Missoula Measures - Walking
Why this topic?
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Research has proven that being physically active can help reduce obesity rates. Walking is one of the best, most accessible ways to move around Missoula. Walking helps to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases; lowers health care costs; makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight; and can be done by just about anyone. In addition, more walkers mean less traffic, reducing roadway congestion and improving air quality. More people walking also makes neighborhoods safer and improves quality of life. When people are out, they get to know their neighbors, creating community cohesion and deterring crime. And, best of all, walking is fun and free!
How are we doing?
Challenges to walking in Missoula:
- Our climate, which can dish out several months of frigid temperatures or icy sidewalks.
- Main arterials with heavy, high speed (45-55 mph) traffic that feel unsafe or unpleasant to walk along, or to cross.
- Big box stores that are surrounded by huge parking lots which make it seem easier and safer to drive from one store to another, rather than to walk.
On the other hand:
- Our downtown areas have slower traffic, wide sidewalks, and windowed store fronts.
- Our mall encourages walkers.
- We have sidewalks and trails that link many neighborhoods to shopping areas.
- Missoula has almost 25 miles of walking/bicycling trails within the city limits.
- On nearby National Forest Land, there are a total of 140 miles of trails which provide varied opportunities for recreational walking or overnight backpacking: Rattlesnake National Recreation Area - 73 miles, Pattee Canyon - 26 miles, Blue Mountain - 41 miles.
- We have an annual Bike, Walk, Bus week that promotes alternative forms of transportation to work. Missoula in Motion
US Census 2000
In 2009, the rate for the top 10 metropolitan areas for commuting to work by walking ranged from 8% - 15%. Missoula was not on the list.
Healthy People 2010 Target (Re-development of these targets for 2020 is still underway)
- 25% of adults walk to do errands if the distance is less than 1 mile
- 50% of children walk to school if the distance is less than 1 mile
Benefits of Walking (from the Center for Walking):
- Reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases
- Lower health care costs
- Improved quality of life for people of all ages.
- Improved mental health.
- Reduced roadway congestion and resulting driver frustration.
- Reduced fuel consumption and air pollution.
Roadway improvements to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles can also enhance safety for motorists. For example, adding paved shoulders on two-lane roads has been shown to reduce the frequency of run-off-road, head-on, and sideswipe motor vehicle crashes.
The 1995 National Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS) found that approximately 40% of all trips are less than 2 miles in length – which represents a 10-minute bike ride or a 30-minute walk. In fact, a 1995 Rodale Press survey found that Americans want the opportunity to walk or bike instead of drive: 40% of U.S. adults say they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available.
- The cost of operating a car for one year is approximately $5,170 (AAA Mid-Atlantic).
- The cost of operating a bicycle for a year is only $120 (League of American Bicyclists).
- The average family has to work for more than 6 weeks to pay a year’s car expenses.
- The average family only has to work less than one day to pay for a year’s bicycle expenses. (based on U.S. Census, 1998 median family income figures)
- Walking is free!
- A four-mile round trip on foot keeps about 15 pounds of vehicle pollutants out of the air we breathe. (WorldWatch Institute)
- Air pollution contributes to the deaths of 60,000 people nationwide. In urban areas with poor air quality, asthma is becoming a more significant health concern. (Harvard University School of Public Health).
Quality of life:
- In cities and towns where people can regularly be seen out bicycling and walking, there is a palpable sense that these are safe and friendly places to live and visit.
- Improved sidewalks, trails and bikeways make an evening stroll or bike ride possible and provide public areas where neighbors can get to know each other.
Better conditions for bicycling and walking have intangible benefits. In a growing number of communities, bicycling and walking are considered as indicators of a community's livability, a factor that has a profound impact on attracting businesses and workers as well as tourism. The recreation benefits of bicycling and walking are clear - according to the Report of the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors (1990), nearly 90 percent of Americans age 12 and older go outdoors for recreation. This research found that 60 million Americans are bicyclists and 100 million walk for pleasure.
This information is based upon: all workers ≥ age 16; for 1 week in April (when the weather wasn't very good); the primary worker for the household only; for their primary job only; and their primary method only. College students were not included.
US Census 2000
Active Living - Missoula information on physical activity and healthy eating, for your own health, and regarding the health of Missoula.