Walkable Cities’ Health And Economic Benefits

Photo courtesy Brockville Tourism (by David Mackie)

Andre Picards’ opinion piece in the Globe and Mail summarizes quite nicely several years of research and case studies on the economic and health benefits of designing cities to be more walkable. His short and insightful piece summarizes our current state well: “Walking has to become a lever for social change, big and small – for everything from healthier neighbourhoods to a more sustainable planet – and walkability needs to be imbued into the DNA of urban planning.”
Read the article here.

A National Active Transportation Strategy Can Reduce Chronic Diseases & Health Care Costs

Eight national health organizations are calling on the federal government to develop and implement an active transportation strategy for Canada, citing research that links moderate amounts of exercise woven into the activities of daily living with significant reductions in the instance and severity of several chronic diseases and their associated healthcare costs.
Read the article here.

How To Bike To School With Your Kids

Photo from hubpages.com

One of the best ways to help your kids be healthier is to be active with them. And one of the easiest ways for anyone to get more active is to weave activity into everyday activities like, say, biking to school. It’s well established that kids who walk, run, ride, or roll to school arrive more refreshed and ready to learn, and that translates to improved performance. It’s also well-established that kids of parents who engage with them in activities are more likely to be active on their own and develop a more active lifestyle. With all that in mind, if you’re interested in learning how to gear up for that school journey with your kids by bike this article provides some great tips. Read more here.

Yet More MD Support For Bike Lanes

Parking protected bike lane on Sherbrook in Winnipeg

A new group, Doctors for Safe Cycling is adding their voice through a website and Facebook page, to the call for streets to be safe for all ages, all abilities. They join the Canadian Medical Association, long an advocate for active transportation (policy paper, 2009, pdf), and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

As Doctors for Safe Cycling point out in this recent article in the Toronto Star, “Cycling is very effective in promoting good physical and mental health, and it’s infrastructure like protected lanes that makes widespread bike use possible.” 

StatsCan reports that fully 41% of Canadians over the age of 12 are at least occasional cyclists now, and cites the evidence that, “The health benefits of physical activity, including cycling, are widely recognized. In an era when nearly a third of children and youth and just under two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, cycling for leisure or transport is a valuable form of exercise. Cycling is also good for the environment ― commuting by bicycle helps to alleviate road congestion and noise pollution and reduces emissions.”

It’s time for Brockville to join the 21st century and work to become bicycle friendly. There will always be naysayers and NIMBYs who fight to keep streets unsafe, children at risk and property values depressed, but it’s time to move ahead and create a better Brockville.

Walking To Better Health

Photo courtesy Brockville Tourism (by David Mackie)

Two recent articles on walk-friendly communities made recent note. The first is a CBC piece on Sudbury’s progress toward becoming walk-friendly, with development on several fronts. As Sudbury’s active transportation coordinator says, “We know younger generations are driving less, and there’s more interest in living a sustainable lifestyle. So I do believe it’s to the city’s benefit to invest in cycling and walking, to attract people to come here, live here, work here and start families here.” Read that article here.

A second article, from Public Health Ontario, highlights a recently published study that investigated the health benefits of integrating walking into everyday activity. This isn’t the first study in this area and it won’t be the last as the evidence continues to mount that designing walkability into our urban landscape results in healthier lifestyles. Of course, that in turn reduces future healthcare costs. “In this age group [30-44], people in the most walkable neighbourhoods averaged almost 15 minutes per day more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than people in the least walkable neighbourhoods.” Read that article here.

Revitalizing Toronto’s Streets

In recent years cyclists and pedestrians have been clamouring for more space for themselves on Toronto’s streets. (RANDY RISLING / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

“Cities are their streets. Great cities are those with great streets. Other things matter, of course — parks, buildings, transit — but it’s streets that bring a city to life, that make it a place people choose to live, visit, work, play . . .” Click through here to see a wonderful piece on how Toronto’s streets are coming alive as they’re reclaimed to put people first.

The Bicycle Turns 200…

CC BY-SA 2.0 Jasiel Azevedo

As the invention of the bicycle passes its 200th anniversary, this article reflects on the climate change of that time which partially spurred the development as a practical means of transport. In today’s world, transportation paradigms are changing as fast as the climate, with the humble bicycle playing an an integral role. Read more here.

CAPE Supports National Cycling Strategy

CAPE, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, has provided an extensive article on their website outlining their endorsement of a national cycling strategy for the diverse and far-reaching benefits that a more bicycle friendly Canada would provide for all. Read more here.

“A National Cycling Strategy is the holy grail of public health; the public policy the serves many public health goals with one investment. It is an investment that will pay for itself many times over in health care savings alone.”

