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Chicago’s first protected bike lane on Kinzie St. increased ridership by 55 percent without increasing traffic congestion for cars.

Surgeon general: we need walkable communities

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Even though the U.S. Surgeon General has played a vital role in promoting national public health policy, very few people can name any of America’s top doctors. (A few words to jog your memory: C.Everett Koop; smoking; HIV/AIDS).

Our current U.S. Surgeon General is also worth remembering by name. In recent weeks, Vivek Murthy, who’s been at the helm of the national public health service since 2014, issued a landmark “Call to Action” on walking and creating walkable communities. 

The report asks multiple sectors of government to make walking a priority, and includes a specific goal to “design streets and sidewalks so that walking is safe and easy.” The report also encourages citizens to join their local planning board and be involved in creating walkable communities.

Why is that groundbreaking? Previous call to actions have also focused on the rise of obesity and the need for physical activity, but none have spent more than a few bullet points on community design or transportation options.

The Call to Action also signals that the evidence-based link between walking and health is solid. Calls to Actions aren’t issued lightly. Researchers conduct a thorough review of the scientific evidence. With 359 footnotes, “Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkability” has the full force of the evidence base behind it.

Call to Actions aren’t panaceas. The first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer was released in 1964, but it still took decades (and another Surgeon General) before smoke-free public spaces were created. 

Still, supporters of the Active Transportation Alliance know that creating walkable communities is a long process that demands broad support from diverse stakeholders. It’s nice to know the surgeon general is in our corner too.

The campaign has a variety of resources for people who want to become more active and want get more in making their communities more active. 

 

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