By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Business leaders, community leaders and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) faculty cut the ribbon Monday on a new one-mile stretch of low-speed road, as part of celebrating quality of life improvements in the North Titusville community.
The Neighborway, as the strip of road is called, is designed for walking, bicycling, skating and other activities and part of other improvements in North Titusville that include new sidewalks, lighting, a bus shelter, a bike lane, trees and murals.
“Today we are celebrating the improvements in the built environment, but the built environment is made for people,” said Mona Fouad, M.D., CEO of Live HealthSmart Alabama. “We want people, where they work and play and live…to be proud of their community, but Live Smart is not just about built environment. We’re trying to improve access to healthy eating, physical activity and prevention and wellness.”
Built environments are man-made structures, features, and facilities viewed collectively as an environment in which people live and work.
The upgrades in North Titusville are part of a larger UAB project called Live HealthSmart Alabama which promotes healthy living and enhanced quality of life throughout the state. The project’s ultimate goal is to lift the state from the low spot it often receives on national health ranks.
Crystal Smitherman, city councilor for district 6, in which North Titusville resides, said the improvements from Live HealthSmart Alabama affords a healthier standard of living.
“Access to healthy living is fundamental to a good quality of life,” Smitherman said, “something black and brown people don’t have access to…Our families deserve better access, and that’s what this movement is about, we are building for tomorrow, we are building for our kids, we are building for a better Birmingham.”
President of the North Titusville Neighborhood Association, Michael Broadnax said there has been “tremendous change” in the neighborhood over the past eight months. “I say, ‘tremendous change . . . but we have a long way to go still to get there, but we’ll get there, and we’ll get there together,” he said.
He added, “We got two words in his neighborhood that we use, and it’s called ‘get involved and we hope everybody in the city of Birmingham catch on to that because it’s time for everybody to get involved, to take ownership to what Birmingham could actually, finally be. Our best years are ahead of us.”
James Fowler, director of Birmingham’s Department of Transportation, said North Titusville remains an important part of the city. “It’s not hard to still see the foundation, the structure, the bones of a great neighborhood,” said Fowler, who was formerly Director of Planning Design and Construction at UAB, “and there are a lot of neighborhoods like North Titusville, that combine, to make up what we all believe is truly a great city.”
Ray L. Watts, M.D., UAB’s president, said the gathering of so many partners Monday “inspired [him] to do even more.”
“We’re moving throughout Alabama, traveling to other universities, hospitals, cities, counties, to do this same thing in their neighborhoods, and we’re going help show and teach them how to do it,” Watts said, “and we’re going to challenge them to compete with each other for who can do the very best job.”
Teresa Shufflebarger, chief administrative officer of Live HealthSmart Alabama, said the organization is looking forward to increasing the number of partnerships in the state “which will…promote exercise and physical activity and encourage wellness,” she said.