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How Auto-Centric Infrastructure Is Making Us Sick

Instead of endless promises to fix America's "crumbling roads and bridges," filmmaker Andy Boenau argues we need to talk about our crumbling minds and bodies — and how our autocentric infrastructure approach contributes to them.

9:13 AM EDT on June 8, 2023

A new grassroots-funded documentary will expose the ways that America’s autocentric approach to building infrastructure is destroying our physical and mental health — and why we can only become well by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges for people rather than cars.Planner, engineer, and multi-media storyteller Andy Boenau recently launched a fundraising effort for his new film “White Collar Epidemic: How Infrastructure is Crumbling Our Minds and Bodies,” which he hopes will “sound an alarm, provoke critical thought, and to inspire people to band together to make their neighborhoods healthy and delightful places to live.”
That alarm, of course, has been ringing in the minds of sustainable transportation advocates for years — even if the rest of the world can’t always hear it.Decades of research have shown that residents of car-dependent places have higher rates of heart diseasediabeteschronic respiratory conditions and other ailments associated with sedentary lifestyles and car pollution, especially when compared to residents of walkable areas, who also report higher levels of happiness and a host other social, emotional, and physical benefits. Even gun suicide rates go down by roughly half in neighborhoods with access to walkable places like parks — and that’s not even considering the massive public health threat of car crashes themselves, which claimed nearly 43,000 lives last year alone.Boenau hopes his film can use the power of narrative to animate those sobering statistics, and make them urgent enough to get people to demand healthier neighborhoods.“It’s sort of like ‘Erin Brockovich’ meets ‘Super Size Me’ meets ‘The Blues Brothers,'” he joked. “I want normies to get the message: it’s even worse than you think it is, but it can get better. As awful as some state regulations are, this is problem so fixable at the local level.”
The Brockovich-ian quest at the center of Boenau’s documentary is his own journey to unveil who’s behind America’s unhealthy infrastructure, and how their actions have inhibited the ability of public health professionals to keep the population well. An urban planner and traffic engineer himself, he says knew that his white collar colleagues were heavily implicated in that scandal — but even he’s been shocked by the extent of it.“You’ve really got these two groups of white-collar professionals: one is is the medical profession, and one is urban planners,” Boenau explains. “The first knows what’s good for our minds and bodies, and the other is prohibiting it.”So far, that investigation has taken him to the doorsteps of some of the leading lights of the sustainable transportation movement and the field of public health. He’s already queued up interviews with “Right of Way” author (and former Streetsblog editor) Angie Schmitt, Shared-Use Mobility Center CEO Benjie de la Peña, “Curbing Traffic” co-author Chris Bruntlett, historian and author Peter Norton, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer David Ederer, and many more.Boenau says he expects even the most well-informed sustainable transportation advocates will learn something new when the film comes together — and his biggest challenge will be keeping it under a one-hour run-time.“The more I research this, the more this wants to be a 100-episode TV series,” Boenau laughs. “When people watch this, I want them to think, ‘Oh, I thought this was a big deal, but I don’t know it was that big of deal.”The post How Auto-Centric Infrastructure Is Making Us Sick appeared first on Streetsblog USA.

The post How Auto-Centric Infrastructure Is Making Us Sick appeared first on Streetsblog California.

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