This summer, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health released a report titled “Close to Home: The Health of Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods,” detailing both the progress Philadelphia has made in public health terms, and improvements that still need to be made.
“People living in poverty are more likely to develop the chronic diseases that are the leading causes of death and to have shorter life spans,” note the report’s authors. Philadelphia, it’s noted, has the highest rates of premature death, infant and child mortality, and cardiovascular disease, among other health issues.
That’s a serious issue for Philadelphians, and the report lays out a number solutions policymakers, health care providers, and people, can employ to increase our overall public health.
Among them: “Support infrastructure for active transportation (walking and bicycling) and engineering changes to improve safety for pedestrians.”
That’s something the Bicycle Coalition has been working with the American Heart Association on in recent months.
In an op/ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bicycle Coalition policy manager Randy LoBasso and American Heart Association community impact director Samantha Mogil, we noted that people who ride a bicycle regularly had about 15 percent fewer heart attacks than those who didn’t, and bike commuters were less likely to have the sort of conditions related to heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and pre-diabetes, compared to those who don’t commute by bike.
“That sounds great, but not everyone feels comfortable riding a bicycle, especially on city streets,” we continued. In fact, a full 51 percent of people, according to a City of Portland study, would be more likely to use a bicycle for commuting if they felt comfortable on city streets. And the best way to make people feel more comfortable is to give them adequate, safe, space in which to bike.
Physically-protected bike lanes would not only make the streets safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists, but, according to the City Health Department, would help make our communities healthier.
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