Active Transportation

“Active Transportation” is the term used to describe any of the modes of transport that involve human power such as bicycling and walking. Obviously, I’m an enthusiastic promoter of active transportation, and for good reason. Did you know that half of the trips in the U.S. are within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter of the trips are within a 20-minute walk, yet the vast majority are taken by automobile?

Among many other benefits, active transportation:

  • saves valuable time and improves health by combining exercise with a practical activity;
  • provides substantial financial savings to individuals by reducing automobile use;
  • reduces government spending by reducing the need for road maintenance;
  • benefits the environment by reducing automobile emissions;
  • saves lives by reducing the number of automobiles on the road; and
  • generally improves our quality of life.

In 2008, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, in conjunction with Bikes Belong, published a comprehensive report on the benefits of active transportation. The report attempts to quantify the positive results of past federal spending on active transportation while making the argument for increased investment in infrastructure to support active transportation going forward. Here’s an excerpt:

Decades of car-centered transportation policies have dead-ended in chronic congestion, crippling gas bills, and a highly inefficient transportation system that offers only one answer to most of our mobility needs—the car.

Investment now in a more diverse transportation system—one that provides viable choices to walk and bike, and use public transportation in addition to driving—will lead to a far more efficient use of transportation resources.

Active transportation is the missing piece in our transportation system.

Half of the trips in America can be completed within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter of trips are within a 20-minute walk. Yet, the vast majority of these short trips are taken by automobile. Bicycling and walking can also improve public transportation by providing fast and well-planned access to it. Given the availability of safe and convenient infrastructure, more people will choose bicycling or walking for short trips and in combination with public transportation for longer trips. Further, communities conducive to bicycling and walking promote a richer and denser mix of residences and businesses, leading to shorter trip distances, even for those who drive.

The report is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of active transportation in the U.S.

Active Transportation for America (PDF) →

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