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Community Physical Activity/Built Environment

Many communities need more safe and accessible places to walk or be active outdoors. Approximately 36.8% of adults living in Indiana were obese in 2020, and less than 50% of adult Indiana residents met moderate physical activity recommendations in 2019. Current research points to the fact that people who live in car-dependent environments walk less, weigh more, and suffer from related chronic diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure).

Complete Streets

Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities can safely move along and across a Complete Street. Communities are encouraged to adopt their own Complete Streets policies and to design and retrofit their communities using a Complete Streets approach, making walking and biking the safe and easy choice.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), IDOH and Health by Design have promoted the adoption of Complete Streets policies in Indiana and have been actively engaged in increasing the number of cities adopting Complete Streets policies.

Active Living Workshops  guidebook cover

IDOH created a program to fund and facilitate a series of Active Living Workshops across Indiana to address the need to create more active communities. For this program, DNPA is currently partnering with INDOT and  Health by Design, a statewide coalition that works at the intersection of the built environment and public health to conduct these day-long workshops. Purdue University Extension Service also provided funding and staff support for some of the workshops in the past.

From 2014 to 2022, DNPA and its partners conducted  50 Active Living Workshops across Indiana. More than 1,800 community stakeholders—including city planners, engineers, public health professionals, school administrators and community leaders—attended these workshops. The participants agreed to a year-long set of follow-up activities, including drafting an action plan, providing status reports and reporting success stories outlining each community’s achievements.

The Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) and Health by Design has recently published the Indiana Active Living Guidebook. This guidebook describes the reason we promote this work in Indiana and includes a step-by-step approach that communities can use to increase the levels of physical activity for their residents. It also includes success stories from communities across Indiana that are making it easier to be active in their everyday lives.

Promoting Active Living in Indiana

Hoosiers want their communities to be healthy, thriving and active places. Good health is a status that many communities in Indiana strive to achieve but few actually attain. We know that we can do a better job of creating healthy, active communities, but how do we do that? This story map will explore how communities and residents can use policy, systems and environmental change strategies to create active communities and support a culture of health, moving our communities toward a healthier future.

The built environment and the rates of physical activity and chronic disease among our residents are directly connected. It is well documented that identifying and removing environmental and policy barriers that hinder active living can increase levels of physical activity and reduce chronic disease among community residents. Recent studies show that communities supporting and promoting active living exhibit higher levels of both leisure- and transportation-related physical activity.

Multi-use Path in Downtown Kokomo

Image: Multi-use Path in Downtown Kokomo

The Indiana State Department of Health, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to facilitate Active Living Workshops in 26 communities from 2014 -- 2018. To run the workshops, DNPA partnered with Health by Design, a statewide nonprofit that collaborates across sectors and disciplines to ensure Indiana communities have neighborhoods, public spaces and transportation infrastructure that promote active living for all. In 2016, Purdue Extension Nutrition Education Program contracted with Health by Design to fund an additional 20 Active Living Workshops. DNPA and Purdue Extension provided over $300,000 in grant funding to conduct the workshops in 46 communities. The workshops were a first-time opportunity for many participants to discuss physical activity access issues.

A walk audit in Decatur

A walk audit in Decatur

Active living workshops map

Community policies, such as zoning ordinances, funding priorities and related laws, have great potential to influence the health of a community in a positive or negative manner. For example, policies embedded in local planning and zoning regulations influence the placement of sidewalks, either encouraging or limiting access for walking. Other policies, such as bike parking requirements or street design standards, can have a great impact on active living.

Complete Streets can be achieved through a variety of policy changes. These policies take many forms: executive orders by mayors; standalone ordinances, resolutions and policies adopted by city councils; language in comprehensive and transportation plans; and policies adopted by regional transportation agencies. Since 2009, 26 communities and regions in Indiana have adopted Complete Streets polices covering over 3 million Hoosiers.

