Washington State Nutrition & Physical Activity Plan
Physical Activity Obj. 3: Priority Recommendation B

Change transportation policy and funding to promote walking and bicycling

Washington residents often say that they don’t walk or bike because they are afraid of traffic. Pedestrian and bicycle accidents can be reduced by a well-engineered bicycle and pedestrian transportation system that includes cross walks, street lighting, and traffic signals.(1)

In Washington, less than one percent of the total transportation safety budget was spent on pedestrian and bicycle safety in 2007.(2) Washington’s Paths and Trails Law requires that 0.3 percent of the total state and federal transportation construction budget and 0.42 percent of local motor vehicle funds be spent for paths and trails.(2) Regarding policy development, ESSB 5186 specifically requires inclusion of a bicycle and pedestrian component in a community’s comprehensive plan,(3) and Washington’s Growth Management Act (chapter 36.70S RCW) requires that community comprehensive plans include “collaborative efforts to identify and designate planned improvements for pedestrian and bicycle facilities and corridors that address and encourage enhanced community access and promote healthy lifestyles.”(1)

Examples of Activities

Establish local non-motorized transportation citizen committees that report to the governing body (i.e. city council, mayor, etc.).

Formal non-motorized transportation advisory committees have been established in many communities in Washington. The committees identify the highest priority needs and assure that policy makers allocate funding for infrastructure change. These committees have successfully developed non-motorized policies and improved non-motorized facilities.(4) For example, in the City of Olympia, a group of concerned and dedicated citizens has guided the city through effective changes in policy and infrastructure that have resulted in the addition of bicycle lanes and traffic safety improvements to support bicycling.

Provide incentives for non-motorized transportation at worksites.

Many Americans would bike to work if their employers offered financial or other incentives.(5) The Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) law passed in 1991 requires Washington employers with more than 100 full-time employees to develop and implement CTR programs that encourage employees to seek alternatives to single occupant automobile transportation. The CTR law also provides tax or non-tax credits to smaller businesses and their employees (fewer than 100 employees) and in small communities (counties with fewer than 150,000 residents) as an incentive for promoting alternative transportation. Currently, more than 1,100 worksites and more than 560,000 commuters participate in CTR programs.(6)

Saint Joseph Hospital in Bellingham has a program called SCOOT (Smart Commuters Opting for Other Transportation). For each day they do not drive to work alone, employees who bike or walk can receive $1.50 plus tax (total incentive equals $1.92) and they are entered into a drawing to receive a $25.00 gift card per month. SCOOT is promoted on the hospital intranet, in brochures, and highlighted at all new employee orientations. There are bike racks and lockers/storage facilities at both main and south campus.

Build connectivity between trails, paths, neighborhoods and schools, and sidewalks to enhance the ability to be physically active.

A connected grid of streets, sidewalks and paths promotes active transportation.(7,8) The City of Port Townsend requires new subdivisions to provide pedestrian and bicycle paths to connect roads and neighborhoods.(9) The Discovery Trail bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-5 in Clark County has improved connectivity across this major barrier to active transportation, and in Sequim the Olympic Discovery Trail connects downtown to parks, schools, and residential neighborhoods.

Develop a trail/path system in a community and educate the public on how to use it.

A network of safe trails, paths, and supporting facilities makes it easier to leave the car at home.(1,6) The City of Moses Lake has partnered with the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service to develop a network of linked paths for exercise, recreation, transportation and tourism.(10) Signs and detailed trail maps make it easy for Moses Lake residents to use the trails.

Increase the proportion of managed care organizations and hospitals that become their own “active community environment.”

Group Health has approximately 50 sites in Washington. Throughout the system new construction and renovations to facilities incorporate principles of active environments. Recent new sites in Bellevue, Redmond, and Spokane included employee lockers, showers, secure bicycle storage facilities, public bicycle racks, more inviting or open stairs, and outdoor spaces.