CDC Recommends Bicycling Infrastructure for Better Public Health

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By Charles Pekow — Small infrastructure improvements — or starting with them — can make a big difference in getting people out on bikes. Just combine land use with active transportation planning elements, suggests a federal panel. The Community Preventive Services Task Force of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggests communities use environment approaches that combine one or more interventions to improve transportation systems (activity-friendly routes) with one or more land use and community design interventions (everyday destinations) to increase physical activity.

Adding bike infrastructure can improve public health. Photo by Dave Iltis

The the task force recommends in a recent brochure building bicycle infrastructure that will keep cyclists away from autos and make it easy to cross streets. Factor this into planning of places that get a lot of daily use, such as schools, parks, health care facilities, grocery stores, etc.

The task force compiled a chart (https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/built-environment-recommendation.pdf) of eight communities of all sizes across the United States that successfully combined design of activity-friendly routes with everyday destinations. Only two of the eight, however, specifically included bicycle infrastructure as a major element.

Atlanta produced the most comprehensive project of the eight with its BeltLine converting former rail lines to various uses. It will eventually encompass 22 miles of trails connecting 45 neighborhoods.

And Houghton, MI, a rural community in the upper peninsula, wanted to improve access to its waterfront. The effort included buying abandoned industrial waterfront property and converting it into parks with bike paths and extending the paths to downtown and residential areas.

The task force looked at 90 studies to draw its conclusion and says that communities can start small and build upon small efforts. All it takes is adding bike parking. It doesn't suggest a minimum effort. Communities are encouraged to start where they can and then build toward larger scale improvements to increase physical activity, the task force recommends.

 

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