Active Transportation

Active Transportation


GOAL: To make bicycling and walking more viable transportation options in communities to help reduce childhood obesity rates. Policy-makers can increase opportunities for physical activity by creating a built environment that supports safe, active transportation.

1. Increase Access to Recreation Facilities and Open Spaces, Including Parks and Community Gardens


The Issues and the Research: Evidence shows that providing safe sidewalks, bike trails, and traffic calming devices can lead to increased physical activity.1 To increase physical activity opportunities in neighborhoods and combat some of the safety issues, many communities have adopted approaches ranging from Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs to complete streets policies, with positive results. An analysis of 33 studies demonstrated that children in neighborhoods with sidewalks and controlled intersections were more physically active than children in neighborhoods with road hazards and unsafe intersections.2 Another study found that adding and improving bicycle lanes, traffic signals, sidewalks and crosswalks increased the number of children walking or bicycling to school. Students were three times more likely to start walking or bicycling on routes that included improvements than they were before these improvements were made. 3

Potential Stakeholders

Policy-makers
State and local elected and appointed officials
School officials (e.g., state boards of education, local school boards and school administrators)

Other Government and Community Stakeholders 
Transportation officials
Planning officials
County and city health officials
Law enforcement agencies
Community-based organizations
Community members

Policy and Program Options

State funding and support of active transportation
State policy-makers can actively support legislation that promotes safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. They also can provide funding for state and local transportation initiatives that include safe, active living components.

Active transportation plans, complete streets
Local governments can develop or re-evaluate long-term transportation plans that explicitly set “active transportation” goals for walking or biking as modes of transportation. As part of these goals, they can implement complete streets in neighborhoods. The following list includes some complete streets measures that improve safe walking and biking options in communities:

  • Develop a pedestrian and/or bicycle master plan that assesses the environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, and makes infrastructure improvements that enhance safety and walkability.
  • Establish separate traffic lanes for bicyclists and sidewalks for pedestrians.
  • Promote moderate traffic speeds, especially on local residential and commercial streets, by designing narrower streets, sidewalk curbs, raised and clearly painted crosswalks, raised medians, wide sidewalks and streetscaping, which can include adding trees, hedges and planter strips.
  • Employ other critical safety measures including appropriately timed lights, pedestrian signals, crossing guards near schools and sufficient street lighting at night.
  • Retrofit existing roads or integrate improvements as new roads are designed.

Walk to school/Safe Routes To School
State and local leaders in communities and schools can support Walk to School and Safe Routes to School programs. (See Support Walk-to-School and Safe-Routes-to-School Programs)

Getting Started
    • State legislators can introduce transportation legislation that dedicates funding streams toward projects that would increase pedestrians’ and bicyclists’ safety. State and local bicycling and walking projects are eligible for funding under nearly all federal transportation programs. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the federal surface transportation legislation, promotes the integration of bicycling and walking with transportation systems. Under this bill, states may be required to match a percentage—typically 20 percent—of federal financial assistance. States can generate funds from the motor vehicle fuel tax, motor vehicle registration fees, taxes or special license plate sales.
    • Local policy-makers and school district decision-makers can collaborate with community partners, such as city planners and health officials, to identify streets or improve multi-use pathways that would result in increased bicyclist and pedestrian use.
    • Local governments can conduct a walkability audit to identify places for improvement and assess the degree to which their community enables active living. They can also use geographic information system mapping to determine safe routes to school or improvements to sidewalks, bicycle lanes, trails and street connectivity.
    • Local school and policy-makers can begin developing Safe Routes to School programs by working with parent organizations, students, school administrators and teachers, local law enforcement, city planners, health officials and other stakeholders to identify barriers that make it difficult for students to travel to school safely. Note: The federal Safe Routes to School program provides 100 percent funding to states without requiring states to match the funding stream.
Resources

Active Living Resource Center
This Web site provides policy-makers with resources and tools to help them incorporate walking and bicycling into their communities. Active Living Resource Center operates with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
www.activelivingresources.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, KIDSWALK-to-School Program
This Web site provides information about KIDSWALK-to-School, a community-based program to promote regular physical activity by encouraging students to walk to and from school in groups accompanied by adults. The program emphasizes community partnerships with schools, parent-teacher organizations, local businesses and other groups to promote areas that are conducive to walking or bicycling.
www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/Dnpa/kidswalk

