Study: Good Bike and Ped Infrastructure Actually Makes Neighbors Healthier

Vancouver's Comox-Helmcken Greenway Photo:  Paul Krueger/Flickr/CC
Vancouver's Comox-Helmcken Greenway Photo: Paul Krueger/Flickr/CC

Living near safe, high-quality biking and walking facilities actually improves people’s health, according to a new study that found a direct link between urban active transportation infrastructure and increased exercise.

The study, published in the journal of Preventative Medicine, examined a random group in Vancouver, British Columbia, before and after the construction of the Comox-Helmcken Greenway, a 1.2-mile protected biking and walking facility.

The study found that people who lived with .2 miles — a few blocks — of the new greenway were twice as likely to get the recommended 20 minutes of physical activity daily. The effect declined as the distance from the greenway increased.

“The message is pretty clear,” said Andy Hong, a health scientist at the University of Oxford and co-author of the study. “Well-designed and well-thought-out greenways, like the Comox-Helmcken Greenway, can promote health by encouraging people to be more active and spend less time sitting.”

He noted that the Comox-Helmcken Greenway includes many features of high-quality on-street biking and walking infrastructure, including green paint, landscaping and traffic calming measures.

Map: Vancouver
Map: Vancouver

The project was completed in 2013 for about $5 million, according to the Vancouver Sun. It is part of a larger greenway system for the city.

  • John K

    Superb! That five million should easily pay for itself in reduced obesity rates, improved cardiovascular condition of locals, reduced pollution, and significantly higher quality of life for those who embark on more active transportation.

  • Stephen Simac

    At least in Canada, the savings from reductions in medical costs could accrue to the single payer, in the States they would just mean more profits for insurance companies and they’d still double premiums and increase co-pays, because it’s never enough for their investors.

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