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.

Driverless vehicles vs people

A skateboarder rides next to an electric driverless bus in Lyon, France. Photograph: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty

An article in the Guardian prompts with the provocative headline, “Street wars 2035: can cyclists and driverless cars ever co-exist?” However, in a more measured tone the article goes on to explore the challenges of designing systems for driverless vehicles that allow them to coexist safely with the unpredictability of people moving more naturally – walking, cycling, skateboarding, running, or those using using mobility-assist devices.  Continue reading “Driverless vehicles vs people”

Bike paths: Why cities should focus on quality, not quantity

In this column from the Montréal Gazette, columnist Andy Riga interviews Dale Bracewell, Vancouver transportation planner, on that city’s strategic approach to focus on building quality cycling infrastructure that serves All Ages & Abilities (AAA) rather than just putting in kilometres of facilities that do not encourage the widest diversity of people to get out and bike more often.

The key to encouraging riders from 8 to 80, rookies to hardcore, inexperienced to confident, is the containment of motorized vehicles so that cycling traffic is separated. See the photo above, from the city of Vancouver, for a typical spectrum of cycling facilities from least to most encouraging.

As Dale says, “We were having some success with cycling but we were really still serving the person who already was choosing to cycle. Now we’re designing for children, for seniors, for new people cycling, for bike-share users.
It really shifted the way we approach cycling infrastructure. We’re not delivering as many bike-lane kilometres as we’re used to or compared to cities like Montreal. Now, as best we can, we design for people to be able to ride with their kids, or for a senior who still cycles or wants to, and for a person new to cycling.”

For the complete article please read 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.

 

Our Unsustainable Automobile-Centric Economy Is Cracking

Stuck “in” traffic? You are traffic!

An insightful academic piece published by the World Economic Forum explores the failing economy of our automobile centric lifestyle. The average private automobile in Canada costs $9,000 per year to own and operate and sits idle 95% of the time, and in Brockville carries 1.1 people on average. Our infatuation with automobiles kills people at the same time as it is killing our planet, and the author contends we are on the cusp of massive changes.

Continue reading “Our Unsustainable Automobile-Centric Economy Is Cracking”

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.

 

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.

Current Summary Of Active Travel Benefits

 

New parking-protected bike lane on Toronto’s Bloor St just prior to completion.

CAPE‘s recently published Active Travel Toolkit contains a concise, current and evidence-based summary of the wide-ranging benefits to be harvested from greater uptake of active mobility, ranging from improved mental and physical health (and lower care costs), to social equity, to the environment, to more resilient communities. This short paper is well worth downloading and understanding.  Download here (pdf).

Rx For Active Mobility

Herkimer bike lane. Barry Gray, The Hamilton Spectator

This article from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment describes their toolkit: “Prescribing Active Travel for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet: A Toolkit for Health Professionals – to help health professionals become advocates of active transportation and transit with their patients and in their communities. The toolkit is designed with five stand-alone modules so people can focus on the ones of most interest to them. Module 1 describes the health, environmental and social benefits of active travel. Module 2 provides strategies to motivate patients to use active travel. Module 3 explains the links between active transportation and community design. Module 4, designed for health professionals in southern Ontario, focuses on Ontario’s Growth Plan and how it impacts active travel. Module 5 provides strategies for promoting change in one’s community.”
Read the article and download the toolkit here.

Evidence Says We’re All Scofflaws

“According to a certain perspective that seems to hold sway among local newspaper columnists [and writers of letters to editors], bicyclists are reckless daredevils who flout the road rules that everyone else faithfully upholds. But the results of a massive survey published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use point to a different conclusion — everyone breaks traffic laws, and there’s nothing extraordinary about how people behave on bikes.”

This isn’t the first research effort to reach this conclusion, and it likely won’t be the last.

Read the article here, and download the study here (pdf).

