Get Moving, Richmond!

23 Apr

This is hardly the first time I have posted on the health benefits of cycling as transportation, but I recently came upon some statistics that really drive the point home for the city of Richmond specifically.  The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps project ranks Richmond 125th (!) out of 131 counties and independent municipalities in Virginia (information for four counties/cities was not available).  The rankings are based on a wide range of factors including statistics on the actual health of the population and clinical care, but also the physical environment and social and economic factors.

A couple of statistics really stand out for someone interested in bicycling and walking:

• The rate of adult obesity in Richmond is 31%, compared to a state average of 28% and a national benchmark of 25%.

• The percentage of adults over 20 in the city who report no leisure time physical activity is 28% for Richmond, compared to a 24% average for Virginia and 21% for the U.S.

There are plenty of other troubling statistics there, but having nearly one third of our adult population qualify as obese is a serious problem in all kinds of ways.  I am a bit wary of the second statistic because it excludes physical activity not associated with leisure (like, say, riding your bike to the store or to work).  That said, the kind of physical activity most people do outside of leisure time is work-related, and if such activity is of short duration and not sufficiently aerobic, it won’t produce the health benefits of biking, walking, or other activities.

Obviously biking is good for everyone, but how can we convince people who are not active to become more so in this way?  A crucial piece of the puzzle is getting kids moving early, and what better way to do that than to have them bike or walk to school?  Check out these numbers from the Safe Routes to School Guide:

• In 1969, 48% of children 5 to 14 years of age in the U.S. walked or biked to school.  By 2009 that number had decreased to 13%.

• And although the percentage of school kids in grades K-8 living with a mile of their school has dropped from 41 to 31% since 1969, the percentage of those kids living close to school who walk or bike has plummeted from 88 to 38%!

Safe Routes to School is a program that since 2005 has provided funding to localities to install infrastructure conducive to walking and biking to school.  Unfortunately, it still has an uncertain future: Congress has still not passed a long-term transportation bill, and the original House bill totally eliminated funding for the Safe Routes and other bicycle- and pedestrian related programs.  I’ll be sure to post updates and information on how to get involved when the debate starts up again.

In the meantime, consider participating in the first-ever National Bike to School Day on May 9!  Even better, contact your principal and talk to her/him about promoting the event school-wide.  Check out this site for more information.

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One Response to “Get Moving, Richmond!”

  1. james April 23, 2012 at 6:59 PM #

    That’s incredible to think that Richmond has an adult obesity rate of 31%.
    I had no idea that our city was so fat!

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