The Health Benefits of Cycling and Walking
The many benefits walking and cycling come from increases in physical activity and accessibility, and reductions in traffic congestion, injuries, localized air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Commuting by cycling and walking allows people to build physical activity into their daily routine. With people’s many responsibilities and daily time commitments, using active transportation may indeed be the only way they can get the daily exercise they require to stay in shape. They just don't have time to go to the gym or take exercise, aerobic, spin or yoga classes.
- Physical inactivity and air pollution are risk factors for chronic diseases. Overall, the 34% of British Columbians diagnosed with chronic conditions consume approximately 80% of the combined Medical Services Plan, PharmaCare and acute care budgets.
- Air pollution affects human health, from minor upper respiratory irritation to chronic respiratory and heart disease, lung cancer, acute respiratory infections in children and chronic bronchitis in adults, aggravating pre-existing heart and lung disease, or asthmatic attacks and reduced life expectancy.
- The World Health Organization has classified Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) as a Class 1 human carcinogen based on evidence that is a cause of lung cancer.
- Reductions in air pollution have been shown to extend life expectancy.
- BC research found that adults are 2.5 times more likely to engage in active transportation when living in compact and well connected neighbourhoods and more likely to get the recommended amounts of daily physical activity and have reduced likelihood of obesity.
- Studies estimate that the average transit rider walks between 1 – 1.3km per day and is more than 3 times more likely to meet the minimum guidelines for daily physical activity.
- The Ministry of Health’s ‘Healthy Families BC Policy Framework’ identifies seven evidence-based “best investments” for physical activity, which includes “transport policies and systems that prioritize walking, cycling and public transport.”
Social Connectedness and Equity
- By providing a means of transportation to go to work, access social networks, education, and leisure activities to those that otherwise may not have access can dramatically improve mental health and reduce social isolation. Equity should be a goal in transportation planning.
- “People living in rural communities generally need to travel longer distances, and often on more dangerous roads, for work, shopping and other reasons. Not surprisingly, injuries and death due to traffic accidents are much more common in rural areas” according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Economic Costs and Benefits
- Excess weight costs $612M and inactivity costs $335M in direct healthcare costs annually in British Columbia.
- The approximately 60 walking and cycling fatalities per year is estimated to cost society $900 million annually.
- High quality cycling facilities that are attractive to a significant portion of the population such as bicycle paths and separated bicycle lanes can cost from $1 million to $4 million per km (1/6 the cost of one km of road network for motorized vehicles).
- Cycling Tourism has enormous economic potential. Tourists cycling in Oregon “generated approximately $400 million in 2012, or $1.2 million per day.”
More including references here.
I call upon the Government of BC to enable everyone in BC to cycle & walk in safety as part of their daily lives by implementing an Active Transportation Strategy that includes:
- Investing $1 billion over the next ten years to:
- Upgrade cycling & walking facilities on provincial roads & bridges
- Complete cycling & walking networks in communities across BC
- Provide safe routes to school for children
- Build trails & routes for cycling & walking tourism
- Ensuring that paths & protected bike lanes can be safely shared by people using wheelchairs, skateboards & in-line skates
- Enhancing cycling education for children & adults
- Promoting cycling & walking
- Encouraging electric bike use by eliminating the PST & providing rebates