Susan Polan on Capitol Hill

Susan Polan, associate executive director at APHA, spoke on Capitol Hill about the benefits of active transportation yesterday on Capitol Hill. Photo by APHA

The cost of inactivity in the U.S. is high, from chronic conditions such as obesity to rising health care costs. However statistics show that investments in active transportation, such as walking and biking, make for a safer, more accessible, cleaner and healthier America.

On Capitol Hill yesterday, public health advocates including APHA called upon Congress to place more focus on active transportation. Their report, “Safe Routes to Everywhere,” calls for four major policy interventions:

  • building a structured active transportation system with increased federal investments, and creation and maintenance of trails, biking and walking networks;
  • creating a new innovative loan program to encourage investments in smaller active transportation projects;
  • installing a health impact assessment pilot program to take data into transportation policymaking, along with preserving the Prevention and Public Health Fund; and
  • developing goals and metrics for  transportation projects that incentivize balanced, healthy and safe mobility options.

“APHA really believes in this concept of health in all policies and you make a difference in health, equity and access with transportation policy,” said Susan Polan, associate executive director at APHA. “With this partnership, we really come together to look at how to create an integrated, holistic approach to transportation policy that will impact health positively  — instead of what we currently have, which offers something that impacts health negatively.”

The report chronicled by the Partnership for Active Transportation was presented to Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the respective chair and ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Its data showed how investments in active transportation have made America safer and healthier over the last 20 years, including: 21 percent fewer bicycling fatalities, 9 million pounds of air emissions reduced each year by biking and 3.1 trillion calories burned by walking and biking each year.

Additionally, $1.43 of public and private dollars is saved per vehicle mile shifted to active transportation.

“Nothing happens unless people gather and make Congress understand what’s important to them,” Norton said. “I love the name, ‘Safe Routes to Everywhere,’ because the places people have to go are far more [numerous] and diverse than before.”

Note: The Partnership for Active Transportation includes APHA, American Academy of Pediatrics, America Walks, LOCUS and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. A full copy of the report can be found at Railstotrails.org.

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