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Future transportation planning in the state is more likely to take the needs of pedestrians and bikers into account. Even though proposed legislation mandating Active Community Environments (ACES) did not make it into law this year, partnerships strengthened the link between transportation and public health by getting the word out that walking and biking contributes to health and reduces obesity.
Policies considered by the Washington State Legislature that would have supported physical activity included:
One bill that did pass was House Bill 1700, modifying the requirements related to designing various transportation projects. While it does not require that transportation projects take into account the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and people using public transportation, it gives local governments more flexibility to incorporate up-to-date design standards. ”This will really help cities and counties speed up their process for developing new active transportation choices,” says Carrie Dolwick, Policy Director for Transportation Choices Coalition. “It will also save time and money since they will not have to apply for variances for the outdated standards.”
Champions for ACES included Transportation Choices Coalition, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Cascade Bicycle Club, Feet First and the Washington Parks and Recreation Association.
The Bicycle Alliance of Washington wants state legislators and regional governments to see the connections between physical activity and health. Blake Trask, Bicycle Alliance’s Statewide Policy Director, explained, “Our policy goals are organized around active transportation and providing safe areas around schools. We need to give cities and towns the authority to set lower speed limits. Europe and the United Kingdom have done a lot of work on this. Their experience shows that if streets are safer people will be more active.”
Prior to this year’s legislative session, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition commissioned an independent survey of Washington registered voters on the value of considering health and wellness in transportation planning. Of the 500 who responded, 55% supported the idea of making health one of the state’s transportation system policy goals. After hearing a short explanation of the proposed legislation, support of the idea increased to 67%.
Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
Cascade Bicycle Club
Transportation Choices Coalition
Washington Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity
Washington Parks & Recreation Association
Featured: June 2012