Newsletter March 29 2017 Vol 2 No 2

2017 SXSW Bikes at Austin Convention Center

Culture of Activity Newsletter
Vol. 2 No. 2
Thanks so much for joining us on the second year of our newsletter.
We’re delighted to have you along for the ride.


The new year has definitely started off with a bang. It’s been crazy busy and in a good way. We’ve recently attended the Boulder International Film Festival, was involved with a few activities at SXSW and have launched into pre-production mode for 3-4 year documentary following 10 cities from across the country as they strive to become more activity promoting places (more details on this to follow in the coming months).

Our Most Recent Films

Although we’ve been on the road quite a lot we did produce a few fun films in the video montage genre and we’ll highlight three of these below.

The first is Episode 39 – Austin, TX: Sunday Fun Day Jam which was filmed by bike using a DJI Osmo video camera. It highlights how the city of Austin, TX really comes alive in the warmth after a few days chilly winter like weather.

The second is Episode 41 – SXSW Bicycle Video Montage where we caught some of the bicycle activity surrounding SXSW after a cloudy, rainy start to the festival. As you watch this film, focus on the number of bikes you see parked and imagine if each of these represented someone driving a single occupancy motor vehicle. We think these are truly powerful images.

The third and final film is Episode 42 – Austin, TX: Jim & Lucy Continue Their Journey a sweet little homage to the cross country bicycle trip of Jim Sayer and his daughter Lucy. Jim is the Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association, which is conveniently the organization you’d turn to in planning your own bicycle adventure.


Just a quick reminder, as a charitable, not-for-profit organization we rely on donations and sponsorships to produce our films. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at

Project Great Streets: 
Streets have the potential to serve as cherished, well utilized activity assets. In honor of the upcoming Strong Towns Transportation Summit in Tulsa, OK later this week, we’re sharing their recent post about Project Great Streets featuring Heyden Walker Black, a friend of the Active Towns Initiative.

Bicycle Friendly Benefits
A recent article in the Minneapolis, MN Star Tribune titled Cycling in Minnesota creates thousands of jobs and cuts health-care spending, state report concludes was one of our most read re-posts on social media this past week. No big surprises in the details, but it’s still nice to see the validation in print.

Speaking of Tulsa
By far the most popular post on our page from the past week was this article: Planning expert suggests two-way streets with bike lanes in downtown Tulsa. “I like to say people will walk if the walk is simultaneously useful, safe, comfortable and interesting,” Jeff Speck, an author and spokesman for smart design, said. “We focus on each of those categories, but here in Tulsa the safe category is the biggest one because the typical street in downtown Tulsa is attracting cars to go at a high speed.”

Potential Content Profile: Let us know if you see any interesting, relevant articles, research or blog posts – just drop John an email at:

Be Careful Out There
As we move into the warmer days of spring and summer, remember there will be more people out about walking and biking, hopefully you’ll be among them. So be careful out there whether you are choosing to walk, bike or drive.

The primary goals of this periodic email are to keep our subscribers up to speed on recent Active Towns original content and review relevant curated content created by others.

Perhaps you were forwarded this edition, if you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox click here

To see an archive of past issues click on the Newsletters link on our website.

Newsletter January 27 2017 Vol. 2 No. 1

Parking in front of Ballet Austin ~ 3rd St Protected Bike Lane

Culture of Activity Newsletter
Vol. 2 No. 1
Welcome Everyone!
Thanks so much for joining us on the second year of our newsletter.
We’re delighted to have you along for the ride.

Active Towns Original Content
Happy New Year! It’s so wonderful to have you following along with the Active Towns Initiative. We’re happy to report that we’ve increased our subscriptions by 15% just in the past week. That’s so cool!

Our Most Recent Films

We’ve recently produced two new films we’d like share with you in this edition, both of which happen to feature our 3rd Street protected Bikes Lanes here in Austin, TX.

The first is Episode 37 – Austin, TX: A 3rd Street Montage which was shot entirely on John’s iPhone 6 while he was walking to and from his haircut appointment. At just 75 seconds long it’s a quick hit of protected bike lane awesomeness.

The second is Episode 38 – Austin, TX: Big Jump Announcement where we documented the city of Austin’s announcement that they’ve been selected by the People for Bikes organization as one of 10 cities across the United States to participate in their Big Jump Program. The purpose of the program is to help stimulate profound increases in the number of people choosing to ride bikes on a daily basis. Be sure to watch all the way to the end for some great footage of the 3rd Street protected bike lanes. In doing so you’ll get a sense as to how Austin is going to take that next big jump in the number of people deciding to ride.

A Big Announcement of Our Own

Normally in this space we profile a flashback film from our archives, but in this edition of the newsletter, we are excited to announce that we have finally created an easy and convenient way for you, the fans of the Active Towns Initiative, to help support our efforts. We’ve recently launched our own Patreon page, where for as little as $1 per month, you can become a Patron of our efforts to profile the people, places and programs promoting a healthy, culture of activity and inspire others, individuals and communities alike, to take up the charge to do so as well.

As a 501c3 non-profit that provides all of our content to the public, free of charge, we do rely upon the generosity of our donors, sponsors and Patrons. Please consider making your own tax deductible contribution. For more information, click on our website’s Fundraising page

Other Interesting Content
The following are a few items that have caught our attention over the past couple of weeks or so.
Don’t hesitate to let us know if you see any relevant articles, interesting research or thought provoking blog posts – just drop John an email at:

Does Anyone Ride in the Winter?:
Oh yeah! We love this little Blog Post about riding bikes in Amsterdam and how so much of the activity of riding a bike, even through the cold and snow, is about habit. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Activity and Mood:
When we think of the benefits physical activity we almost always think about cardiovascular health and maintaining our weight, but movement has a profound impact on our mood as well. In the article, Get Up and Move. It May Make You Happier, Gretchen Reynolds talks about recent studies that support the notion that activity, even at lower levels of intensity can help in our sense of wellbeing. We also note that if this movement can include a bit of nature, like a stroll through a park or a run along a waterway, the results might just be amplified.

