Economic, Health Benefits of Street Improvements
Economic, Health Benefits of Street Improvements Are Focus of ‘Find Your Way’ Campaign
Spokane Regional Health District, City of Spokane partner during Health and Transportation Week to raise awareness for expanding infrastructure that supports walking, biking, busing and driving in Spokane
SPOKANE, Wash. – Whether you Find Your Way to local destinations by walking, biking, busing or driving in our great city, there are growing options and expanding infrastructure to support you. A new educational effort by Spokane Regional Health District aims to raise awareness for all modes of transportation and the street improvements that support them.
And whether an individual’s interest in growing transportation options is for its economic benefits or its health advantages, the campaign touts supporting evidence for both.
From an economic standpoint, transportation choices help ease congestion, reduce capital and maintenance costs of streets, and attract new businesses and workers. Spokane finds itself among other economically competitive, highly livable cities across the country that are building for multiple transportation choices to meet growing demand.
Offering a range of transportation options and the infrastructure to support them, like those highlighted in the Find Your Way campaign, positions Spokane as a desirable community. Some street design features that provide more options for walking, biking, busing and safer driving include*:
- right-sized travel (street, bike) lanes
- better sidewalk design
- buffered bike lanes
- dedicated bus lanes
- comfortable, accessible and improved bus passenger facilities
- frequent and safe street crossing opportunities
- median refuge islands
- improved pedestrian signals
- curb extensions
One Spokane business owner who witnessed the benefit of these improvements first-hand is Jim Solomon, owner of United Hillyard Antique Mall, who says, “The area is always improving, but the street improvements we did helped—the trees, the pedestrian lighting, the bump outs at the intersections, the sidewalks are actually safer for pedestrians. Our customers feel safe when they come in and that feels good to business owners in the area.”
For residents, having transportation choices saves many families money at the gas pump and even allows them to shed their second or third vehicle by driving less. But it is also a matter of your health. This aligns with a recent announcement from the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, a call-to-action—only the sixth such declaration in the last 10 years—declaring obesity a grim epidemic and calling on citizens to get out and exercise. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Vivek is encouraging cities and towns to design and build their roads and public places to make walking easier, safer and more pleasant.
Said SRHD Active Living Lead, Heleen Dewey, “When we reduce physical activity to ‘exercise,’ apart from our daily routines, we encounter too many obstacles. Find Your Way means discovering transportation choices as part of our normal habits, offering a weight loss solution that requires little extra time or effort, no additional motivation, no major expenses, and no particular qualifications.”
By leaving a car at home, one can safely get to a destination while being active at the same time. Active transportation spurs active living. Being physically active can help relieve stress, while also providing long-term health benefits such as the prevention of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
Concluded Dewey, “In short, active people Find Their Way to being healthier and happier people.”
The timing of the campaign’s launch is ideal as Monday, Sept. 14, marks the beginning of Health and Transportation Week in Spokane. The first-time Spokane event kicks off with a mayoral proclamation at Monday night’s City Council meeting, recognizing the benefits of building neighborhoods that are more walk-able and bike-able and ensuring the healthiest choice is the easiest choice.
Also during Health and Transportation Week, SRHD will encourage individuals to engage with them via social media and share their Find Your Way experiences with photos and interaction specific to walking, biking, busing and driving for work and play in Spokane. Campaign elements will support them in their journeys including an informative website, testimonial commercials from business owners and residents running on television, visible billboards and fact sheets in the community, and presentations with stakeholders.
There is natural alignment between Find Your Way and City of Spokane as the city’s draft Pedestrian Master Plan includes the following sections to support a more walk-able Spokane:
- Goals for the pedestrian environment
- Description of the basic elements of providing a quality pedestrian experience
- Assessment of existing conditions for walking today: recommended policies and actions
The draft also provides a number of relevant best practices which are intended to serve as a toolbox for Spokane as it addresses key pedestrian improvements. The link to the draft Pedestrian Master Plan shows how citizens can provide input. This plan and other changes will become final when the Comprehensive Plan Transportation Chapter update is complete, reviewed and approved by City Council. Additionally, similar approaches are being applied in an update of the city’s Master Bike Plan.
All told, transportation choices improve the health of Spokane’s citizens and economy over time, and right now Spokane is working hard to secure the necessary infrastructure to be a city of choices.
For more on the connection between health and transportation, see SRHD’s Linking Transportation Planning and Health Outcomes report. To view Find Your Way campaign variables and learn more, go to www.findyourwayspokane.org. Information is also available on www.srhd.org. SRHD’s web site offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.
*Note: not all transportation projects need all of these features to be considered safe and accessible.