Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Walk and Bike for National Security Pennsylvania Must Invest in Active Modes of Transportation to Help Protect Our Country

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Walk and Bike for National Security Pennsylvania Must Invest in Active Modes of Transportation to Help Protect Our Country

Article excerpt

Transportation systems have always played a vital role in America's national security. This was the case with early infrastructure like the Forbes Road that connected Carlisle, Pa., to western outposts like Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War and to the Port of Philadelphia and its naval shipyards shortly after the nation's founding.

From these early investments to the development of our modern- day rail, aviation and interstate highway systems -- the latter formally known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways -- our state and national governments have invested in various types of transportation on the grounds of national defense.

As retired general officers of the U.S. armed forces and members of a growing effort known as Mission: Readiness, we urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to invest in a comprehensive transportation plan to ensure our nation's security. This time we are calling for the state to include investments in "active modes" of transportation.

So what does transportation funding for bicycling and walking have to do with national security?

The short answer is obesity prevention.

In 2009, the Department of Defense issued a warning about a rising threat to national security -- the fact that 75 percent of America's 17- to 24-year-olds are not eligible to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, too poorly educated or have disqualifying criminal records. Being overweight or obese is the leading medical disqualifier for military service -- barring one out of four potential recruits.

Obesity rates among children have tripled over the past three decades, threatening not only the overall health of Americans but also the future strength of our military. If this situation is left unchecked, this troubled state of our youth could seriously undermine military recruiting efforts.

Contributing to our country's obesity epidemic is the fact that nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults and 65 percent of adolescents do not get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Only two out of 10 Pennsylvania high school students attend physical education classes daily, and only one-third as many children and youth are walking or biking to school as compared to a generation ago. …

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