A Walk Worth the Effort:
We were honored to have a shout out in this touching personal story by Michelle Erfurt titled Why Walking is Worth the Effort for Me. It tells of a parent’s struggle to get a little activity integrated into her day and the “surprising” immediate benefits of doing so.

Parting Thoughts
Make 2017 A Great Year!
At a time when there is much uncertainty in the world, we can all make a difference in our communities by getting involved and engaged at the local level. We appreciate your interest in the content we are creating and curating and hope you’ll be able to use it within the places you call home.

Purpose of the Newsletter
The primary goals of this periodic email-based newsletter are to keep our subscribers up to speed on recent Active Towns original content and review relevant curated content created by others, hopefully educating and entertaining along the way while inspiring action.

If you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox click here

To see an archive of past issues click on this Newsletters link.

Newsletter December 28 2016 Vol. 1 No. 6

Beautiful, Comfortable Shared Space ~ Lund, SE

Beautiful, Comfortable Shared Space ~ Lund, SE

Culture of Activity Newsletter
Vol. 1 No. 6
Welcome Everyone!
Thanks so much for joining us.
We’re delighted to have you along for the ride.

E-mail Subscription
If you’d like to receive a simplified version of our newsletter in your in-box. Just click here

Thank You!
That’s A Wrap! Before we highlight our recent original content, touch upon some highlights from 2016 and profile the year ahead we’d like to say Thank You to everyone out there following along with the Active Towns Initiative as a subscriber to this newsletter as well as on our various social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and through our Culture of Activity Channel on Vimeo

Also, we want to once again express our sincere appreciation to our generous donors and sponsors. As a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, we simply could not do this work of profiling the people, places and programs that promote and sustain a healthy culture of activity without your support.

Making a Donation is easy and tax deductible 🙂 just visit our Fundraising page on our website.

Active Towns Original Content
Our Most Recent Films

Austin, TX
After a few days of uncharacteristically cold days in Austin, things warmed up and when they did, the people came out in force.

We produced this shortie, Episode 33 – An Activity Friendly Day, from some iPhone footage shot while John was out for his morning run.

In a Roundabout Way
We also produced a couple of new shorties for our new side project Facebook page In a Roundabout Way which highlights and celebrates the benefits of people friendly, slow speed roundabouts (especially those with protected bike and ped facilities), small footprint traffic circles and shared space.

Episode 34 profiles a Protected Path Roundabout in Vail, CO.

Episode 35 takes you for a ride through a People Friendly Roundabout in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Flashback Films

In this, our final newsletter edition for 2016, we thought it would be appropriate to highlight our most popular films of the year. By a wide margin it was these four videos:

Episode 13 – West Palm Beach A Pop Up Activation Story about a little bike rack and how it helped transform the character of and activate a neglected space.

Episode 21 – Boulder Tube to Work Day An Activity Promoting Event Profile of this fun annual tradition in Boulder, CO that attracts hundreds or participants, while enhancing awareness about alternative modes of commute transportation. We might just have to shoot this next year from the perspective of an inner tube.

Episode 25 – Creating of Culture of Activity A Video Montage from our Active Towns Tour which highlights some of the amazing places we’ve visited and things we’ve learned.

Episode 22 – Estes Park Bike Parade An Activity Promoting Event Profile of this engaging community roll through the middle of Estes Park, CO. The goal of this annual event is to promote awareness for a more people friendly environment within this small town that is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park and can often feel very intimidating to anyone not in a motor vehicle.


Other Interesting Content
Here are several recent articles that have caught our eye and were quite popular on the “interwebs”

Placemaking’s power to build healthier, happier communities outlined in new report: The Case for Healthy Places connects community building with wellbeing and was published on Curbed by Patrick Sisson on December 9, 2016. It highlights some critical findings on the relationship between health outcomes and location from a new report by the Project for Public Spaces

America’s Best New Bike Lanes of 2016 by Michael Andersen was posted by the People For Bikes organization on December 19, 2016. It’s encouraging to see the momentum around the creation of protected bike lanes across the country… and even a few protected intersections. In our opinion, next generation steps should include the implementation of slow speed, protected roundabouts, more small footprint traffic circles and people prioritized shared spaces where motor vehicles are welcome, but only as guests.

A video review of my 2016 posts and videos by Bicycle Dutch by Dutch Cycling Ambassador Mark Wagenbuur gives a wonderful retrospective of his work from the past year and provides some helpful opportunities for communities and cultures from around the world to learn from the efforts being put forth in The Netherlands.

2016: The Year the Placemaking Movement Went Global by Ethan Kent with the Project for Public Spaces provides a helpful glimpse into the worldwide movement that is placemaking. Ultimately Active Towns are partly a result of effective placemaking which manifests in inviting, invigorating and inclusive Activity Assets.

Potential Content Profile: Let us know if you see any relevant articles, interesting research or thought provoking blog posts – just drop John an email at:

Final Thoughts ~ Looking Forward

Farewell 2016

As we say goodbye to the year 2016 and reflect back on the challenges and accomplishments, when it comes to making people oriented places which encourage a healthy culture of activity, we acknowledge both that the road may indeed be rocky and that we have some encouraging momentum, who knows, maybe even enough to roll right over some of those rough spots.

