Active Transportation as a Gestalt!

Implications on how movement will improve life reaches far and wide these days. The idea of a gestalt is that we start seeing the shape, the big picture, and that seems to be what has started to happen. Recently, at a summit in Montreal, these words were spoken, “It takes healthy humans to make society function and it takes a healthy society to make individuals want to stay.” Reverberating the message that movement or physical activity plays a key role in being healthy. The discussion expands to urban design. What lies along the way for walkers, movers, and bikers, makes all the difference in whether they will or will not get out and get active. Return on investment laces discussions effecting decisions regarding transportation. At the heart of the discussions is the power of these decisions provides real cost relief to some major health issues.

According to America Walks, “A landmark study issued last year found that sedentary habits are a bigger health threat than high blood pressure or cholesterol— about the only thing more dangerous than inactivity is smoking reported the New York Times. This followed on the heels of a Cambridge University study showing that a lack of exercise increased your risk of death twice as much as obesity.”  The article goes on to state, “All the scientific data persuaded former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to issue a landmark Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities in 2015, which has been compared to the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of smoking.”

We hold the power. Walking takes little investment. Time mostly. Where to walk can be a troublesome challenge for some. Thus the need for more considerations for ALL users of transportation routes. There are many communities and neighborhoods that have little or no green space, sidewalks that run continuously, and provide adequate destinations that travel through safe routes and neighborhoods. Ultimately, empowering ourselves to move is an ultimate act of defiance. It is paramount to shaking our fist at the status quo.

Our more recent president of the United States Barack Obama suggested that it is we the people who hold the power to impact society positively. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Jarvis in September, 1823, stated that if we deem that people lack discretion, that it is not proper to take away their discretion, but to inform it. So, it is partly our responsibility to inform our own discretion. Not everyone who seeks to inform people’s discretion will be leading in the right direction, since today we now know there are “alternate facts.” So where can we get sound information?

The Bike Walk Alliance issued a benchmarking report in 2016. Besides trying to increase bicycling and walking, it also seeks to make the connection between active transportation and healthy communities. Many organizations around the country recognize the overall shape of the physical activity/get healthy picture includes many factors. The efforts need to be drawing from a variety of factions. The benchmarking report can provide the reader with a plethora of data to support advocacy just about anywhere. Goals for administrative people making collective decisions about transportation have much more information to consider for future projects. Topics such as mode share, public health, and transportation overlap with helpful knowledge about trends. The report also gives a broad perspective. Fine-tuning the data collection, as well as bringing forth informative figures, the studies collect data from a variety of cities, not just the largest metro areas. We have so much to learn, yet there is much available to help us achieve Active Transportation Gestalt! It’s time has come. Perhaps we need “Transportation Ashrams” to become more one with everything!

Consider asking your local planner or city engineer if they have a copy of the benchmark report. If not, maybe send them a .pdf and offer it as a resource. Consider a conversation with city leaders about whether they have heard of the report. Share with them how it might help.   It is not high on the summer reading list, but it’s a piece of the puzzle that can help us bring about a broader set of solutions for the challenges facing our communities.