The connection between transportation and public health has slowly edged into the mainstream since Streetsblog Capitol Hill began covering it last year, first through a billion-dollar grant program added to Congress’ sprawling health care bill and now in a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) brief that connects existing U.S. infrastructure with chronic disease, obesity, and premature deaths.
The CDC brief, quietly released late last month, offers seven recommendations aimed at making public health a greater priority for transportation policymakers:
- Pass road safety laws, such as those requiring child safety harnesses and prohibiting texting behind the wheel;
- Increase funding for air quality improvement projects and clean diesel projects that limit vehicle emissions;
- Encourage more transit-oriented development and transit expansion;
- Require streetscapes to be designed for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers, the principle known as "complete streets";
- Support local planning and zoning rules that promote mixed-use construction in denser neighborhoods;
- Revamp road design practices to minimize auto speeds and increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety;
- Increase data collection and research about the transportation-health relationship
In addition, the CDC outlines the grim consequences that can be expected from the nation’s transportation status quo:
- Physical activity and active transportation have declined
compared to previous generations. The lack of physical activity is a
major contributor to the steady rise in rates of obesity, diabetes,
heart disease, stroke and other chronic health conditions in the United
- Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading
cause of injury-related death for many age groups. Pedestrians and
bicyclists are at an even greater risk of death from crashes than those
who travel by motor vehicles.
- Many Americans view walking
and bicycling within their communities as unsafe because of traffic and
the lack of sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle facilities.
using public transportation has historically been safer than highway
travel in light duty vehicles, highway travel has grown more quickly
than other modes of travel.
- A lack of efficient
alternatives to automobile travel disproportionately affects vulnerable
populations such as the poor, the elderly, people who have disabilities
and children by limiting access to jobs, health care, social
interaction, and healthy foods.
- Although motor vehicle
emissions have decreased significantly over the past three decades, air
pollution from motor vehicles continues to contribute to the
degradation of our environment and adverse respiratory and
cardiovascular health effects.
- Transportation accounts for approximately one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.