Welcoming in 2017

At the Active Towns Initiative we’ll be continuing to seek out, document and profile the people, places and programs that are making a difference by creating and sustaining a healthy culture of activity.

Our big goal for the year is to make substantial progress on a full length documentary celebrating the stories and learnings associated with established and emerging Active Towns from across the country. Please consider helping us achieve this goal by making a donation today at:

The primary goals of this periodic email are to keep our subscribers up to speed on recent Active Towns original content and review relevant curated content created by others.

Perhaps you were forwarded this edition, if you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox click here

To see an archive of past issues click on the Newsletters link on our website.


Newsletter November 23, 2016 Vol. 1 No. 5

Monica and Wendy Crossing One of Many Cattle Guards ~ Texas Hill Country Ride

Monica and Wendy Crossing One of Many Cattle Guards ~ Texas Hill Country Ride

Culture of Activity Newsletter
Vol. 1 No. 5
Welcome Everyone!
Thanks so much for joining us.
We’re delighted to have you along for the ride.

Active Towns Original Content

Giving Thanks: Before we highlight our recent content, there’s no better time in the year, than now, to express our gratitude to all of you for following along and interacting with the Active Towns Initiative.

Also, we extend a huge heartfelt Thank You out to our generous donors and sponsors, as well as to our amazing Board of Directors: Denise Knutson, Neal Henderson, Christie Wood, Pam Schuckies, Andy Jost, Rob Wood and Eddie Herd and to our Advisory Panel: Victor Dover, Preston Tyree and Laura Dierenfield.

Our Most Recent Films

Austin, TX
We actually have three new films to share with you. Two of which are fun shorties shot on a iPhone 6, but we’ll get to those later.

The third film is proving to be one of our more popular productions: Episode 31 – Austin, TX: Hancock Bridge Cycle Track In this episode we were on hand to witness the ribbon cutting and celebration of a new cycle track on the morning of November 18, 2016. This facility was installed at the request of community members desiring to have a safer route for students attending Highland Park Elementary school. The end result is a fantastic bit of infrastructure serving the entire community, all ages and abilities. The south side of the bridge now features a sidewalk and protected two-way cycle track, which is ideal for the kids traveling to and from school. Also, the north side of the bridge has a protected bike lane for those people riding on to points further west.

As for the shorties… Episode 30 – Austin, TX: Just a Little B-Cycle Ride is fun little tour on Austin’s B-Cycle bike share bikes of some of the recently completed infrastructure, including two new cycle tracks and the lake side boardwalk.

and Episode 32 – Texas Hill Country Ride is pretty much a joy ride in the country-side and is literally in the Hill Country about an hour west of Austin, where the narrow, quiet, low speed roads make riding a bike a true pleasure. Of course, the hills and occasional water crossings make the experience a bit challenging, yet still a “kick in the pants”.

A Flashback Film

In the spirit of gratitude, we’ve chosen Episode 19: A Duzer of a Profile as our flashback film, because as you’ll learn, Mr. Ryan Van Duzer is such an incredibly giving individual and a passionate ambassador for active living and the creation of Active Towns. Here’s a link to his YouTube Page

Other Interesting Content

Black Friday Activity #1:
Literally. Go outside and get active. Last year, in face of the ridiculousness of consumerism gone berserk with stores getting an early start on Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving Day, REI, which is a national active lifestyle retailer (member oriented co-op) made the decision to not only go the other direction by staying closed on Turkey Day, but actually closing their stores on Black Friday. This in itself made a huge statement, but they went even further by making the day a paid vacation for their employees and encouraged them to go outside to play. And since recreating outside is a core value of the co-op they also invited their members and the rest of the nation to join their employees as they #optoutside. Click on the link to learn more.

Black Friday Activity #2:
If you are planning to participate in the Black Friday ritual of shopping, after or before you #optoutside, of course, please read this article by our good friend Jayme Moye – essentially the deal is this, shop at Patagonia and they will donate 100% of sales, both in store and online, to grassroots environmental groups.

Black Friday Activity #3:
When you are out and about, hopefully opting outside or if you must, shopping at Patagonia, keep your eye out for and snap a photo of ridiculously massive parking lots that are mysteriously void of parked cars on this supposed busiest shopping day of the year. It’s all part of Strong Towns‘ fourth annual Black Friday Parking exercise. Want a little context? Well Saturday Night Live did a fun skit that helps illustrate the issue.

Potential Content Profile: Let us know if you see any interesting, relevant articles, research or blog posts – just drop John an email at:

Final Thoughts

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

The primary goals of this periodic email are to keep our subscribers up to speed on recent Active Towns original content and review relevant curated content created by others.

Perhaps you were forwarded this edition, if you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox click here


Newsletter November 4 2016 Vol. 1 No. 4

Vancouver, BC ~ a multi-modal crossing

Vancouver, BC ~ a multi-modal crossing


Culture of Activity Newsletter
Vol. 1 No. 4


If you are new to the newsletter, thanks so much for joining us. We’re delighted to have you along for the ride.

We are also stoked to report a 15% increase in subscriptions since our last issue, so a big Thank You goes out to everyone actively helping to spread the word about our work.

Want to subscribe? Just click here or on the Subscribe tab above.

Active Towns Original ContentOur Most Recent Films

Boulder, CO
While we were in Boulder, CO for a complete street panel discussion we snuck out early one morning for a run and was delighted to see so many people commuting by bike. Here’s an Instagram video we posted from that run.