Importance Of Trails To Small And Rural Towns

Trailhead for Brock Trail – Rivers Ave at King St W, Brockville (photo: Alan Medcalf)

The linked article provides a great overview of the importance of trail-oriented development in rural and small towns, both for residents and visitors, for economic benefits ranging across health, tourism, property values, community and business development.

The discussion covers two types of trail development – longer regional trails (like Brockville being situated on the 2,000 km Great Lakes Waterfront Trail) and local developments like our Brock Trail.

Several case studies are provided, and the linked handbook contains a wealth of actionable information.
Read the article here, and download the handbook here (pdf).

Protected Bike Lanes Benefit Everyone

Telegraph Avenue. Photo: City of Oakland.

The results of upgrading streets to include protected bikes lanes are becoming so predictable they’re almost boring. The benefits are broadly multi-faceted and extend to many stakeholders. Of course, for those of us living in a community still in denial, it’s worth continuing to collect the evidence.

“Along nine blocks of Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, biking is up 78 percent since protected bike lanes were installed. Walking is up 100 percent. Meanwhile, the number of traffic collisions fell 40 percent. Retail sales in a district that has sometimes struggled are up 9 percent, thanks in part to five new businesses. And the median car speed is now the speed limit: 25 mph.”
Read more here.

Evaluating Active Transportation Benefits And Costs

The survey article recently posted (“The Simple Math Of Complex Cities“) provides a nice, quick overview of current findings that show the economic benefits of active mobility. For an exhaustive analysis of this field, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, arguably Canada’s foremost centre for this research, has just published “Evaluating Active Transportation Benefits and Costs”. (download PDF)

The report “describes methods for evaluating the benefits and costs of active transport (walking, cycling, and their variants). It describes various types of benefits and costs and methods for measuring them. It discusses active transport demands and ways to increase walking and cycling activity.”

The report also includes an extensive bibliography of current research articles.

Greenways Link Neighbourhoods

You’ll soon hear discussion of “Neighbourhood Greenways” in Brockville. In design and function, they fit between off-road trails and complete streets, aimed at providing calm routes through low-traffic neighbourhoods, linking them to each other as well as to busier and more direct thoroughfares (spine/core routes) that need complete streets or protected bikeway treatment.  Continue reading “Greenways Link Neighbourhoods”

Are Canadian Kids Too Tired To Move?

The 2016 Participation report card on physical activity for children and youth gives Canada a D-.  You can read the summary and detailed reports here online.  Of note, as in previous years’ failing grades, a high percentage of 5 to 19 year olds participate in organized physical activities or sports, yet this provides little actual opportunity for sufficient moderate to vigorous activity. Where we fail, and the biggest opportunity, is in integrating activity into everyday living, such as walking or biking for purpose (as in active transportation) or for pleasure (as in unstructured play). Reading between the lines and aligning reports on adult activity, we also fail in providing parental role models for active behaviour.  Go for a walk together and talk about that!

British Study Reconfirms Health Benefits Of Bike Commuting

Prescription Bottle - blank labelOnce again, yet another study adds to the growing mountain of evidence on the health impacts of adding to bike commuting’s mode share.

“We get stories about the National Health Service (NHS) being financially overburdened every week,” Stewart explained. “Seventy per cent of the NHS budget is spent on long-term conditions and 20 to 40 per cent of all long term conditions can be reduced or ameliorated by physical activity. So physical activity is a very good thing. Cycling and active transportation are very good things.”

Read more here.

Uptake In Cycling Benefits Local Economies

tdl327cIt’s well established that increases in cycling modal share create a multiplier effect in population health improvements and reduced health care costs. Yet the economic effects don’t seem to be as well accepted, despite quinquennial study updates in places like Québec, published by MTQ and Vélo Québec.  It’s good to see other studies from other regions add to that evidence.  Here, BBC Research reports on Colorado, where cycling events and tourism add $1.6 billion annually to the state economy. That’s why Bike Friendly Business Areas and paved shoulders are so important in the larger economic picture. Read more here.

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