Indiana complete streets map

Developing a pedestrian, bicycle and/or trails master plan is an important first step in identifying the needs and desires of residents, planning for an interconnected network of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and prioritizing projects. These plans can be included as a chapter of a transportation or Comprehensive Plan or can be a stand-alone document that specifically includes language for policies, projects and programs that support active transportation. The Indiana State Department of Health funded 15 community bicycle and pedestrian plans throughout the state from 2014-2018 that includes over $500 million in planned improvements.

Pendleton Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

Pendleton map

Pendleton Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

The City of Rochester and Purdue Extension-Fulton County hosted an Active Living Workshop in August of 2016. One of the top priorities for workshop participants was to “develop a positive reinforcement plan for children who walk and/or bike to school.”

After the workshop, leaders formed the Rochester Safe Routes to School committee, which included participation from the Rochester School Corporation, Rochester Police Department, students and parents from Riddle Elementary School and other organizations. The committee decided to hold weekly Walk to School Days using a Walking School Bus method where students meet along a specified route.

Bike rodeo flyer
Kids on bikes

Image: Cynecki

Projects create changes to the built environment that support the policy and program initiatives mentioned in previous sections. Projects do not need to be expensive or complex; simple changes can have a large impact on a community or neighborhood. Using a lighter, quicker and cheaper approach with a pilot project can be a good way to introduce an idea to the community

Parklets are one example of a project that re-purpose unused street space or parking spots as places for people. Parklets are a great low-cost way to increase public open space, calm traffic, provide outdoor seating, enhance walkability and bikeability, encourage social interaction on streets and express local character. They can provide amenities like seating, plantings, bike parking or art.

Bike rack

Bike Rack from Columbus Indiana

Indy circle

Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant Program

DNPA created a planning grant program beginning in 2014 t to fund the preparation and adoption of bicycle and pedestrian plans for towns, cities and counties throughout Indiana.  Communities are selected through competitive applications to receive the planning funds. The planning process typically includes the creation of a local advisory committee, a public input process and an inventory of existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and policies, along with recommendations to increase the development of bicycle and pedestrian networks. 

Through 2022, DNPA has provided a total of over $500,000 in grant funding to 28 communities to prepare the plans. The plans covered a population of over 600,000 people throughout the state and included more than $600 million in total planned bicycling and walking improvements. 

DNPA continues to fund bicycle and pedestrian planning grants on a rolling basis, depending on available funding. Please see the Grants and Resources section of the DNPA web page for more information on current grant opportunities for this program.

Tactical Urbanism Demonstration Project Grant Program

In 2019 DNPA created a new grant program to fund quickly implemented, low-cost demonstration projects that increase safe access to everyday destinations for walking and biking. These projects typically include temporary installations such as traffic calming improvements, temporary street closures, and pop-up bike lanes.

These projects became especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic as people were seeking opportunities to be active in outdoor public places and communities needed to provide safer access to public lands. Tactical urbanism projects provide a way for communities to test these new ideas and increase safe access to public places to be active.

Through 2022 DNPA has funded 21 tactical urbanism demonstration projects throughout the state, providing over $150,000 in total funding for the program.

Built Environment/Physical Activity Resources

  • Health by Design – Indiana coalition working to create an environment that promotes physical activity and protects the environment through education, advocacy and action.
  • Active Living Research – The evidence base to prevent childhood obesity and promote active communities.
  • Indiana Active Living Guidebook – This guidebook is intended to be used by anyone interested in changing the built environment of their community to improve public health.
  • Bicycle Indiana – A statewide organization that focuses on promoting, educating and advocating for bicycling in Indiana. Bicycle Indiana develops an annual resource guide for bicycling events throughout the state, educates children and adults about bicycle safety and advocates for better infrastructure and better treatment of cyclists.


Pete Fritz, Healthy Communities Planner
(317) 234-6808
Contact for Complete Streets, Built Environment, Tactical Urbanism, Community Planning