We stayed around a few days extra and filmed one of our favorite little neighborhood streets near our Boulder office. Here’s that video profile of Norwood Ave which serves as our primary low stress route to the local market and features an impressive number of bikes at the middle school.

Episode 28 – Activity Asset Profile: Norwood Ave in Boulder, CO

Vancouver, BC
We’re slowly making our way through all the footage we shot in Vancouver for the Walk Bike Places conference in September. This week we released a brand new video of a bike & ped infrastructure tour: Episode 29

Episode 29 – Vancouver Infrastructure Tour

and we went back and remastered Episode 27 our caravan bike ride over to the City of North Vancouver.

Episode 27 – WalkBikePlace Ride to North Van

A Flashback Film

Our recent Boulder trip also reminds us of a really fun experience we captured a few months ago while working out of our office there. We highlighted this unique event, Boulder’s Tube to Work Day in Episode 21

Episode 21 – Boulder: Tube to Work Day 2016

Other Interesting Content

John on the Strong Towns Podcast:
In honor of their week long focus on bicycle related issues and trends, Chuck Marohn, President of Strong Towns spoke with John Simmerman, Co-Founder of Active Towns on his weekly Strong Towns podcast.

John's 3rd time on the Strong Towns podcast

John’s 3rd time on the Strong Towns Podcast

Walkability and Health:
One of the hottest trending articles we posted on the Active Towns Facebook page was about walkability and health and focussed on a large number research studies that were conducted from around the world. To read the article click here.

Upside Down Salad Bowls:
The second most popular story we posted was from our “other” hometown of Austin, TX about creative low cost protected bike lane separators. To read the article click here.

Potential Content Profile: Let us know if you see any interesting, relevant articles, research or blog posts – just drop John an email at:

Final Thoughts

The primary goals of this periodic email are to keep our subscribers up to speed on recent
Active Towns original content and review relevant curated content created by others.

Perhaps you were forwarded this edition, if you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox click here

To see an archive of past issues click on the Newsletters tab above.

Newsletter October 18, 2016 Vol. 1 No. 3

Bike Picnic ~ Vancouver, BC

Bike Picnic ~ Vancouver, BC

Culture of Activity Newsletter
Vol. 1 No. 3

Transforming Our Streets into Activity Assets

Active Towns Original Content
Have you checked out our Vimeo Culture of Activity Channel yet?

We are now up to 27 Episodes!

Our Most Recent Videos

As we mentioned in our last newsletter, we were excited and honored to have been invited to submit a short film to be screened at a public film festival associated with the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place (#WalkBikePlace) gathering in Vancouver, BC last month. It was quite a moving experience to see how a live audience responds to the work you’ve created, not mention seeing it up on the big screen. Here is the film we submitted, which is now uploaded as Episode 25 on our Vimeo Channel.

Episode 25 – Creating a Culture of Activity


We also made a quick trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to volunteer at the 30th Annual PATH Run and had the opportunity to catch some of the festivities leading up to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship competition, including the Ironman Keiki (Hawaiian for kids) Dip ‘n Dash. Here’s a little video capturing some of the fun.

Episode 26 – 2016 Kona Ironman Keiki Dip n Dash

A Flashback Video

This past spring we had the opportunity to travel to West Palm Beach, FL. While there we were delighted to learn about an encouraging pop-up Activity Asset installation story, which we attempted tell here in Episode 13.

Episode 13 – West Palm Beach: A pop up activation story

Other Interesting Content
Transforming Streets into Activity Assets:
Streets represent our largest amount of public space, yet we rarely think of them as safe, inviting and desirable places. We believe that our streets can be just that and in doing so become effective Activity Assets. We’re not alone, there’s a lot of work being done along these lines, including:

Strong Towns is taking this week to focus on making cities more bike friendly and the City of Boulder, CO is holding a public Complete Streets open house and panel discussion on Wednesday (in which we are honored to be participating).

The Future of Retirement Communities:
By far the most popular story our Facebook social media feed over the past week or so was a personal reflection about the desire to age in place by Ben Brown titled: The Future of Retirement Communities: Walkable and Urban

This week Melissa and Chris Bruntlett of Vancouver, BC made an exciting announcement about the re-launch of their Modacity website and the publication of their first big article under this new format of internally focussed content creation and distribution: Discovering Oregon’s Historic Columbia River You may also want to consider subscribing to their blog posts.

Potential Content Profile: Let us know if you see any interesting, relevant articles, research or blog posts – just drop John an email at:

The primary goals of this periodic email are to keep our subscribers up to speed on recent
Active Towns produced original content and review relevant curated content created by others.

If you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox click here


Newsletter September 8, 2016 Vol. 1 No. 2

Our Post Ride Sustenance ~ Carbondale, CO

Our Post Ride Sustenance ~ Carbondale, CO

Culture of Activity Newsletter

September 8, 2016
Vol. 1 No. 2

The Pilgrimage to WALK BIKE PLACE

The primary intent of this periodic newsletter is to keep our subscribers, up to speed on our recent original content and review relevant curated content produced by others. This blog post is an enhanced version of the simple email based format. To subscribe to the e-newsletter simply click here.

Active Towns Original Content

Have you checked out our Vimeo Culture of Activity Channel yet?

We currently have 24 Episodes uploaded and available to view.

Our Most Recent Videos

We recently concluded a much needed 10 day vacation in Colorado and produced some fun, super short video clips using our iPhones and posting them to our Instagram account. There are also some cool photo snapshots hanging out there from the trip as well.

