Prepared by Kim Perrotta MHSc – February 22, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has many people thinking about how our communities are designed. Do they support walking and cycling? Do they give easy access to jobs, essential services, or greenspace? With everyone needing to maintain physical distance from others in public spaces, there is a demand for more space for pedestrians and cyclists.
Communities across the country have temporarily opened streets for pedestrians and cyclists and installed bike lanes along major travel routes. Statistics Canada reports that nearly 7% of the 2 million commuters who used to take public transit are now walking or cycling. These changes happened rapidly even in cities such as Toronto where there has been resistance from drivers to sharing the road.
Now is the time to make some of these changes permanent. Let’s build on the momentum created by the walking and cycling experiences of the public to re-design our communities so they are more supportive of active travel. There are so many good reasons: walking and cycling can reduce chronic diseases and health care costs by improving air quality and increasing physical activity; they can decrease social inequities; and they can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change.
A Building Back Better study conducted by energy analysts has estimated that 18,000 jobs could be created over the next two years in communities across the country if $2 billion in federal funding were directed at active travel infrastructure. This investment would create construction jobs and provide economic opportunities in smaller communities, while reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and GHG emissions. These investments could make our communities healthier and more equitable, particularly if lower-income neighbourhoods were prioritized for those investments.
Use your voice to call for greater investments in active travel to create healthy, green and just communities.
The Canadian Health Association for Sustainability and Equity (CHASE), the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) and the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), have collaborated to produce a series of factsheets and backgrounders on investments that have the potential to improve public health, decrease health inequities, and promote climate action. This is the second in that series.
Additional information on this topic is available in a Backgrounder (5-pages) on the health, social and environmental benefits of active travel (complete with references), and a Fact Sheet (3-pages) that provides a high-level summary of those benefits.
Please share these materials through your networks and feel free to post links to them on your websites.