Transportation and Health
“We know that the transportation choices we make play an important role in building and maintaining healthy communities. For example, safer roadways and traffic patterns reduce crashes. Streets where walkers and bikers are protected from motor vehicles encourage people to get more exercise as part of their daily routines. Increasing the transportation options available in a community helps reduce congestion and air pollution even as it ensures that communities have access to necessary services like full-service grocery stores and doctors' offices.”
-Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
(Source: U.S. Department of Transportation. Health and transportation: a critical intersection [blog]. Fast Lane. 30 Aug 2012. URL available at: http://cvta.org/member-news/104-public-news/542-health-and-transportation-a-critical-intersection.html)
Transportation and health are linked in several areas:
- Physical activity/obesity. Sidewalks and bike trails that connect to destinations encourage active transportation choices, such as walking and biking. Pedestrian and bicycling facilities built for transportation purposes also provide health benefits when used for active recreational purposes.
- Injury levels. Improved design of roads and street crossings helps reduce motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicyclist injuries.
- Air pollution and associated respiratory and heart diseases. Increased availability of public transit can help decrease traffic congestion and vehicle miles traveled in automobiles. This decrease helps lower air pollution known to cause health problems. Locating facilities like schools and active transportation routes away from the most heavily trafficked roads may also help reduce exposure to air pollution, which tends to be higher near high-trafficked roadways.
- Social capital and mental health. Increased availability of walking, bicycling, public transit may help reduce stress from long car commutes to and from work and allow for more social and family time. Development patterns and zoning codes that allow work, school, home, and essential services closer together help reduce commute times.
- Environmental justice/social equity. Highways are often built through low-income areas of cities without consideration of the vulnerable populations living there. Addressing the potential health effects of a proposed transportation project, plan, or policy before it is built or implemented can ensure that the health of residents is not compromised. Creating safe biking and walking access to key destinations helps residents get where they need to go regardless of income, age or ability.