Researchers from the Bay Area have quantified the public health benefits of increased biking and walking as a way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution for San Francisco and its surroundings.
They found that increasing average daily walking and bicycling from 4 to 22 minutes:
- reduced the chances of cardiovascular disease and diabetes by 14 percent
- increased the trafﬁc injury burden by 39 percent, and
- decreased global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent.
The researchers are from the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the California Department of Public Health, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
They examined statistics on travel patterns and injuries, physical activity, ﬁne particulate matter, and greenhouse gas emissions in the San Bay Area. Then they input the information into a model that calculated the health impacts of walking and bicycling short distances usually traveled by car.
Their general findings are that “increased physical activity associated with active transport could generate a large net improvement in population health. Measures would be needed to minimize pedestrian and bicyclist injuries. Together, active transport and low-carbon driving could achieve emission reductions sufﬁcient for California to meet legislative mandates.”
In Arlington, Virginia, where Mobility Lab is based, our partners at the county’s Commuter Services have been working for years to make sure employers in the county are aware of their transportation options and that health benefits are realized through the establishment of building facilities – like showers and lockers in places of employment – and programs that support walk, bike, and transit commutes.
The built environment and a “fresh start” for new workers at new companies can do wonders to change commuting behaviors and, over time, public health.
Hopefully, the Bay Area’s leaders will embrace this important new research. Arlington’s example of County Board Chairman Walter Tejada launching his Moving Forward, Together program shows how local government might have lasting impact. His fitness and health focus within the program seeks to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent childhood obesity. His pedestrian and bike-safety focus removes deterrents to active lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities.
Biking and walking initiatives are some of the easiest ways to raise revenue at very little costs for governments. And certainly lots of governments around the country get that. But why don’t they all get it?
Photo by Steve Rhoades