Academic journal article VAHPERD Journal

Utilizing Bicycles to Promote Physical Activity

Academic journal article VAHPERD Journal

Utilizing Bicycles to Promote Physical Activity

Article excerpt

Regular participation in physical activity is one of the most effective ways for Americans to strive for optimal health, help prevent chronic disease, promote independence, and increase quality of life, at any age (Gill and Cooper, 2008). Sustaining a physically active lifestyle is an excellent way for people of varying ages and abilities, to maintain their physical function or to improve their overall health (Warburton, Nicol, and Bredin, 2006). owever, increases in asthma, obesity, chronic disease, and physical in-activity continue to rise within our population.

In many towns and cities across America, concerns have risen about safety, traffic congestion, parking issues, pollution and ways to improve quality of life. Coordinating walking and cycling with public transportation helps to eliminate some of these problems (Buehler and Pucher, 2012). Many municipalities are trying to figure out how to provide a transportation system that reduces their carbon footprint and congestion, improve air quality, and enhances public health. How can all of this be accomplished? Is this possible? Though it is not easy, the answer is a resounding YES. Traffic can be minimized, air quality can be improved, and public health can be increased through the use of bicycles and providing bicycle facilities. Bicycles are used for commuting to work, commuting to school, leisure uses, exercise, and work. It has been found that increasing bicycle facilities such as bike paths and lanes increases usage rates. One recent aggregate cross-sectional study completed by Buhler and Pucher, 2012 indicates a positive correlational relationship between cycling levels and the amount of bike paths and lanes (Buhler and Pucher, 2012).

In 2009, the Town of Blacksburg's Greenway/Bikeway/ Sidewalk/Corridor Committee identified the need for a bicycle and pedestrian master plan. This master plan was needed to complement the Town's Comprehensive Plan and to guide the expansion of the bicycle and pedestrian network. The Town had a comprehensive plan in place for years and had spent millions of dollars on altering or fixing existing roadways without planning for bicycle facilities. Examples of this include the new portion of Main St. and College Ave, which will undergo construction in summer 2012. Both of these are highly traveled roads by locals and college students and both border the campus of Virginia Tech. Due to the non-existence of a bicycle and pedestrian Master Plan, the Town of Blacksburg did not include bicycle facilities on these high traffic roads. Many locals and students complained that it was not safe, nor correct, to re-do town roadways and not include any bicycle lanes. The need for a grass roots effort to establish a Blacksburg Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was born. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Committee was formed in January of 2011 as a subcommittee of the Corridor Committee.

The cycling community wanted their needs to be heard and addressed. Many cyclists had similar requests; cycle lanes that follow main routes where there are shops, public transportation points and people. They wanted cycle lanes which are safe and physically separated from cars where necessary. All wanted access to safe and continuous bicycle and pedestrian corridors taking them to where they want to go within town. Through the many needs, wants and requests, and considerations the subcommittee agreed that the bicycle network needed to serve all ages and abilities of users for: shopping, dining, working, socializing, exercising or simply enjoying the outdoors.

The purpose of the subcommittee was to:

* Evaluate existing systems

* Identify information gaps

* Propose a continuous network for bicycles and pedestrians

* To develop and provide a document to guide planners and developers

* To develop and achieve recognition as a League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Community

Groups of interested residents, students, and a town engineer began meeting to discuss ways to develop the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. …

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