The global COVID-19 pandemic resulted in at least one positive change: a marked increase in walking and cycling in many cities around the world, according to the United Nations.
That’s true here at home, too, as a 2020 North Central Texas Council of Governments study reported a 70% increase in walking and bicycling on Dallas-Fort Worth trails.
The University of Texas at Arlington’s Hyesun Jeong is working on a plan to map future “green” infrastructure in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to support this growth in walking and cycling. Funded by the American Institute of Architects’ Upjohn Research Initiative, the project is titled “The Future of Green Infrastructure: Measuring and Designing the Built Environment for Pedestrian and Bicycle Activities in Dallas-Fort Worth.”
Jeong, assistant professor of architecture in the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA), specializes in bridging architecture and social science and in developing sustainable, pedestrian-oriented options that engage a variety of disciplinary approaches to promote the economic and cultural growth of cities.
“We will use this project to help lessen climate change through changes in infrastructure,” she says. “We’ll analyze existing walking and cycling activities in the trails of Dallas-Fort Worth and initiate design strategies for green infrastructure that improve mobility and stormwater management by reusing vacant lots and empty strip malls.”
Green infrastructure aims to solve urban and climatic challenges within an existing ecological system. This could mean establishing or using existing creeks, soils and ponds instead of stormwater and sewer runoff systems, so-called grey infrastructure.
“We hope to help people understand the importance of green infrastructure,” Jeong says. “About 35% of land in Dallas is covered by impervious surfaces like parking lots and highways. This makes streets unwalkable and too hot in the summer and has impacts on both public health and the street economy. We want to help support future sustainable development in a sprawled metropolitan area – context that could serve as a model for other car-centric cities.”
Jeong said U.N. and North Central Texas Council of Governments statistics offer insight and an opportunity to tailor plans that can promote walking and biking across the region.
“We will also take criteria like density, building features, land use, street connectivity and access to transit to study how they are associated with walking and biking activities” she says.
Collaborators include Meghna Tare, UTA chief sustainability officer; Matthew Ables, a planner with the Arup Group; Brian Hammersley of Hammersley Architecture; and Lawrence Agu, a planner with the city of Dallas.
CAPPA interim dean Maria Martinez-Cosio said Jeong’s work could serve the DFW region well.
“This award from one of the most prestigious architectural organizations in the U.S. will help Dr. Jeong and her collaborators continue to make an impact in helping to create healthy, sustainable and livable communities that improve DFW residents’ quality of life,” Martinez-Cosio says. “What the project envisions is a healthier, more walkable, better ecological region. North Texas and other metropolitan areas could certainly use that.”