase.
Quote: “Increasing permeability permits access into areas that would otherwise be viewed as private space and where strangers are rare and conspicuous. The presence of offenders and the anti-social is now legitimised and much less likely to be noticed or challenged than would be the case in a development perceived as private.”
Royds Case Study (2.4-mb pdf)
Author:Stephen Town
Citation: West Yorkshire Police
Summary: Reviews a neighborhood that suffered high crime. The area was redesigned to secured-by-design standard by, for example, converting common areas into private yards. Crime virtually disappeared.
Quote: “The ALO reports that there has not been a single forcible entry on any of the refurbished properties.”
Emails from Oscar Newman to Stephen Town (32-kb Word document)
Author:Oscar Newman
Citation: Emails dated 5 February 2003 through 17 December 2003
Summary: Some New Urbanists try to claim that Oscar Newman supported their prescriptions. Before his untimely death in 2004, Newman made it clear in emails to Stephen Town that he did not.
Quote: ” I am not very impressed with the work of the New Urbanists. It is nostalga–a throwback to the past, with little thought about what made those environments work then (long term occupancy by an identical economic class and ethnic group), and unworkable today (occupancy by itinerants, mixed incomes, and mixed ethnic groups).”


Safe Cycling


Bicyling, Transportation, and the Problem of Evil (100-kb pdf)
Author: John Forester
Citation: Paper presented at the Preserving the American Dream conference, San Jose, CA, 11 November 2007, 12 pp.
Summary: Most auto-bicycle accidents happen at intersections, not from cyclists being hit by cars moving in the same direction as the bicycle. Yet, inflamed by an anti-auto mentality, bicycle proponents have focused their efforts on penalizing auto drivers and diverting auto lanes of travel to exclusive bike lanes.
Quote: “In contrast to bicycle advocates, the person who argues for the welfare of cyclists presents a very different picture. He is concerned about getting more cyclists to obey the rules of the road, as being good both for them and for motorists. He desires road designs that properly accommodate lawful cyclists, as do today’s good designs without bikeways. He deplores road designs that contradict the rules of the road, as do all bikeway systems at critical points.”
The Place of Bicycle Transportation in Modern Industrialized Societies (156-kb pdf)
Author:John Forester
Citation: Presentation to the 2005 Preserving the American Dream conference
Summary: Construction of specialized bike routes will not significantly increase cycling or reduce driving and may even create more dangerous conditions for cyclists.
Quote: “Cyclists are best served by good quality conventional roads and a social and governmental policy that treats them as well as it treats other drivers of vehicles. Whether the failure of the anti-motoring program of bicycle advocacy will allow government and the leaders of society to change to such a vehicular cycling policy remains to be seen.”