One of the most popular videos we posted was this montage of the Rio Grande Trail between Carbondale and Aspen, Colorado. A fun fact about this trail: It is owned and managed by the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, yep the folks that run frequent bus service between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, as well as all points along the way. It’s a fascinating story and the trail is truly a fabulous activity asset for the entire region.

A Series of Flashback Videos

In the spirit of sharing some of the Episodes from our Culture of Activity Channel that you may have missed, we’d like to highlight our series of films that we produced while attending the annual Congress for the New Urbanism: CNU24 in Detroit, MI in June.

We were honored to once again serve as co-hosts of the Thursday and Friday morning fun runs on behalf of the conference. Already looking for to next year, CNU25 in Seattle!

Episode 14 – Detroit, MI: Active Towns @ CNU24

Episode 15 – Detroit, MI: Thursday’s CNU24 Fun Run

Episode 16 – Detroit, MI: Friday’s CNU24 Fun Run

Episode 17: Detroit, MI: An Emerging Active Town?

Other Interesting Content

WALK BIKE PLACE in Vancouver:
Every two years walking, biking and place advocates from across North America, heck even around the world, gather to discuss, share and learn from each other, under the guidance and support of the Project for Public Spaces. Next week we’ll, for the third consecutive time, join in on this gathering called Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place or Walk Bike Place, if you prefer a shorter version, in Vancouver, BC.

We are super excited, as it will be our first Active Towns Tour stop in Canada. Also, we’re delighted and honored to have one of our recently produced short films featured at a small film festival open to the public on the first night (Monday) of the conference.

Walk Bike Place FREE Public Film Night

Walk Bike Place FREE Public Film Night

After this screening, we’ll make this film available on our Vimeo channel.

Be sure to monitor our social media channels for daily updates from Vancouver.

Call for Applications – Culture of Health Prize:
Apply now to receive up to $25,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and have your stories and successes celebrated broadly to inspire others toward locally-driven change. The RWJF recognizes the impact of communities that have placed a priority on health and are creating powerful partnerships and deep commitments that will enable everyone, especially those facing the greatest challenges, with the opportunity to live well.

Trans Canada Trail:
Did you know that Canada is opening a 22,000 km car-free bike path across the country in 2017? We didn’t either but we’re delighted to hear about it now.

The Trans Canada Trail or as it's also known The Great Trail

The Trans Canada Trail or as it’s also known The Great Trail

“Although it isn’t a bike path in the traditional sense, The Great Trail offers a wide range of outdoor experiences on land and water. It is exclusively designated for recreational purposes and only allows bikes, hikers and horseback riders in the summer and in the winter it is used for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.”

Lists. Lists. Everyone Likes Lists Right!?:
Well, here you go… 50 Reasons Why Everyone Should Want More Walkable Streets
“From making you live longer to making cities more resilient: If you want a reason to make your city more walkable, it’s in here.”

In our opinion, just the first five points alone are compelling enough and as we quipped on our Facebook page… you also get #45bonusreasons

Potential Content Profile:

Drop John a line at if you see any interesting, relevant articles, research or blog posts that you think deserve being profiled in the future.

Sign Up for the e-Newsletter by clicking here.

Active Towns is an Initiative of 
Advocates for Healthy Communities, Inc. a not-for-profit 501c3,
and our activities are primarily funded by private donations
please consider making a tax-deductible contribution

Newsletter Launch: our first issue Vol. 1 No. 1

Gore Valley Trail ~ Panoramic Shot

Gore Valley Trail ~ Panoramic Shot

It’s Good to Be Back!

After a long siesta from the blog, we are delighted to return to this platform as we announce the launch of our periodic e-Newsletter.

Over the past year or so, we’ve been developing our Culture of Activity video channel on Vimeo and the Episodes, as we call them, are accumulating.

A couple of the goals we have for this revised and revived blog space is to highlight and expand upon the video content we are producing as well as profile our newsletters in a more dynamic and interactive manner.

With that said, below is our very first newsletter, as an enhanced and expanded version. Click here to view the original newsletter format and here to subscribe.


Welcome to the
Active Towns Initiative
Culture of Activity Newsletter!

August 18,  2016

The primary intent of this periodic email is to keep you, our subscribers, up to speed on our recent original content and review relevant curated content produced by others.

The goal is to keep it short and sweet, with appropriate links for further exploration. So, let’s get started!

Active Towns Original Content

We are delighted to introduce you to our Vimeo Culture of Activity Channel, where we currently have 24 Episodes uploaded and available to view. We invite you to check them out.

Our Most Recent Videos

In Episode 23 we were honored to interview Culture of Activity Ambassador, Nicole DeBoom, former professional triathlete and 2004 Ironman Wisconsin Champion. In this profile you’ll learn about her company Skirt Sports, her new non-profit Running Start and her passion for encouraging healthy, active lifestyles. Watch our conversation with Nicole below.

Episode 23 – Profile: Nicole DeBoom, Culture of Activity Ambassador

In Episode 24 John escapes to the mountains of Colorado to profile one of his favorite Activity Assets, Vail’s Gore Valley Trail. Watch the joyride video montage below.

Episode 24 – Vail, CO: Gore Valley Trail

Flashback Videos

Episodes 1-3 provide an overall introduction to the Initiative and our Core Concepts, they’re worth viewing if you have not already done so. Below you can watch each of these episodes. Also, here’s the link to the shortened version of Episode 1.

