Thursday, March 12, 2015

Health authorities find link between healthy communities, built-form, and active transportation

My Health My Community is a partnership between the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Fraser Health Authority, and the eHealth Strategy Office at UBC. This partnership was formed to survey how our communities and transportation system are built, and how that impacts our health in Metro Vancouver. My Health My Community recently released the results of the survey which was conducted between 2013 and 2014.

Land-use and transportation are intrinsically linked, and how we get around impacts our health. Active transportation means taking transit, walking, or cycling to get around--43% of all trip to work and school in Metro Vancouver are by active transportation modes.

The survey found that people who use active transportation have a lower body mass then people who primarily drive to get around. People who use active transportation also eat healthier, walk more than 30 minutes a day, and get more exercise in general. People who drive less also tend to smoke less.

People with lower incomes, visible minorities, and recent immigrants currently use transit more than the regional average.

One of the things that I found really interesting about the survey results is that people who spend a long time commuting to work by driving, have a lower sense of community belong.

Vancouver Coast Health also put together a map which shows where active transportation in higher and lower than the regional average. What I like about this map is that it excludes the Agricultural Land Reserve which tends to skew results in the South of Fraser.

Walking, cycling, and public transit use in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

It is interesting, but not unexpected, to see that communities that are designed to be walkable have a higher than average amount of people that use active transportation modes. When looking at Langley City, you can see that the Downtown core is highly walkable.

Some people have been critical of the recent development in Willoughby in the Township of Langley. It seems like the Township of Langley is on the right track in creating a walkable community. For example, the area around 72nd Avenue and 200th Street was one of the first new areas to be developed in Willoughby, and according to the survey has a higher rate of active transportation users. It is also served by the 501 and 595 bus routes. I expect that in another 5 years, you will see the same result in the Yorkson/Carvolth area.

One of the challenges for the South of Fraser is how to build walkable, transit-friendly communities without transit service. It is extremely difficult to do. Clayton Heights in Surrey is a good example of how tricky that task can be. One need only bring up the topic of parking to get people hot under the collar in that community.

For more information, visit the My Health My Community website.

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