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The Benefits of Street-Scale Features for Walking and Biking

June 30, 2016  |  American Planning Association

As the costs of physical inactivity become increasingly evident, and as planners, public health professionals, and others working in the field of active transportation strive to promote walking and biking, the necessity of retrofitting and updating street facilities and sidewalk features is apparent. The benefits of incorporating infrastructure that supports active transportation into our streetscapes are many. While efforts to encourage walking and biking often focus on physical activity benefits, it is important to recognize that investments in these travel modes offer a wider set of potential co-benefits for communities.

This literature review focuses on the benefits that may arise from investment in different types of street-scale features, either independently or in combination. The review considers not only potential impacts related to physical activity—which have been treated extensively in the literature to date—but also a variety of co-benefits including social cohesion, crime prevention and public safety, multimodal traffic safety, mental health, and economic effects. The review links these co-benefits to various types of street-scale features that encourage walking and biking, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, traffic calming, crossing aids, aesthetics and placemaking, public space, street trees, green infrastructure, and street furniture.

This analysis provides background information and supportive data for planners, transportation professionals, advocates, and policy makers working to encourage community design that promotes active transportation. Through this report, individuals working locally will be able to highlight the co-benefits of street-scale interventions that support walking and biking.
 
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