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Role of Infrastructure & Transportation in Promoting Physical Activity (Infographic & New Research)

  • Published on August 15th, 2013 by

A simple holistic concept is that everything is connected. One’s interrelationship with daily activity, transit, and infrastructure is a key relationship to holistic connectedness. News from the United States Department of [Active] Transportation supports this. Cultivating refreshing spots of activity in the day and night of our lives is a key way to stay in balance.

Image Credit: DOT
Image Credit: DOT

Balance in transit vitalizes the health of individuals, communities, and the planet. This reality check comes from a report from the Journal of Public Health Policy, “Bicycling for Transportation and Health: The Role of Infrastructure.” Jennifer Dill and others combined research from Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. The abstract writes:

This paper aims to provide insight on whether bicycling for everyday travel can help US adults meet the recommended levels of physical activity and what role public infrastructure may play in encouraging this activity.

Read on and you find that, yes, such bicycle infrastructure is needed:

The data support the need for well-connected neighborhood streets and a network of bicycle-specific infrastructure to encourage more bicycling among adults. This can be accomplished through comprehensive planning, regulation, and funding.

Tanya Snyder of DC Streetsblog has more:

Transportation investments that support active travel — like greenways, trails, sidewalks, traffic-calming devices, and public transit — create opportunities to increase routine physical activity, improve health, and lower health care costs,” writes U.S. DOT’s Todd Solomon this morning on Secretary Anthony Foxx’s Fast Lane blog. “The same investments promote sustainability.”

All of these numbers are testament to the importance of street design and transit service in how we make our transportation choices and how healthy we are. The statistic about route selection in Portland particularly illustrates how significant good bike facilities are. The same study that found that 49 percent of bike commuters’ miles were ridden on roads with bike facilities also found that 10 percent of utilitarian bicycle travel — as opposed to bicycling just for exercise — occurred on bicycle boulevards, even though bicycle boulevards make up less than 1 percent of the region’s bicycle network. Cities can keep this in mind if they’re wondering whether anyone will use the new bike infrastructure they’re thinking of investing in.

I think it is just silly, excuse me, but it is backwards and ridiculous, that we drive to the gym — drive to get exercise — when exercise could be what we do on the way to where we go. Exercise could and should be built into our activities for the day. Vitalize your experience and exercise on the way to the store, in transit to one’s job, and sauntering or gliding to the local coffee-house or film.

We agree with Snyder, “Kudos to U.S. DOT for publicizing these important facts!”

And thanks to the crew at Active Living Research for also pointing us in this direction:

Walking and bicycling for daily transportation are important ways to get regular physical activity, but such active travel has decreased dramatically over the past few decades. Investing transportation funds in sidewalks, traffic-calming devices, greenways, trails and public transit make it easier for people to walk and bike within their own neighborhoods and to other places they need to go. Designing communities that support active travel also creates recreational opportunities, promotes health and can even lower health care costs. Research that shows how infrastructure improvements promote active travel can help policy-makers, planners and other professionals create healthier communities for residents of all ages.


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