How and where we build housing, commercial real estate, and schools has a significant impact on population health. As people move farther away from schools or work, fewer children than in past decades have the option to get physical activity as a natural part of their day. In 1969, 48% of children walked or biked to school every day. In 2009, only 13% did. (source: 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) ) Studies show an almost identical rate of growth between the increase in driving with the increase of obesity in America, as seen in the chart below.
Vehicle Miles traveled in U.S chart
View Leslie Meehan’s explanation of why more children are being driven to school.
Extended interviews: Causes of Obesity
City governments are increasingly aware of how government policies and priorities impact the transportation choices people make and citizens’ access to natural modes of physical activity such as walking and biking to the store, work or school. Nashville recently adopted a complete streets policy.
Measures will now be taken to ensure that new and reconstructed streets are developed with consideration towards all forms of transportation including buses, bikes and pedestrians.
The National Complete Streets Coalition is a growing movement urging states and cities across the country to ask their engineers and planners to build road networks that are safer and more accessible for all users.
In 2002, Nashville surveyed the metropolitan area to review existing bikeways and sidewalks. A strategic plan was created to guide the city in its goal to improve “liveability” by repairing old and constructing new sidewalks and bike lanes. The plan was updated in 2008.
Current status of Sidewalks and Bikeways in Nashville (source: Nashville Mayor’s Office Sept 2010)
Total miles of roadway network - 2,333 miles,
Total miles of sidewalks - 936 miles existing (Metro/City maintained).
Total vision plan sidewalks - 500 miles planned (future).
On Road Bikeways
Total miles existing - 101 miles
Bike routes - 69 miles
Bike lanes - 32 miles
Vision plan bikeways - 485 miles planned
Off Road Bikeways – Greenway Trails, Primitive, Multi Use paths
Total miles existing - 95 miles
Paved - 45 miles
Primitive - 50 miles
Vision/Master plan - 350 miles
The Built Environment and Health: 11 Profiles of Neighborhood Transformation [pdf]
National Center for Safe Routes to School assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bike to school.