Research shows that biking for transportation and recreation is linked to multiple health benefits, including lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.
To tap into this health potential, bike share stations should be located close to grocery stores, parks and other community resources to encourage active transportation, and neighborhoods with poorer health should receive priority when siting a new station.
These are two of the recommendations to emerge from a new health impact assessment through Common Ground Health and Genesee Transportation Council.
“HIAs are an important new decision-making tool for policymakers,” said Trilby de Jung, CEO of Common Ground Health. “Informed by rigorous data analysis and broad community involvement, HIAs can help us take health into account before decisions are made on a project.”
A relatively new approach in New York, this assessment is the state’s first HIA with a focus on transportation.
“We know we’re on the leading edge of using HIAs in transportation planning,” said James Stack, executive director of GTC. “It has only been within the last few years that we’ve put an emphasis on using the HIA process to more prominently consider health in transportation. This is another tool we can use that might result in different recommendations than the traditional approach.”
The bike share assessment is the outgrowth of an 18-month process involving community input, data analysis and a review of national best practices. The study was guided by a committee of representatives from multiple sectors including city, county and state government; University of Rochester; and Conkey Cruisers, a community biking program.
To encourage healthier lifestyles that can combat chronic illness, the study recommended improving the bike share payment system to allow residents without credit cards access to bikes, partnering with local institutions and groups to subsidize membership for low-income city residents, providing education about the use of the bike share program and the benefits of cycling and continuing to improve infrastructure such as bike lanes and sidewalks.
Rochester’s bike share vendor, Pace, embraced several of the recommendations, including offering more ways to pay for bike rentals and adding new bike stations around the city.
“We are proud to support Common Ground Health and the city of Rochester on their path toward building healthier communities,” said Aviva Manin, marketing manager for Pace. “It is our shared goal that all Rochester residents and visitors have easy access to our bikes and all the benefits that come with them. From accepting EBT and cash payments to deploying accessible bikes, we will continue our efforts with the city of Rochester and its partners to ensure that all benefit from the transformative power that bikes have.”
The study looked at four factors that affect public health, often referred to as the social determinants of health: physical activity, economic benefit and equity, social cohesion and access to food.
Approximately 63 percent of Monroe County’s adult population is obese or overweight. Providing opportunities in urban areas for increased active transportation encourages physical activity.
Active transportation, cycling in particular, can reduce personal transportation costs. According to the American Automobile Association, the average cost of owning a car was $8,469 a year in 2017. By contrast, most bike share programs cost $50-$100 annually.
Communities with greater levels of participation in community activities have better health outcomes than those with less engagement. Bike share is one of the most effective ways to introduce new riders to cycling, fostering further interest in active transportation.
Poor access to supermarkets is linked to increased health disparities, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Bike shares offer a new way to travel to grocery stores, farm markets and other fruit and vegetable retailers.
Visit bit.ly/2MVW9ln to view the assessment.