So Simple, So Good: New Jersey Community Puts Play at the Heart of Local Health Initiative

Posted 10/27/14 by Elissa Southward in Health and Wellness

Photo © Bike&Walk Montclair

We all know that getting outside and moving your body is important for your health. But, living an active life requires safe places to bike, walk, run, skate and play.

In Montclair, N.J., an initiative called Eat. Play. Live...Better is having an important impact in encouraging people to be more active in their daily lives, and to make healthy eating choices.

The initiative, funded by the Partners for Health Foundation, has brought together a wide range of partners from public agencies and municipalities, private businesses, nonprofits and individuals throughout northern New Jersey. Their common goal is to bring about policy, systems and environmental changes that make it possible to be more active and live healthier lives.

Too many pedestrians have been hit and killed by motor vehicles in Montclair in recent years, and so a strong emphasis is being put on bike and pedestrian safety. The Eat. Play. Live... Better initiative is leading the way for programs that address the safety concerns of people of all ages.

Drive with Care

The township-sanctioned Pedestrian Safety Committee launched the 'Drive with care in Montclair' campaign to encourage safe driving behavior. The committee is now working with Rutgers Voorhees Transportation Center to develop a pedestrian safety action plan that will include strategies to decrease the number of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians.

Pop-Up Solutions

In May 2014, Montclair received a gold award for its Safe Routes to School Program.

But walking and biking to school in Montclair isn't all smooth sailing. One of the town's biggest challenges to date has been getting dedicated bike lanes. And so the Montclair Police Department Traffic Bureau and Bike&Walk Montclair recently worked together to include a pop up bike lane as part of this year's International Walk and Bike to School festivities.

Two blocks of roadway leading to Renaissance Middle School were used for a trial protected bike lane. It was the first collaboration of its kind, and it was a huge success. The impermanent lanepainted a clear picture of what safe routes for biking might feel like on Montclair streets, and set the stage for what is possible in the near future.

Safety for Seniors

Montclair's concern for safety isn't reserved for the younger generations. A handful of programs aimed at senior citizens are improving access to safe places to walk.

Photo of senior walkability audit © Cecilia Levine/

As part of the 'Lifelong Montclair - Aging in Place' initiative, the New Jersey Department of Transportation funded a walkability audit, and the Partnership for Health and Rutgers University developed a transit guide for seniors.

The township has also dedicated funds to replace its old, unreliable senior shuttle bus, and will receive routing and scheduling assistance from Montclair State University.

Things to Come

Everyone involved in Eat. Play. Live... Betterunderstands that access to healthy environments and healthy choices should be easy for everyone, regardless of income, education, race or background.

Due to the vision and support of Partners for Health Foundation and the partners actively engaged inEat. Play. Live... Better, the local community is becoming more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly. Laura Torchio, the program coordinator for the initiative and former president of Bike&Walk Montclair, sees future opportunities for rail-trails, and rail-with-trails, to be a part of that continued improvement.

RTC applauds the efforts of the Partners for Health Foundation, the Eat, Play, Live... Betterinitiative and the City of Montclair for the investment they have made in the health and vitality of Montclair's citizens. These organizations are actively working to ensure the members of their community have access to safe places to be active and live...better!

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