Reports Link Sprawl and Health, Underscore Need for Bicycling and Walking Investments

On August 28, the American Journal of Health Promotion and the American Journal of Public Health published the first national study to show a direct link between sprawl, physical activity and health. The peer-reviewed study, "Relationship between Urban Sprawl and Physical Activity, Obesity, and Morbidity," found that people living in automobile-dependent neighborhoods are likely to walk less, weigh more, and are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure.

A companion report issued on the same day by Smart Growth America and the Surface Transportation Policy Project, "Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl," which provides county-level analysis of the metropolitan areas studied, further demonstrates the need for public investment in community infrastructure. The studies come just days before the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to consider a transportation spending measure that threatens the elimination of the Transportation Enhancements program, which has accounted for a substantial share of all federal commitments to pedestrian safety improvements and other walking and bicycling facilities.

"Communities with a wider variety of transportation options, including walking and bicycling, are healthier places to live," said Anne Canby, President of the Surface Transportation Policy Project. "We urge Congress to remember this when voting on the transportation appropriations bill in early September: A vote to restore critical funds for bicycle and pedestrian facilities is a vote for public health."

Many communities around the country already have plans in the works to build more paths, bike lanes, and sidewalks, and are taking creative approaches to public transit and development. But these plans may fall through if federal funds for Transportation Enhancements and other programs for multi-modal investments dry up or are curtailed.

For more information about the report, including state factsheets and practical steps communities can take today to increase physical activity, see the report, "Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl".

Click here for information on Transportation Enhancements in each state.

For more tools and resources, visit ActiveLiving.org.