02/01/11

Biking, Walking, & Blogging: Let's Talk WalkingBiking, Walking, & Blogging: Let's Talk Walking

 

Let's Talk Walking

From Joan Pasiuk, BWTC Director

My sister in Indiana is looking for a new house in a cluster of small communities near her current residence. Her household includes an 18-month-old granddaughter and she says wants to locate on a quiet street (translation: cul-de-sac). I implore her: "Please look at houses on a grid system where you can access active transportation. Don't be lured by a quiet cul-de-sac where your only outlet is to a busy collector street." I will have to follow up my jargon-heavy email with a more personal phone call, but I am determined to help her realize the link between health and urban design! People who live in walkable neighborhoods simply walk more.

 

The link between walkable neighborhoods and healthy activity is established in numerous studies including recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a partner agency of the federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.  One study, "Public Support for Street-Scale Urban Design Practices and Policies to Increase Physical Activity"  reported that 57% of adults rated local street-scale urban design [translation: walkable and bikeable features] as highly important in determining the amount of physical activity they obtain. Older residents, surely more conscious than ever of the hazards and barriers imposed by speeding traffic, showed the highest level of support for these local policies and investments.

 

Other evidence documents a youth focus on urban design and transportation expectations. Real estate industry surveys show Gen Y-ers want to walk everywhere: 7% walk to work and 88% want to live in an urban setting.

 

A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota/Minnesota Department of Health report, "Physical Activity and Healthy Eating in Minnesota: Addressing Root Causes of Obesity" found that: nearly all adult Minnesotans believe that future transportation projects should accommodate walking and bicycling as well as motorized traffic. Twenty percent of adult Minnesotans make enough walking trips for transportation to meet the CDC's physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes/week.

 

All of this amounts to a growing movement -- not just of people from place to place but of hearts and minds. Over and over we see active transportation filtering into people's awareness, and then into their travel choices. As BWTC enters into a new funding cycle, enabled by continued Congressional resolutions, our job is to affect transportation patterns in Minneapolis and neighboring communities. So you will see new planning studies and capital projects that make walking and bicycling the easy, safe choice. And to add your footsteps to the movement now, pledge to join the Winter Walkoff.