Episode 1 – full length Introduction

Episode 2 Activity Assets – Hardware

Episode 3 Activity Assets – Software

Other Interesting Content

Why Culture of Activity Matters:
A Strong Towns blog post by Sarah Kobos from February of this year, titled Want Community? Build Walkability, re-emerged this morning on Facebook. Our favorite quote from the post is:

“Every time I walk or bike, I enter into this world on a much deeper level. When I bike to work, I speak to strangers. People say hello. They ask directions. They comment on the weather. At a minimum, I get eye contact and a wave. More often than not, people smile.”

We think this epitomizes and captures the essence as to why Active Towns are just so special.

48 Hours Yields 4 Heart Warming Films:
Filmmaker and Active Towns Initiative friend, Clarence Eckerson of Streetfilms recently had a brief 48 hour layover in Copenhagen on his way to Oslo, Norway. We think he used his time wisely, as he was able to collect enough content to produce four fun, uplifting and thought provoking videos. Here’s the link to his blog post, featuring embedded video links for easy viewing.

Transforming a Horrible Place:
Some of the most inhospitable, even hostile places to walk (and bike) are underpasses, especially those of major roadways. A week ago, Alissa Walker posted an article on appropriately titled “Now this how you design a freeway underpass: A California city turns a dark tunnel into an inviting walkway”. We believe these are the types of investments that help transform the awful into Inviting, Invigorating and Inclusive Activity Assets, which in turn assist in creating and supporting a Culture of Activity‬.

Potential Content Profile: Let us know if you see any interesting, relevant articles, research or blog posts


If you have not done so already, please subscribe to our e-Newsletter by clicking here or navigating to the Newsletter page on this site.

Creating A Culture of Activity: Year End Report

December 31, 2014

Creating A Culture of Activity Blog
In This Post:

  • 2014 Active Towns Initiative
  • ReportWhat’s In Store In 2015 

The 2014 Report
This past year was indeed a busy one for the Active Towns Initiative and the continuation of the Active Towns Tour. We’ve visited 23 states and well over 100 cities thus far.

We launched into the new year by getting into the polar vortex spirit with a trip to New York City in January. Even in bitter cold weather we found ourselves walking for hours on end as we explored Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Brooklyn BridgeBeing the urbanism geeks that we are, we loved viewing many of the wonderful places outlined in Victor Dover and John Massengale’s beautiful book, Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns.

Brooklyn FiretruckI particularly love this photo above which was taken on the narrow streets of Brooklyn, the FDNY was out in force checking all the fire hydrants due to the temps hanging out in the 0 degrees Fahrenheit range.

What better way to thaw out from the polar plunge than to head down to Miami where I was fortunate enough to get a terrific tour of the area on a Sunday afternoon by Mr. Dover himself.

Española WayLoved this convertible street, Española Way; by day motor vehicle drivers are welcome to proceed through cautiously as it is a pedestrian priority zone and at night it becomes a car free space.

After catching the northbound train to the West Palm Beach area, we were treated to a guided tour of the delightful village of Stuart, Florida by the Restless Urbanist, Edward Erfurt.

Stuart FLThere’s a lot of great stuff happening in this area, much of it due to Edward’s dedication to create places that are safe and inviting.

Next up was a quick visit to Fort Pierce with my sister Theresa.

Fort Pierce FLWe had lunch at one of the local watering holes downtown which was hopping despite it being relatively quiet on the streets on this late January day.

In early February we made our way back into the teeth of the deep freeze by heading up to Minnesota to meet up with Chuck Marohn and Jim Kumon with Strong Towns. The purpose of this visit was to participate in a strategic planning session for the organization.
Minneapolis MN Trail System

As can be plainly seen in this snapshot I took before my iPhone froze during a run on the pathway system in Minneapolis, the chilly, snowy weather did not disappoint. Loved that the path was plowed and I saw several other intrepid folks enjoying the crisp air and sunshine.

On February 8th it was then off to SF for a couple days of checking out the city by the bay.
SF RainSF Runners

Unfazed by the heavy rains, people were out in force living their active lifestyles.

By mid February we were back in Colorado for the Partners for Smart Growth Conference and delighted to be welcomed by some warmer, drier weather.
Denver LoDo in FebThis is a great photo of the LoDo area illustrating how important it is to provide quality outdoor opportunities to move and linger when the sun comes out, even in the dead of winter.

On the 20th of February it was back to California, this time, LA for the ULI Building Healthy Places Conference.

LA BikesAfter taking the metro subway right into downtown from LAX and then exploring my original hometown by biking and walking, I was impressed by how far the city has come. With many new restaurants, night spots, apartments and condos prompting a steady flow of millennials coming into the area the place is getting lively.

After some down time in Boulder and Hawaii, we were back on the road in early March for the Active Living Research Conference in San Diego.
SD Mission BeachSD Pacific Beach

Activity is just part of the rhythm in the Pacific and Mission Beach areas of San Diego.

In May we finally took the Active Towns Tour into the state of Texas. I was invited to present along with Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns at a conference on Health and the Built Environment in San Antonio.

 John Erika ChuckChuck and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Erika Ragsdale, a super supporter of good urbanism in the Central Texas area. SA River WalkThe famous San Antonio River Walk serves as a valuable recreational and utilitarian facility to visitors and locals.

After a brief stop in San Marcos so Chuck could deliver a Strong Towns Curbside Chat to a packed and enthusiastic crowd, I continued onto Austin for a long overdue visit with Preston Tyree.
Austin B-Cycle Protected Bike LaneAlthough I did not know it at the time, it would prove to be a life changing visit to one of the most frequently mentioned Active Towns we have studied.

Mid May saw us return to Southern California once again, this time to profile the charming City of Orange. City of Orange CAHarkening back to a bygone era, you simply can’t get a more welcoming town square and it’s in Orange County, California.

