GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

April 2, 2013

Letter: Good transportation benefits our health

To the editor:

We know that transportation is about access to jobs and housing, about economic competitiveness, about convenience and quality of life, and about our environment.

Transportation is also about our health. Our transportation system – the roadways, bridges, regional transit systems, the MBTA, sidewalks, and bike lanes across the Commonwealth – can have a profound impact on the health of all citizens.

For instance, millions of Bay State residents are focusing on tried and true (and entirely free) workout plan: walking to the bus or train, walking to work or the store, or hopping on a bike to get to their destination.

Research shows again and again that people who take public transit walk many times further each day than those bound only to cars. On average, those who walk to and from the train or bus come close, just during their commute, to achieving the 22 minutes per day of moderate physical activity recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For people who live close to destinations, walking has shown to be both a great option and an economic boon – but only if the route is well maintained and safe for pedestrians. Research shows that nearly half of us will walk up to a mile to get to church or school and 35 percent of us will walk up to a mile to work. Biking as a mode of transportation has seen a steady increase across the commonwealth – but especially in places that support safe routes for cyclists through bike lanes and other means.

Increased walking and biking has a direct impact on health, including lower body mass index and decreased risk of obesity and hypertension. Each of these conditions can lead to a host of negative health outcomes — from Type 2 diabetes to heart disease. Additionally, for every new trip made by public transit, on foot, or by bike, that means less emissions, better air quality, and better health outcomes for people with respiratory conditions like asthma.

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