Road to health TO

Road to Health – Improving Walking and Cycling

This April 2012 Toronto Public Health report synthesizes evidence on health benefits and risks associated with walking, cycling and physical activity related to the use of public transit, as well as economic assessments and specific strategies to increase the use and safety of active transportation in Toronto.

Road to Health Report 2012

“Review of the benefits of active transportation

• Physical activity from active transportation has very important health benefits, including significantly reducing the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, obesity, type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

• Increasing the use of active transportation can also generate significant social, environmental, economic and transportation system benefits.

• In North America, users of active transportation generally face greater risks from traffic collisions than users of other modes (such as cars and transit). However, the health benefits experienced by individuals who increase their physical activity through the use of active transportation greatly outweigh the risks.

• Walking and cycling infrastructure investments are extremely cost-effective, even when considering the health benefits alone.

• Better design for active modes, such as walking and cycling, can greatly increase safety for all modes; increasing the proportion of trips made by walking and cycling can also independently lower collision and injury rates (the ‘safety in numbers’ effect).

The state of active transportation in Toronto

• Toronto’s trip distances suggest that large increases in active transportation mode shares are potentially very feasible. About 55% of all trips in Toronto are less than 7 km, and are therefore very conducive to cycling. Over 20% of all trips are under 2 km and therefore very walkable.

• Of relevance to Toronto, cycling is almost as fast as driving for trips of 7 km in urban areas, and walking is generally as fast as driving for trips of 500 m and less.

Health benefits of active transportation in Toronto

• Higher levels of physical activity through increased cycling and walking can significantly reduce an individual’s risk of a number of chronic diseases and prevent deaths. Based on very conservative calculations, 2006 levels of walking and cycling in Toronto are estimated to prevent about 120 deaths each year. Total savings from these prevented deaths range from $130 million to $478 million depending on how deaths are valued. Savings in direct medical costs arising from residents staying active by walking and cycling are estimated to provide a further economic benefit of $110 to $160 million.”

This comprehensive report is well researched and offers excellent advice to not only Toronto, but other cities on the state of active transportation and goals going forward.