Serving “invisible cyclists” too

In our community of Brockville, like most cities, especially post-industrial centres struggling to rebuild, we have a socio-demographic cohort of those living with low income. These are the “invisible cyclists”, those for whom walking and cycling is a necessity rather than a choice. For various reasons they often don’t have an opportunity to participate in surveys, attend public information sessions, or have their voices heard in forums discussing better choices in safely getting around town for work, school, shopping and appointments.

Invisible cyclists don’t travel in packs, wearing brightly coloured Lycra outfits. They likely aren’t seen leisurely cruising the Brock Trail either. Rather, they are to be found at dusk or dawn, often on a cast-off bike, headed to or from work. Or coming home from shopping, or a few bags of groceries hung from the handlebars. Easy transportation and the ability to carry packages is an often overlooked yet simple factor in food equity.

One of the considerations in designing a network of cycling routes is that it be safe, convenient, and easily navigable by those of All Ages & Abilities. A cycling network that includes as key destinations workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, schools and so on helps to serve invisible cyclists.

Designing for “everyday cycling”, one of the design principles of Brockville’s nascent network, is an important aspect of supporting social equity that must not be overlooked.

Other cycling-related approaches which address social inequity around basic transportation could include installing a small bike share with four or five bikes at Community Hub locations, providing an easier way to get to and from the grocery store than walking. Another common approach is supporting the establishment and operation of a bike repair co-op or a “bicycle recycle” shop.

For a great article on invisible bikers, read here.
For a deeper, evidence-based exploration of how social equity factors into the benefits and challenges of active transportation, see this paper (pdf) from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit – Agenda

The agenda is set for the 4th Annual Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit to be held May 31st and June 1st in Carleton Place. Of note in the agenda, which is provided below, are an update on provincial funding programs for municipalities, the provincial cycling network, the provincial cycle tourism strategy, and a presentation by the lead investigator for the public health report prepared for Belleville which showed strong financial incentive for that city’s recent decision to approve further implementation of bike lanes. For registration, see here.

EOATS2017

Belleville Council Unanimously Approves Next Tranche Of Bike Lanes

Belleville city council has approved the next round of bike lanes to be installed, citing safety and encouragement of everday cycling, along with health benefits that will offset millions in healthcare costs over the next decade.

This blog reported recently on Belleville’s coming moves, as well as the report prepared by their regional health unit which used the World Health Organization’s model to monetize the health benefits. That study found that, “every dollar invested in related infrastructure for biking and walking could result in more than $2.78 to $5.56 in health benefits.”

Belleville is a city similar to Brockville, divided by Highway 401, the major rail lines and water courses. They also have some residents who went on record saying their street, Bridge Street, is too dangerous and they wanted to keep it that way, similar to a few residents on Laurier Blvd. in Brockville. However, “City staff indicated the street is wide enough for the lanes. Council voted unanimously for the project which will go ahead this year along with lanes on Adam Street and College Street East.”

What is notable in the reporting of the council meeting is the strong support from councillors to moving Belleville forward as a community in which public roads are safer for all, and their understanding that this is necessary for the future health and vitality of their city. As an example is Councillor Mitch Panciuk’s comment, “It is inexcusable that it took until 2016 for the city to have its first cycling lane and we have a long way to catch up.”

See the Intelligencer article here, and the Quinte News article here.
The Health Unit’s study can be found here (pdf).

How Your Suburb Can Make You Healthier

photo from Momentum Mag

Communities across the continent are realizing the health, social, and economic benefits of designing neighbourhoods and cities, large and small, that encourage people to move themselves more often. This article explores the changes that are underway as paradigms continue to shift rapidly, and how different designs meet the needs of different types of activities. One compelling aspect of this article is the emphasis placed on the need for changes in thinking with respect to zoning, community design and political will. Read more here.

Separated Bike Facilities Crucial For Both Safety And Encouragement

Herkimer bike lane – Barry Gray, The Hamilton Spectator

From Cycling Industry News:

“A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health has concluded that physical separation from motor traffic is “crucial” to reducing the higher than average cyclist injury rates seen across the U.S.”

“In an leading editorial to sit alongside the deeper study, the authors write: ‘bicycle infrastructure can indeed help improve cycling safety and increase cycling levels. That is clearly demonstrated by decades of evidence from Europe, by the 10 US cities listed in Table 1 (below), and by the article on Boston by Pedroso et al. However, the type and quality of bicycle infrastructure matter as well. It is crucial to provide physical separation from fast-moving, high-volume motor vehicle traffic and better intersection design to avoid conflicts between cyclists and motor vehicles. More and better bicycle infrastructure and safer cycling would encourage Americans to make more of their daily trips by bicycle and, thus, help raise the currently low physical activity levels of the US population.'”  Read the article here.

