This October, over 150 participants attended the first annual Pedestrian Safety Summit: Walking Together. The summit was an opportunity for design, health, and safety professionals to come together and share understanding, opportunities, and successes in improving pedestrian safety and experience in Utah. Topics included the state’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, Student Neighborhood Access Program, safety education programs, engineering and design, health, and enforcement. The conference ended with a walking tour of Ogden where participants learned about the efforts Ogden City has made to improve walkability and revitalize the downtown.
Get Healthy Utah was proud to partner with the Utah Department of Transportation and a number of other organizations to help plan the Pedestrian Safety Summit. In the United States as vehicle miles traveled has increased, so has obesity. Internationally, the countries with the lowest levels of obesity also have the highest levels of walking, biking, and use of public transportation. When communities are safe and walkable, people are encouraged to be more physically active. Studies show that people in walkable communities get 35-45 more minutes of physical activity per week when compared to people who live in communities that are not walkable. 1
When communities are walkable, children can safely walk or bike to school. Children who actively get to school show increases in cognitive health and learning ability, improved concentration, and enhanced memory. Programs like Safe Routes to Schools and the Walking School Bus app also help improve safety for children walking and biking to school.
The Surgeon General’s Step It Up program reminds transportation, land use, and community design planners that they can improve the public’s health in the following ways:
- Design and maintain streets and sidewalks so that walking is safe and easy.
- Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk.
- Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.
- Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.
To learn more about how to improve walkability and why it is important:
- Sallis, James F, et al. (2009). “Neighborhood built environment and income: Examining multiple health outcomes.” Social Science and Medicine 68:1285-1293.