Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities

John Pucher, Ralph Buehler
2010 Built Environment  
Walking and cycling are the healthiest ways to get around our cities, providing valuable physical activity for people on a daily basis. These forms of active transport also generate indirect public health benefits by reducing the use of automobiles, thus diminishing air, water, and noise pollution and the overall level of traffic danger. This paper provides a broad overview of the role walking and cycling can play in making our cities healthier. First, we summarize the scientific evidence of
more » ... ific evidence of the health benefits of walking and cycling. Second, we examine variations in walking and cycling levels in Europe, North America, and Australia. Third, we consider the crucial issue of traffic safety. Finally, we describe a range of government policies needed to encourage more walking and cycling: safe and convenient infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths and lanes, and intersection crossings; traffic calming of residential neighborhoods; integration with public transport; land-use policies that foster compact, mixeduse developments; people-friendly urban design; improved traffic education; strict enforcement of traffic regulations; and reductions in motor vehicle speed limits. The European Union and the USA have officially recognized the importance of walking and cycling as practical modes of urban transport and endorse the dual objectives of raising walking and cycling levels while increasing their safety (CEMT, 2004; European Commission, 2007; USDOT, 1994 USDOT, , 2004. There are many reasons to encourage more walking and cycling. They cause virtually no noise or air pollution and consume far less nonrenewable resources than any motorized transport mode. The energy walking and cycling require is provided directly by the traveler, and the very use of that energy offers valuable cardiovascular exercise. Walking and cycling take up a small fraction of the space needed for the use and parking of cars. Moreover, walking and cycling are economical, costing far less than the private car and public transport, both in direct user outlays and public infrastructure investments. Because they are affordable by virtually everyone, walking and cycling are probably the most equitable of all transport modes. In short, it is hard to beat walking and cycling when it comes to environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
doi:10.2148/benv.36.4.391 fatcat:ynf2go4s5fefrp7ost5surmb5a