In early June we embarked on our annual pilgrimage to the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU22) this year being held in Buffalo.

Buffalo NYI was honored and delighted to reconnect once again with Victor Dover for both a bike ride to Chautauqua and to cohost a couple of morning Street Design Runs as part of the CNU schedule.
Chautauqua NYPhoto: Chautauqua, NY

 CNU Street Design Run
Photo: CNU Street Design Morning Run, Buffalo, NY

After a couple months of travel downtime in Hawaii and then in Boulder we were back on the conference circuit, this time it was Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place by the Project for Public Spaces in early September. Pittsburgh PA Bridge Protected Bike LaneIn this photo the city got into the Tactical Urbanism mood by installing a mock up for the week of the future protected bike lane on one of the bridges leading into downtown.
PPS Workshop Clarence Eckerson of Streetfilms chatting with a PPS Place Making workshop participant on the streets of Pittsburgh.

On September 12 we returned to Minneapolis to help lead an Active Towns Bikeshop (a built environment workshop on bikes) as part of the inaugural Strong Towns National Gathering.
Strong Towns Nat Gathering BikeshopPhoto: Active Towns “Bikeshop” pausing above the Midtown Greenway to discuss access to Activity Assets. Minneapolis Open Streets 2Minneapolis Open StreetsPhotos: We were delighted to have been treated to a Minneapolis Open Streets event.

On September 19th we hit the road to profile Buena Vista, CO and its South Main neighborhood.

Buena Vista CO DancersPhoto: The South Main “Beach” Park frequently features live music
Buena Vista CO Skinny Streets 2Photo: Skinny streets are the norm in South Main.

In late September we returned to Vail Village, one of our favorite Active Towns.

Vail Gore Creek TrailPhoto: Gore Creek Pathway

Vail Village Shared Space
Photo: Vail Village shared space, some of the best we have seen.

Each year in October we make every effort to return to our roots to support the PATH Run and be part of the the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona. It is so wonderful to watch athletes along with their family and friends from around the world experience this Emerging Active Town in all its glory.

 Kailua Kona Ali'i Drive Car Free
Photo: Ali’i Drive as a non-motorized vehicle zone

In late October we returned to Austin and set up shop here. Yep, you read that right. The Active Towns Initiative, which is incorporated in Boulder now has an active office in Austin.

Austin Pfluger Bike Ped BridgePhoto: Pfluger Bridge linking South Austin to Downtown while providing critical connectivity for the Lady Bird Lake Butler Hike and Bike Path.

We are exciting to be launching what we believe will become two powerful intervention tools in the coming year:

  • Activity Asset Mapping Tool for working with cities in becoming healthier places
  • MyActivityMap smart phone application, for end users to navigate a community’s Activity Assets

Both are GIS based applications, which will help illustrate for cities where their Activity Assets are located and how well they serve their communities.

We have already created a beta version demo of Boulder, Colorado as a proof of concept and are actively looking to secure the innovation funding necessary to map 10 Active Towns target cities, starting with our new office location; Austin, TX. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d be interested in seeing a demonstration.

As was mentioned above, we are looking to move the Initiative to the next stage and are raising funds to develop these new intervention tools ,as well as continue to profile new places as part of the Active Towns Tour.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to either bring 2014 to a close or kick off 2015.

Click here to donate.

What Do You Think? We Encourage You Join In On The Conversation and Get Involved
Please feel free to share your comments and/or make suggestions for emerging and established Active Towns on our websiteFacebook page or by email to:

Also, let us know if you can help facilitate Tour Stop and site visit in your city.

Thank you for helping create and support Active Towns everywhere!

johns signature blue




John D Simmerman, MS
Co-Founder, President & CEO
Advocates for Healthy Communities, Inc.
Actives Towns Initiative

Creating a Culture of Activity: Safe and Inviting Streets Part One

December 3, 2014

Creating A Culture of Activity Blog

In This Post: Safe and Inviting Streets

Introduction: I had planned to post the 2014 Active Towns Initiative Report and What’s New For 2015 – A Preview in our blog post today, but this topic started trending this morning and I felt compelled to say a few things. I will be sure to follow up with the promised report and preview in the coming days. And now, onto the topic at hand…

Are Our Streets Killing Us? We Need Safe and Inviting Streets

This morning, Charles Marohn, a friend from Brainerd, MN and the founder of the Strong Towns movement published a blog post titled Just Another Pedestrian Killed.

I encourage you to pause now, please read his important post at this time and then come on back here when you are done. 

musical_note_3_clip_art_12287 whistling during the intermission musical_note_3_clip_art_12287

Welcome back… Tragic, right?

I could not agree with Chuck more on this account and here is what I said on Facebook when I shared his post on my personal page:

Building our streets to highway standards in urban environments in an effort to prioritize motor vehicle speed has proven to be deadly: it kills pedestrians, cyclists, businesses, prosperity, quality of life and yes it even kills a heck of a lot of motor vehicle drivers, with a high percentage of the 32,000+ lives lost each year because of this engineering/design approach…

First of all, my thoughts go out to the family so tragically impacted by this needless and preventable crash. Unfortunately their plight drew into sharp focus and reinforced how needlessly dangerous our urban streets have become due to poor land use patterns and a traffic engineering design approach which prioritizes motor vehicle speed and a false sense of safety, for the driver, that is.

The connection that this “engineering and design challenge” with regards to the Active Towns theme is pretty obvious: When our streets, which are arguably our largest and most prominent public places, as the space between our city’s buildings, become hostile, danger zones they have little chance of serving as inviting activity assets for the community.

Before diving further into the discussion, let me first define what I mean when I say “activity assets”. At Active Towns we view an Activity Asset as a built or natural environment feature or facility which helps to facilitate and encourage healthy physical activity, whether it be for utilitarian, recreational or wellbeing purposes. A good example is the Boulder Creek Trail in Boulder, CO, and is actually part of a vast network of trails and on-road facilities, which connects the city to a pleasant natural environment and serves as a useful commuter route for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as a great place to go for a little exercise or mental health break.

So yes, I am implying here that our streets can and should be considered as potential Activity Assets. Let’s start with the visual that Chuck used of the “stroad” in front of the library. 


Not familiar with the term “Stroad”? Here’s how it is defined on the Strong Towns website:

“A STROAD is a street/road hybrid and, besides being a very dangerous environment (yes, it is ridiculously dangerous to mix high speed highway geometric design with pedestrians, bikers and turning traffic), they are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive.”

I would even go so far as to say this is a “Complete Stroad” as it features a bike lane/shoulder and what appears to be a minimally acceptable, standard width sidewalk, even on both sides, wow!

Would this “Complete” facility be consider as safe and welcoming environment for all users based on all modes of travel, ages and abilities? Not even close. Would you want your 12 year old daughter biking along this corridor with her friends? I hope not, at least not with its current design.

When I look at this photo and ponder on the tragedy that took place, it occurs to me that, in addition to the “challenged” urban street design, the setting or land use pattern has contributed, as is common, to the problem at hand. This family was trying to make their way to the surface parking lot across the “stroad”. Pause to let that sink in. A surface parking lot, which has a long history of prompting the motor vehicle driving patrons of the library to logically “jay walk” at this dangerous mid-block location.

Now, imagine if you will, the parking lot is replaced by a wonderful block of 2-3 story mixed use retail and residential buildings matching the older, more charming architecture in the area and… here it comes, wait for it… street parking. Yep street parking and lot’s of it, priced so that 85% is occupied at any given time. What better way to slow cars down than a bunch of parked cars and vastly narrower lanes or better yet, no lanes at all.

What the heck, since we’re hanging in the Imagine-Nation, visualize what it would be like if this street was not viewed primarily as a transportation corridor, but as a space for people, a place where motor vehicle drivers were still allowed and welcomed, but were prompted and encouraged to proceed at with great caution at speeds considered safe for everyone. And yes, in this fantasy land the penalties for causing danger or harm to more vulnerable users of the public realm would be severe.

In certain urban settings, especially those where there is a desire promote intensity, vitality and prosperity, Shared Space should be considered as a viable strategy to creating an inviting and invigorating environment.

Not familiar with Shared Space? Here’s a quick primer from a recent USA Streets Blog post and it includes a must see 4 minute video.

Image of Pittsburgh, PA from the USA.StreetsBlog article above

What makes this approach truly shine is continuous low speed flow through an entire connected urban area that is inherently at a walkable and bike-able scale. To learn more about Shared Space I encourage everyone to check out the work of Ben Hamilton-Baillie from the UK. I had the chance to hear his presentation at CNU 22 in Buffalo this past year and it had a profound impact on my view of this strategy as a potential solution to creating more inviting and invigorating environments: Active Towns.

Also, you may enjoy listening to the two Strong Towns podcasts featuring Ben. They are quite educational and entertaining.

Links to these podcasts and other shared space resources provided below.

Later this evening I will be attending my first public meeting since making the move to Austin, TX. The topic on hand: a transportation study of the Guadalupe St corridor known as “The Drag” to enhance mobility, safety and quality of life in the area. Hmmm… sounds pretty relevant to me.

In conclusion, our streets need not be the hideous danger zones that they have become. They can transform into valued and cherished Activity Assets, safe and welcoming places, which support and encourage physical activity, in addition to serving as a platform to creating prosperity and social cohesion.

A primary theme here is that the purpose of the urban street is in desperate need of being redefined and in fact, in making a triumphant return to its original and historic definition as a place for the people. Once this concept is embraced, through community engagement and a multi-disciplinary approach, as a real possibility, the process of visualizing the street in a fresh “new” way, once again, can truly start.

Shared Space is a viable strategy to seriously consider when the environment calls for the mixing of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle drivers. 

Image of Limited Access Shared Space in Vail Village ~ Vail, CO – An Active Towns’ photo

If prevailing speeds of motor vehicles are to exceed 20 mph in urban environments where you have ample real estate and resources, then by all means protected, segregated space must be provided for cyclists and pedestrians and their safety and movement should still be prioritized over that of motor vehicles. This would understandably be a more more expensive and potentially more difficult approach… and the topic of a future Active Towns blog post.

Links for More Information: Ben Hamilton-Baillie:

StrongTowns Podcast: episodes: 179 and 196 featuring BHB

BHB at CNU22:

Poynton regenerated video, a must see:

City of Austin, Guadalupe St Public Meeting:

What Do You Think? We Encourage You Join In On The Conversation and Get Involved

Please feel free to share your comments on this topic and/or make suggestions for emerging and established Active Towns on our website, Facebook page or by email to:

Also, let us know if you can help facilitate Tour Stop and site visit in your city. As always, we welcome any and all assistance, so if you’d like to help us directly in our efforts to facilitate healthier communities, please consider making a tax deductible donation. Click here to donate.

Thank you for helping create and support Active Towns everywhere! 

johns signature blue

John D Simmerman, MS
Co-Founder, President & CEO
Advocates for Healthy Communities, Inc.
Actives Towns Initiative