Bicycle Network: Prevention
Preventing disease with urban planning
Governments are increasingly considering health outcomes in designing new suburbs.
Build it right and they will ride
1 June, 2012 A just-released Victorian Parliamentary Committee report has made a series of sweeping recommendations that, if realized, will improve the riding environment and get more people on bikes more often.
The Inquiry into Environmental Design and Public Health in Victoria examines the importance of considering health in the design of communities including creating environments that promote physical exercise and improve access to open public spaces.
Bicycle Network Victoria was among 63 parties to make submissions the Legislative Council committee overseeing the process. The Healthy New Suburbs project, funded by VicHealth, and run by the Bicycle Network Victoria, is looking at ways to better plan new suburbs so more people can ride.
Report recommendations include:
• Improving Government focus on cycling infrastructure “with particular focus…in Melbourne’s outer suburbs and Victoria’s regional cities”;
• Promoting activities to increase riding number, including ongoing support for the Ride2School program; and,
• Examining lowering speed limits to 30 kmh in school, residential and “other appropriate areas”.
The report says in recent decades Victoria had been a world leader in innovative and effective initiatives to prevent disease and promote health.
“Yet Victoria is currently facing increasing rates of chronic disease and disability. Chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental illness and respiratory illness are now leading causes of disability and death. Key risk factors that contribute to the development of chronic disease are also rising, such as obesity and physical inactivity,” the report said.
"Comprehensive research suggests that urban design influences where people have the opportunities and inclination to exercise regularly, and whether parents feel the environment is safe for children to be outdoors,” the report said.
Car dependency contributes to the creation of “obesogenic environments” the committee heard.
“Several studies suggest that people living in areas of urban expansion and high car dependency are likely to be overweight or obese. One US study showed that
each daily hour spent in a car was associated with a six percent increase in the likelihood of obesity, while each additional kilometre walked per day was
associated with an almost five percent decrease. Increased car use means less time for physical activity or the incidental exercise people receive when using
The report said car dependency was not always linked to long distances caused by urban expansion. Of all trips taken by Victorians across all transport modes, 55
percent are less than five kilometres and 74 percent are less than ten kilometres.
“Walking or cycling could replace many such short trips taken by car and provide much‐needed physical activity. However, encouraging people to leave
the car at home and walk or cycle is dependent on providing the necessary walking and cycling paths and networks,” the report said.