Proposed Transportation Bill Would Unravel Efforts to Build Healthier Communities

In a country that spends billions of dollars a year in obesity-related health care expenditures, you would think federal lawmakers would embrace and fully support efforts that encourage the adoption of healthier lifestyles. Yet a recently proposed transportation bill would eliminate dedicated funding for biking and walking programs.

In addition, there is a multi-year federal transportation bill that eliminates “frivolous spending for bike trails” is creating some buzz in the Senate.

Quite frankly, this is backward thinking. One of the most urgent issues in America today is obesity. For the first time in our nation’s history, we are raising a generation of children that may have a shorter life span than their parents. Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, and a myriad of other chronic conditions are all related to obesity.

Supporting initiatives that encourage people to get out and get moving hardly seems frivolous. Here are the facts:

  • Obesity has risen to epidemic proportions in the United States and is now the second leading cause of preventable death.
  • Over the last 20 years the number of overweight children has doubled.
  • In Michigan, 12 percent of middle school children and 15 percent of high school students are considered obese.

This legislation is really bad news for all of the organizations committed to promoting healthier lifestyles, including Safe Routes to School, Michigan Complete Streets Coalition and Recreational Trails Program, to name a few.

Physical activity is essential for good health, and incorporating cycling and walking into a daily routine is an excellent way to fit it into busy, often sedentary lives. According to Andy Clarke from the League of American Bicyclists, “In addition to being healthy activities, bicycling and walking are valid transportation options, with more than four billion bike trips made annually for trips to work, school, and tourism.”

Clarke also points out that bicycling and walking projects are critical generators of economic activity in communities across the country. They also keep pedestrians and cyclists safer on the road. In addition to being free and independent of gas-pump woes, bikes and feet are definitely “green” alternatives forms of transportation. Cycling is growing like crazy, and it’s a good thing. It  may also be one key to cutting health care costs in the long term.

If you are interested in voicing your concern about the proposed transportation bill, contact your congressional representative.  What do you think about efforts to end federal support for walking and biking programs?

Photo via healthierMI.



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