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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Safer Cycling Through Improved Infrastructure

In this editorial in the Applied Journal of Public Health, two well-known researchers describe their latest investigation of facilities that both improve safety and encourage more people to choose to bike.  John Pucher is with Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. Ralph Buehler is with the School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Alexandria.

Read the article here (pdf)

Continue reading “Safer Cycling Through Improved Infrastructure”

Why Lane Width Matters

laneThis excerpt from NACTO’s (National Association of City Transportation Officials) explains why too-wide lanes create undue risk in urban environments.

Lane widths of 10 feet are appropriate in urban areas and have a positive impact on a street’s safety without impacting traffic operations.

In Brockville, think King St W between Clarissa and Rivers, Laurier Blvd, and others. The simple expedient of painted buffers serves to slow traffic to neighbourhood speeds without impacting capacity.  Read more here.

Bike Lanes Are A Sound Public Health Investment

NYC“Every $1,300 New York City invested in building bike lanes in 2015 provided benefits equivalent to one additional year of life at full health over the lifetime of all city residents, according to a new economic assessment.

“That’s a better return on investment than some direct health treatments, like dialysis, which costs $129,000 for one quality-adjusted life year, or QALY, said coauthor Dr. Babak Mohit of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.”  Read more here.