Jay McChord is as energetic and passionate a person as you'll find in America. While many know him as a generational communication consultant, a Lexington, Kentucky City Councilman, or even as a former University of Kentucky "Wildcat" mascot, livable streets advocates should know him as the chief architect of the only statewide ciclovia program in the United States: Kentucky's (2S) initiative (http://www.2ndsundayky.com/index.htm).
McChord's "ah-ha!" moment occurred while hearing Enrique Penalosa tell the story of Bogota, Columbia's famed ciclovia. It was then that McChord realized the connection between the built environment and public health, and that bringing such an initiative to Kentucky was imperative.
In Diana Doggett, a University of Kentucky's extension agent in Fayette County, McChord found a kindred spirit who understood not only the value of developing a ciclovia in Lexington, but the potential impact of expanding it statewide (with agents in all 120 counties, Kentucky's university extension system provides an invaluable organizational network.) Within months the pair miraculously secured seed funding and coaxed 70 counties to simultaneously run their own local, place-based 2S initiatives on the second Sunday of October 2008. Their initial goal was 12.
In 2009 the number of participating counties climbed to 101. Logically, the goal for 2010 is to have all 120 counties simultaneously walking, bicycling, skating, dancing, talking, and playing in the streets together.
In advance of meeting this goal the City of Lexington is moving their wildly popular, and now monthly 2S initiative to the flattest, smoothest piece of concrete in the state: the Blue Grass Airport's new 4,000 foot runway. Here, on Sunday, June 13th, Kentuckians will be able to watch commercial flights come and go while walking, bicycling, running, and playing on a new runway before it opens to commercial air traffic this fall.
"When has an airport been a health provider?!" McChord asks emphatically. "The symbolism of this particular event and the general shift in mentality that Second Sunday enables is incredible. We've seen Second Sunday help state agencies, local municipal officials, volunteers, and advocates work together on issues that must be addressed holistically, and not just in Kentucky, but nationwide. Second Sunday is the best, and only way we've found in Kentucky to get people out of their silos to work together."
When asked about the innovative livable streets event, Doggett replied, "Lexington's Second Sunday event at the airport is another unique example of how Kentucky is creatively addressing the need for access to improved and additional places to be physically active. Second Sunday has been successful mainly due to statewide partnerships and the coordinating efforts of the University of Kentucky Family and Consumer Sciences Extension network. Expanding activity in the built environment will not by itself solve Kentucky's serious chronic disease and obesity issues, but does provide families with ongoing opportunity to explore venues and services that can support their effort to lead healthier lifestyles."
It's clear that 2S is having a tremendous effect in a state that "eats too much and exercises too little," according to Tom Eblen who recently wrote an article in the local newspaper about the 2S Blue Grass Airport event. Indeed, Kentucky's health indicators regularly rank amongthe nations worst. In the same article Eblen reminds readers that the Blue Grass State currently has the highest cancer rate in the country, the third highest rate of heart disease and smoking , and the ninth highest rate of premature deaths of all kinds.
McChord refers to the stats despairingly as the "Kentucky Uglies."
"We are learning that people in Kentucky are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Second Sunday is helping us break the cycle by getting thousands of people outside exercising in an enjoyable, community-based social setting."
McChord and Doggett's goals don't stop at the state line, however, as both are working tirelessly to push 2S as a national model for transforming the physical and economic health of the country. McChord asserts that the 2S model is simple, replicable, and highly effective at promoting healthier lifestyles and a more balanced use of public infrastructure.
To that end, McChord and Doggett want nothing less than a national holiday dedicated to healthy activity where streets are concurrently closed to motor vehicles and opened to people in every state in the union.
How ‘bout it America?