Council of State Governments, Community Design for Active Living
These talking points highlight why state legislators should be concerned about the impact of community design on residents’ mental and physical health. The document also encourages the use of Health Impact Assessments, which allow policy-makers to evaluate design projects and policies in terms of their health implications. Health Impact Assessments can provide policy-makers with findings that help strengthen local partnerships, reduce health disparities and encourage public participation in the community design process.
www.healthystates.csg.org/NR/rdonlyres/B30AFBC3-5428-4F2D-B980-C961E4EE2093/0/HealthyCommunityLiving_screen.pdf

Local Government Commission, Community Design, Active Living
This online resource provides community design tools and information for local elected officials and community leaders dedicated to promoting healthier communities. This organization helps communities become healthier and more livable by creating walkable and bicycle-friendly neighborhoods with a mix of uses and nearby destinations.
www.lgc.org/issues/communitydesign/activeliving.html

National Center for Bicycling and Walking (NCBW)
This Web site provides information about the NCBW, a program of the Bicycle Federation of America, Inc. NCBW provides community-based workshops, consulting services, training programs for public and transportation agencies, and economic development and tourism planning analysis.
www.bikewalk.org/

National Complete Streets Coalition
Complete street policies direct transportation planners and engineers to consistently design streets with all users in mind. Policy-makers can use the information and resources on this site to improve the way their roads are planned, designed and constructed.
www.completestreets.org/policies.html
www.completestreets.org/

National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN), Communities
NPLAN’s Web site provides leaders in the childhood obesity prevention field with focused legal research, model policies, fact sheets, toolkits, training and technical assistance to explain legal issues related to public health. For example, they offer relevant sets of talking points about complete streets, zoning and Safe Routes to School.
www.nplanonline.org/nplan/communities

Public Health Law and Policy, How to Create and Implement General Healthy Plans
Public Health Law and Policy’s Planning for Healthy Places program aims to include public health advocates in community planning projects. While this toolkit was developed for local governments in the state of California, policy-makers nationwide can use the information to promote healthier environments in their cities.
www.phlpnet.org/healthy-planning/create_implement_gp

The Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) National Partnership
The SRTS National Partnership is a network of more than 400 nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools and professionals working to advance the SRTS movement. The project can help policy-makers and other stakeholders work with state departments of transportation to increase physical activity in schools, make the best use of available federal SRTS funds, and remove policy barriers to walking and bicycling to schools.
www.saferoutespartnership.org/

Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP)
This Web site provides tools and information about surface transportation policy and issues. STPP is a nonprofit organization founded with the goal of promoting transportation policies and projects that protect the environment, benefit the economy, promote social equity and support livable communities.
www.transact.org/

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    2. Expand Trails, Bicycle Lanes and Trail Connections


    The Issues and the Research: Over the past 30 years, aspects of our built environment have made it difficult for children and families to walk or ride a bicycle outdoors for recreation or transportation. However, research shows that well-connected trails providing residents with access to community destinations is a low-cost intervention that reduces some barriers individuals face in being physically active—cost, inconvenience and inaccessibility.4 In a survey of rural Missouri residents, more than half said that they walked more after a nearby trail opened.5 Similarly, a 2007 study of planning directors and residents of 67 North Carolina counties showed that more sidewalks; bicycle lanes and trails; more walkable, mixed-use development; and strong planning policies were associated with higher levels of physical activity.6 In fact, residents of counties with active living environments were more than twice as likely to ride a bicycle or walk than residents in other counties, and this association was even stronger among lower-income residents.7

Potential Stakeholders

Policy-makers
State and local elected and appointed officials

Other Government and Community Stakeholders
Transportation officials
Planning officials
Parks and recreation officials
Community-based organizations
Community members

Policy and Program Options

Open space policies to encourage activity
State and local policy-makers can support policies that create open spaces that can include recreational greenways. Because evidence also suggests that aesthetics and safety are important considerations when increasing biking and walking around town, policy-makers may want to consider including landscaping and safety measures in open-space policies.

Trail connectivity to increase walking and biking
State and local policy-makers also can support policies and funding that build trails through neighborhoods to connect homes with schools, which would allow children to ride a bicycle or walk to school without having to cross busy, unsafe streets. State and local policy-makers can consider policies that ensure sidewalk continuity and direct routes for pedestrians and bicyclists, including connections between dead-end streets and culs-de-sac. Ideally, trails and sidewalks should connect to a variety of town resources, such as schools, grocery stores, libraries and other facilities.

Rails to trails for recreation and transportation
State and local public officials can work together to convert out-of-service rail corridors into trails using rail banking.

Trail accessibility
State and local policy-makers can support policies that increase access to walking trails.

