Monday, January 16, 2012

From the YMCA to the State Health Plan: Signs Point to Bikes

Whether it's seat width on a bus, health care costs for workers, YMCA and County initiatives, it doesn't take a soothsayer or sheep guts to discern the wisdom of active transportation. Let's not wait!

In a recent story about big bottoms, transit designers and purchasing agents grappled with seat width in subways, trains, planes, and buses:
The problem of American waists that are too big for seats meant to accommodate them is certainly not new. Today, everything from love seats to toilet seats can be built bigger to accommodate wider profiles, and the seats offered on public transportation are no different....

“It’s clear that the U.S. population is getting heavier,” said Martin Schroeder, chief engineer for the American Public Transport Association and the committee’s chairman. “We are trying to get our hands on that and figure out what is the best average weight to use.”
Bigger and fewer seats makes transportation of all kinds more expensive.

But the costs don't stop there.

In a strongly worded close to a piece rehearsing the history of the Health Engagement Model for State workers, Dennis Thompson writes:
State workers should realize that, because of premium share, they now have a personal stake in the health of their fellow employees.

If the rates of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease continue to rise, then health care premiums will continue to rise. And that 5 percent health premium share will eat deeper and deeper into paychecks.

Any wellness plan that effectively promotes healthy living is a good thing for state workers' pocketbooks.

And inaction ultimately will cost everyone, healthy and sick alike.
The Salem YMCA recently announced a community health project.

From the Statesman:
The Family YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties is now part of a national initiative that has helped local leaders make their communities healthier through long-term policy and environmental changes.

YMCAs nationwide have brought together community leaders to launch various projects as part of Pioneering Healthier Communities.

Those efforts include creating safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists to providing more fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches.

The YMCA of the USA recently selected the Salem nonprofit as one of 10 communities to join the initiative. The local YMCA was also awarded a $64,000 grant mainly to provide leadership training....

After the group implements a particular project around the second year, it will then focus on making sure their long-term goal is sustainable.

More than 100 communities have participated in the Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative since it was launched in 2004.

Each community identifies its own goals depending on the area's health needs.
Meanwhile, Bike and Walk Salem is stuck as various interest groups try to pare it down. The County and its "I Love Me" campaign haven't yet embraced active transportation, strangely enough.

But there's a huge opportunity here!

A community united around making biking and walking the preferred mode of transportation for short trips of three miles or less would:
  • Reduce automobile road congestion
  • Reduce pollution and carbon emissions
  • Reduce healthcare costs
  • Reduce household expenses
  • Reduce capital infrastructure costs
  • Create the most sustainable transportation system
  • Improve mental and physical health
What's not to like? Why are we waiting?

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