October 19, 2005

Impact of Community Design and Transportation on Health

"Driving," says Boston University School of Public Health research professor Russ Lopez, "is bad for your health."

I couldn't agree more!

Speaking right now at the Moving Together 2005 conference in Boston, Lopez added: "Technology is not going to solve the basic problem of driving." Sure, it could help pollution problems, but is "not going to solve the problem of people sitting doing nothing and getting stressed out."

Of course, pollution from auto emissions are a critical public health issue. It's a key contributor to smog, which accounts for 400,000 asthma attacks, 1 million other respiratory problems and 15,000 premature deaths annually. Emissions aggravate everything from respiratory and cardiovascular disease to cancer; there's also the problem of global warming.

But cleaner-burning vehicles won't solve the critical problem of declining activity since we're spending so many more hours in our cars. Incredibly, in the last generation, we've gone from taking 66.9% of our trips by car and 10.3% byfoot in 1960, to a whopping 87.9% of our trips by car in 2000 and only 2.9% by foot.

In fact, Americans use cars for between 82-93% of our trips. In many other developed countries with high standards of living, percentages are much lower: Germans use cars for 48% of their trips, British 45%.

In U.S., 25% of all trips are under 1 mile, yet 75% are made by car.

Is it any wonder that 25% of Americans are obsese and one-third are overweight?

[more to come]

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