Why Bikeability and Walkability?

Benefits of Bicycling and Walking

Increased levels of bicycling and walking would result in significant benefits in terms of health and physical fitness, the environment, and transportation-related effects. Research has shown that even low to moderate levels of exercise, such as regular bicycling or walking, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases; help reduce health care costs; contribute to greater functional independence in later years of life; and improve quality of life at every stage. A summary of benefits is provided below:

Transportation System Benefits

  • According to the 2001 NHTS, nearly half of all travel trips taken in the United States are 4.8 kilometers (km) [3 miles (mi)] or less in length; 28 percent are less than 1.6 km (1 mi). By taking advantage of the opportunity to convert short automobile trips to bicycling and walking, communities can reap significant benefits from healthier air and reduced traffic congestion.
  • According to Plan B, The Comprehensive State Bicycle Plan for Minnesota, the American public saves from 3 to 14 cents for every automobile km (5 to 22 cents per mi) displaced by walking and bicycling through reduced pollution, oil import costs, and costs from congestion such as lost wages and time on the job.

Environmental Benefits

  • Increased levels of bicycling and walking can play an important role in reducing air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 160 million tons of pollution are emitted into the air each year in the United States. A serious threat to public health, air pollution contributes to the deaths of 70,000 people nationwide each year, according to an estimate from the Harvard School of Public Health.
  • Short auto trips produce far more pollution per mile than longer trips. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publication, Transportation Air Quality: Selected Facts and Figures, “starting the car cold generates about 16 percent more NOx and 40 percent more CO than starting the car when it is warm.”

Economic Benefits

  • For many households, a motor vehicle is typically one of the highest expenses after housing. The option of bicycling can improve mobility for people who cannot afford to own and operate a motor vehicle, and would allow some households with autos to own one vehicle instead of two.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle transportation allows people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives, which reduces health care costs and morbidity rates.
  • Outdoor activities such as bicycling and walking are the most popular activities for people on vacation from work. They are more popular than visiting museums or national parks, doing beach and water activities, and shopping.
  • Businesses invest in locations that have a high quality of life. Corporate employers have an easier time attracting highly skilled workers to these locations.
  • According to the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Clearinghouse, trails and greenways can have a positive effect on the value of nearby properties. Recent studies of the preferences of new homebuyers indicate that there is a demand for more livable communities and, specifically, better bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the vicinity.

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