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One of the key reasons to support complete streets policies is for the health benefits of active transportation — streets that safely accommodate walking, biking and transit use give people the option to choose healthier ways of getting around.  And boy, could we use more exercise — according to the National Complete Streets Coalition, nearly 32% of adults are obese, and the number of overweight or obese American children nearly tripled between 1980 and 2004. Health experts agree that a big factor is inactivity – 55 percent of the U.S. adult population falls short of recommended activity guidelines.

Now is your chance to tell the federal government how important the connection between health and infrastructure is to communities across the U.S.   The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting comments and feedback on the Healthy People 2020 process.  Every 10 years, HHS issues a decade’s worth of national objectives for promoting health and preventing disease.  Since 1979, Healthy People has set and monitored national health objectives to meet a broad range of health needs, encourage collaboration, and to guide individuals toward making informed health decisions.

The objectives are quite wide-ranging, but several pertain to active living and bicycle and pedestrian issues.  Comments are due on objectives by December 31, 2009 – but it’s very informal and easy to comment.  Individuals and organizations alike are submitting a sentence or two on the objectives they care about most.

To comment, go to http://www.healthypeople.gov/hp2020/Comments/default.asp

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Yet another Michigan city has recognized the link between infrastructure and livability, and stepped up it’s commitment to safe infrastructure for walking and biking. Yesterday we heard from Traverse City Mayor Chris Bzdok, who wrote to inform us that the City adopted a new infrastructure policy in September — one that includes an emphasis on complete streets. The policy makes an expressed bias in favor of sidewalk and bikeway construction. See more over at http://www.ci.traverse-city.mi.us/Policy/InfrastructureStrategyPolicy.pdf

In addition to this new infrastructure policy, the City will dedicate 10% of its infrastructure budget to sidewalks, bikeways and other people-friendly infrastructure, the highest known percentage commitment of any municipality in the state of Michigan.

Mayor Bzdok’s commitment to these issues is sincere – he can often be seen riding his bicycle to work and to City Hall. Meanwhile, his administration has additional complete streets-related goals for the City, outlined in full at www.planfortc.com.

We could go on about these goals, but this quote says it best:

“[We desire s]treets that serve not only cars, but also bicycles and pedestrians.  It means bike lanes, sidewalks, and safe places for people to cross our major roads. It means solving the problems on Division Street.  It means re-striping Eighth Street so people can ride their bicycles safely between Boardman and Central neighborhoods.  It means installing or improving pedestrian crossings over US-31 at Fourteenth Street, Eleventh Street, Randolph, Grandview Parkway, Oak Street, Hall Street, Garfield, Eighth Street, and Parsons.  It means providing safe routes to school.

In part, this is an equity issue.  Not everyone has a car, or is in a position to drive.  They deserve a way to get around town, too.  In part, this is a plan for reducing traffic in our city.  If we don’t make it safe and convenient for people to travel on foot or bicycle, how can we ever expect them to get out of their cars?  It’s also about being a desirable city.  The most sought-after places around the country provide for walking and biking throughout their city limits, and residents and visitors in those cities do just that.  It’s time we get with the program.”

Well put, Mayor Bzdok. Thanks for your leadership on these important issues!

Today State Representative Jon Switalski introduced House Resolution 187 to express support for active transportation infrastructure options that promote walking and bicycle usage and reduce childhood obesity.  Representative Pam Byrnes also introduced a companion House Concurrent Resolution, HCR 034.

Dubbed the “Complete Streets Resolution”, this piece is the work of a Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan workgroup, which includes a wide array of advocates working to improve active infrastructure options and reduce childhood obesity.  It is the hope of the workgroup that the resolution will help educate lawmakers and citizens about the benefits of active infrastructure.  The workgroup also supports the eventual passage of a standalone bill.

Visit the Michigan Legislature website to view the full resolution and see the full list of co-sponsors. And don’t forget to contact your Legislator and urge him or her to support both resolutions.



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