Traffic Calming

Four Hills Speed Hump Evaluation Study (1.3-mb pdf)
Four Hills Speed Hump Evaluation Study: Technical Appendix (908-kb pdf)
Author: Michael Cunneen
Citation: Albuquerque, NM: Michael Cunneen, 2007, 58 pp. report, 30 pp. appendix
Summary: Reviews speed humps installed in a neighborhood of Albuquerque and concludes that, by slowing emergency service vehicles, they will lead to far more deaths than they will save. This report persuaded the Albuquerque city council to remove most of the speed humps.
Quote: “A conservative estimate of delays due to the existing speed humps would be . . . about one additional death every two and a half years or about 800 times the lives estimated saved by the speed humps.”
Traffic Calming in London (2.4-mb PowerPoint)
Author: Roger Lawson
Citation: PowerPoint presentation made to the 2006 Preserving the American Dream Conference, September 16, 2006, 26 slides.
Summary: So-called traffic calming measures such as speed humps have actually increased accidents and fatalities. As a result, several jurisdictions in the London area have banned them.
Quote: “Former UK Government Minister Kenneth Clarke recently admitted that he was the man responsible for introducing road humps to Britain’s roads, when he was a junior transport minister in Mrs Thatcher’s government. He said ‘I’m afraid I was responsible in the first job I had as minister for introducing road humps in this country. It was an awful mistake.'”
The Objections to Speed Humps (276-kb pdf)
Authors: Roger Lawson
Citation: Submission to the London Assembly, October, 2003, 22 pp..
Summary: Comprehensive discussion of problems with speed humps.
Quote: “The Chairman of the London Ambulance Service, Sigurd Reinton, recently claimed that speed humps are killing hundreds of Londoners by delaying 999 crews. He said ‘For every life saved through traffic calming, more are lost because of ambulance delays.'”
No Two Ways About It: One-Way Streets Are Better Than Two-Way (280-kb pdf)
Author:Michael Cunneen and Randal O’Toole
Citation: Center for the American Dream issue paper 2-2005, 2005,
Summary: Numerous studies show that converting two-way streets to one-way reduces accidents while reversing this increases them. Yet planners are willing to sacrifice safety in order to discourage driving.
Quote: “In 1993, Indianapolis converted a major route to two-way operation. After three years, accidents on that route had increased 33 percent.”
Deaths Expected from Delayed Emergency Response Due to Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation (96-kb Word document)
Author:Ray Bowman
Citation: Testimony submitted to Boulder City Council, 1997
Summary: Develops a method for comparing the safety benefits of traffic calming to pedestrians with the risks of traffic calming due to delays to emergency service vehicles.
Quote: “The present analysis indicates a risk/benefit ratio of 85 to 1, in terms of human lives. Over time, 85 additional deaths are predicted from delayed emergency response for each life saved, if any, by the NTMP.”
Traffic Calming & Emergency Response: A Competition of Two Public Goods (1.2-mb pdf)
Author:Leslie Bunte, Jr.
Citation: MPA dissertation, University of Texas, Austin
Summary: This paper written by an assistant fire chief in the Austin Fire Department uses Bowman’s techniques to demonstrate that, for every pedestrian whose life is saved by traffic calming, more than thirty people will die due to delays to emergency service vehicles.
Quote: “At the very least, the City of Austin policy should prescribe and include measures to ensure that emergency response times do not increase. By doing so, rather than there being a competition between two public goods, there would be a balance of two public goods.”
Traffic Calming Programs & Emergency response: A Competition of Two Public Goods! (504-kb PowerPoint)
Author: Leslie Bunte, Texas A&M Emergency Services Training Institute
Citation: PowerPoint presentation made to the 2006 Preserving the American Dream Conference, September 16, 2006, 45 slides.
Summary: Traffic calming measures such as speed humps save few pedestrian lives, but can lead to severe injuries and delays to emergency service vehicles can lead to many deaths.
Quote: “Sacramento fire fighters have suffered four spinal/neck/vertebrae injuries due to traffic calming, one of which actually took place during a speed hump test.”
Traffic Calming: a promise unfulfilled (160-kb Word document)
Author:Gerald J.S. Wilde
Citation:, 1999,
Summary: Historic data show that increased per capita driving is associated with reduced accidents and injuries. Better-designed cars and roads both make driving safer. But traffic calming essentially calls for worse-designed roads to force people to slow down. This will increase accidents.
Quote: “There is a paradox between some popular safety policies. . . . The first policy aims to reduce the severity of the consequences of risky behaviour by the installation of seatbelts, airbags, crash barriers, wide and forgiving roads, collapsible lamp posts, crashworthy vehicles and so forth. The second policy is to increase the severity of the consequences of imprudent behaviour and thus to ‘scare people into behaving safely.'”
The Problems with Traffic Calming (web page)
Author:Kathleen Calongne
Summary: Traffic calming makes streets more dangerous.
Quote: “An unethical attempt has been made to silence the objections of rescue personnel to delays to emergency response by deflection devices. Fire chiefs, as city appointees, fear professional retribution and often will not voice concern until the level of risk becomes intolerable.”
The Politics of Traffic Calming (web page)
Author:Kathleen Calongne
Summary: Traffic calming is often imposed on neighborhoods over the protests of residents.
Quote: “There has never been a democratic process for the installation of calming devices in other countries. In Leicester, England a protest petition of 500 signatures from 700 homes submitted to a local council was insufficient to halt an installation of speed humps.”