 

Cycling Without Age – Smiles For Seniors

“Cycling Without Age” is an international program with 11 chapters in Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa and Winchester. The goal is to provide seniors or others with limited mobility the chance for casual outings at a leisurely pace. Launched in Copenhagen in 2012, there are now 8,000 volunteers worldwide helping others realize the simple pleasure of a leisurely outing. The bikes are a hybrid of a rickshaw and an e-bike. Imagine these in Brockville helping the mobility-challenged enjoy the Brock Trail and waterfront parks.

For the Cycling Without Age Facebook page, see here.
For an article on the Winnipeg launch, see here.
For the North American website, see here.
For the global website, see here.
For a TEDx Talk on the program, from 2014, see here.

Bike Friendly Communities More Age Friendly

An article published by the AARP under their “Livable Communities – Great Places for All Ages” banner enumerates ten ways that bicycle friendly communities are good for everyone. Yes, even those who may never get on a bike. While this may be yet another great summary of the ever-mounting evidence in support of the social, health and economic benefits, it goes a step further by linking the benefits to making a city more age friendly. Brockville, a city that to date has failed to be designated as bike friendly, walk friendly, age friendly or youth friendly could use some of this common sense. Read the article here.

Belleville Continues To Outpace Other Small Cities

Belleville Counc Egerton Boyce, photo by Jason Miller, Intelligencer 2017

As reported previously here, Belleville is a recent recipient of Share The Road’s “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation. This city of 49,000, divided like Brockville by the 401 and railroads, has a city council that understands and supports the economic business case for making the city more walk and bike friendly. The cycling facilities in their active transportation plan are being implemented at a quick pace. An article in the Intelligencer describes the current activity underway and the support that the plan is receiving. Also of note is the environmental study conducted for the city by their regional Health Unit. Among other things it is one of the few studies that has used the World Health Organization’s economic modelling to quantify and monetize the health benefits of small numbers of increased cyclists and activity in a small city.

Read the Intelligencer article here.
The Health Unit’s study can be found here (pdf).

Brockville Moves Closer To North-End Cycling Network

Click to enlarge

The Brockville cycling advisory committee, at its regular meeting in City Hall on Thursday May 10th at 5 p.m., will review the outcome of discussions for a holistic view of the cycling network that best fits Brockville’s neighbourhoods north of the 401. For background, please see the Brockville FAQs postings, including the report (pdf) unanimously approved by City Council in December 2015, and a revised work plan for the northern part of the cycling network later adopted by the committee.

As a gentle reminder, the cycling advisory committee is a formal Committee of Council that was established by unanimous vote of Council late in 2010. The committee’s terms of reference mandate that it advise Council and staff on ways to fulfill the commitments Council has made to residents through the Official Plan and other programs.

A brief history and context as well as a full discussion of the north-end cycling network is provided in the PDF document below, which is part of the agenda package for next week’s meeting. Anyone wishing to help support the committee in moving this forward is invited to attend the meeting, or contact them [this author will pass along messages].

BCAC CycleNet Discussion Paper, May 2017

Commuting By Bike – Sure Fire Rx For Better Health

British researchers concluded a detailed investigation of the commuting choices, lifestyle behaviours and medical information of 260,000 adults and reported that cycling to work was associated with a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer, a 46 per cent lower risk of heart disease, and a 41 per cent lower risk of premature death from any cause, compared to those who drove or took public transport.

The link between moderate levels of activity integrated into daily routines and improved health outcomes has been shown before in many studies, although not usually with this large a population sample. Other studies have monetized the improved health outcomes, reporting that $1 invested in cycling infrastructure returns $10 to $20 annually in reduced future health care costs.

The bottom line?  Cities that don’t invest in becoming bike friendly can expect reduced levels of population health and ever-escalating requests for health care spending, in addition to all the other foregone economic benefits.

The study in the British Medical Journal can be found here. The CBC article is here, along with other reports here and here.

 

Benefits Of Cycling Are Far Reaching

Much has been studied and published on the individual and population-wide health benefits of cycling, as well as the myriad economic benefits. The consensus among politicians and professionals is deep and broad. Now, a new book elevates those findings to a global view, showing how small trips by millions can contribute to a healthier planet.

“The big changes–and they can be huge–happen when a nation doesn’t see cycling as a hobby, a sport, a mission, let alone a way of life. They happen when it becomes nothing more than a convenient, quick, cheap way of getting about, with the unintended bonus being the fact that you get some exercise in the process.” Read more here.

Walkable Neighbourhoods Good Rx For The Brain

“At Kansas University, assistant professor of psychology Amber Watts is gearing up for a large study on how the walkability of neighborhoods impacts cognition–and maybe even dementia. An initial pilot study on 25 people she conducted with a fellow Alzheimer’s researcher and two architects found that the sample of older adults who lived in more “walkable” neighborhoods performed much better on cognition tests.”

Research and case studies have clearly shown that being immersed in a natural setting is beneficial for mental health. (See here.)  Now, new research is uncovering the cognitive health benefits of navigating and interacting in walkable neighbourhoods. Read more here.