Getting Started
  • State and local policy-makers can re-evaluate comprehensive plans and develop a bicycle master plan to identify ways to expand trails and connections. They also can integrate the connection of paths, sidewalks, trails, services and facilities into broader transportation planning.
  • Local policy-makers can call for the use of geographic information systems to determine land-use trends and walkability characteristics, such as street connectivity and sidewalks.
  • Local policy-makers can partner with health officials to ensure that comprehensive plans incorporate physical activity opportunities.
  • State and local policy-makers also can order a health impact assessment.
  • State and local policy-makers can access federal funding for bikeways and trails through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation, Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) programs, such as the Transportation Enhancement Program.
  • State and local policy-makers can consider methods for land acquisition, easements and partnerships with conservation groups—all of which would facilitate the development of open spaces.
Resources

Council of State Governments, Community Design for Active Living, Talking Points
These talking points highlight why state legislators should be concerned about the impact of community design on residents’ mental and physical health. The document also encourages the use of Health Impact Assessments, which allow policy-makers to evaluate design projects and policies in terms of their health implications. Health Impact Assessments can provide policy-makers with findings that help strengthen local partnerships, reduce health disparities and encourage public participation in the community design process.
www.healthystates.csg.org/NR/rdonlyres/B30AFBC3-5428-4F2D-B980-C961E4EE2093/0/HealthyCommunityLiving_screen.pdf

National Association of Counties, Transportation Solutions to Create Active, Healthy Counties: Collaboration for Childhood Obesity Prevention
This issue brief focuses on the causes and implications of childhood obesity and stresses the role that local transportation leaders play in addressing these issues. For example, leaders play a crucial role in enhancing bicycle and pedestrian safety, building bikeways and trails, improving public transportation systems and increasing safety along student routes to and from schools.
http://65.181.142.130/images/stories/transportation_solutions_to_create_active_healthy_counties.pdf

National Center for Bicycling and Walking (NCBW)
This Web site provides information about the NCBW, a program of the Bicycle Federation of America, Inc. NCBW provides community-based workshops, consulting services, training programs for public and transportation agencies, and economic development and tourism planning analysis.
www.bikewalk.org

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Trail Building Toolbox
This toolbox provides basic information communities need to build trails. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization working with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails.
www.railstotrails.org/whatwedo/trailbuilding/technicalassistance/toolbox/toolbox_index.html

Sustainable Communities Network, Smart Growth Online
This Web site contains tools to help policy-makers visualize community design, land-use and transportation issues in their planning processes.
www.smartgrowth.org
www.smartgrowth.org/library/byprinciple.asp?prin=4

Smart Growth, Smart Energy Toolkit
This toolkit provides policy-makers with useful information on model bylaws, case studies and other information on topics such as inclusionary zoning and environmental justice.
www.mass.gov/envir/smart_growth_toolkit/pages/how-to-SG.html

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Recreational Trails Program (RTP)
This Web site provides policy-makers with information about RTP, which gives funds to states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. The RTP funds are distributed to states by legislative formula: half of the funds are distributed equally among all states and half are distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of non-highway recreational fuel use in each state.
www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/rectrails

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration: Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation, Equity Act: A Legacy or Users (SAFETEA-LU)
This Web site provides a variety of materials, including the full text of the SAFETEA-LU legislation and the related congressional report, fact sheets on the programs and provisions, plus funding tables showing SAFETEA-LU authorizations.
www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/index.htm

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    1. Designing for Active Living Among Adults, Research Summary. San Diego: Active Living Research, Spring 2008.
    2 Davison KK, Lawson CT. “Do attributes in the physical environment influence children’s physical activity? A review of the literature.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 3(19), 2006.
    3 Walking and Biking to School: Making it Safe. Traffic Safety Center Evaluation Delivered to the State Legislature. Berkeley, CA: Online Newsletter of the UC Berkeley Traffic Center, 3 (4), Winter 2006-2007. Available at www.tsc.berkeley.edu/newsletter/winter2006-07/safetoschool.html.
    4 Brownson R, Housemann R, Brown D, et al. “Promoting Physical Activity in Rural Communities: Walking Trail Access, Use and Effects.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 18(3): 235-241, April 2000.
    5 Ibid.
    6 Aytur S, Rodriguez D, Evenson K, et al. “Promoting Active Community Environments Through Land Use and
    Transportation Planning.” American Journal of Health Promotion, 21(4S): 397-407, March/April 2007.
    7 Ibid.

Leadership for Healthy Communities is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation