November 13, 2000
Urban sprawl issues discussed
By Eric Rangus email@example.com
Discussions of urban sprawl and uncontrolled growth in Atlanta are as
common as red leaves in October. Howard Frumkin, however, took a different
approach to his discussion Nov. 7 in White Hall, adding the subjects of
sprawls effects on public health and whether sprawl disproportionally
Frumkin, chair of environmental and occupational health in the School
of Public Health, titled his discussion, Urban Sprawl, Public Health
and Equity, and presented it to a crowd of about 100, many of them
environmental studies students.
First, he defined sprawl, a condition that essentially describes 21st
century Atlanta: an area with low-density development; a lot of roads;
architectural, economic and racial homogeneity; the absence of regional
planning; and a shift of development from the inner city to the periphery.
He admitted that solutions would not be easy: The products of unhealthy
lifestyles are difficult things to change.
Frumkin proposed the philosophies behind smart growth as
the way to combat sprawl and its problems. He defined smart growth as
a pattern of regional development featuring high-density development (rather
than spread-out suburban areas), walkable neighborhoods, green spaces,
mixed racial and economic development, and coordinated regional planning.
Prior to discussing the solutions, Frumkin detailed the problems.
He listed seven health problems and addressed each. Many are intertwined,
he said. Accord-ing to Frumkin, urban sprawl, with its inevitable automobiles,
contributes to air pollution, which increases the number of car crashes
and the number of pedestrian injuries.
Several of Frumkins slides quoted statistics showing that sprawling
Southern cities such as Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix were much more dangerous
to drive and walk in than older, more compact northern cities like Philadelphia
To bring his point home, Frumkin displayed several photos of people walking
along a stretch of sidewalk-free Buford Highway, in parts a notoriously
dangerous seven-lane road.
You might be able to imagine a more hostile pedestrian environment,
but I cant, Frumkin said.
Some indirect effects of sprawl include a disengagement from social networks
because more time is spent commuting, and road rage resulting from increased
commuting. Again, Frumkin brought out statistics that showed road rage
was a bigger problem in sprawl cities than condensed ones.
One disturbing number came from a poll stating that 5 percent of respondents
say they sometimes or often thought about hurting
other drivers. Remember, Frumkin said, youll pass
more than 20 drivers going home today.
Frumkin also tied into his argument another social aspectthat being
sprawls effect on racial and ethnic minorities and the economically
Quoting statistical evidence, Frumkin said minorities and poor people
suffer greater heath problems, and are more susceptible to injuries in
car crashes and pedestrian accidents. He again turned to Buford High-way;
many of the residents along its corridor are poor Hispanics who do not
have cars. Therefore they must negotiate the road without benefit of a
sidewalk or many crosswalks.
Finally, the massive building, endless concrete and lack of trees, according
to Frumkin, leads to the urban heat island effect, which can
drive up city temperatures 6-8 degrees higher than surrounding rural areas.
Frumkins framed his hour-long discussion around a PowerPoint presentation
that contained slides, photographs, statistics and satellite photos.
He had previously given this discussion to the Atlanta Regional Commission and will present it to the National Conference of State Legislatures in the near future.