Living on a cul-de-sac can make you fat! That’s the opinion of Lawrence Frank - a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada – whose research was featured on So, what makes a cul-de-sac fattening? Frank says it starts with the lack of “walkability.” The design of a cul-de-sac neighborhood prevents people who live there from walking to shops, to work or to visit friends. Instead, cul-de-sacs encourage driving. Roads lead only to dead-end residential streets, and the only way in or out of the entire neighborhood is via main arteries. In fact, Frank says people who live in cul-de-sacs use their cars 26 percent more than people who live in more walking-friendly neighborhoods.

To come up with this theory, Frank studied two suburbs of Seattle. One community was a connected network of streets that provide easy access to shopping and parks, but the other community was a disconnected jumble of cul-de-sacs with no walk paths or bike ways. Frank not only found people in the cul-de-sac suburb spent more time behind the wheel, but they used more gas, and air pollution was worse. That’s not all. Frank says the argument that homes on cul-de-sacs are safer because there’s less traffic flow is also misguided. How?

  • For one, emergency vehicles had more difficulty maneuvering to homes in cul-de-sac neighborhoods because of dead-end streets.
  • Crime, like thefts and burglaries are tempting on suburban streets like cul-de-sacs that can be isolated and empty during the day.

So, could all this spell the end for new cul-de-sacs to be built? In some areas, yes! Last year the state of Virginia passed a law limiting future cul-de-sacs, calling them wasteful and unplanned development - essentially roads that go nowhere but still cost a lot of money to maintain. As for existing cul-de-sac neighborhoods in other areas, many are building walk paths and bike lanes to connect them to main streets - allowing future residents to burn less gas and hopefully more calories.