As the question of how to stop climate change is becoming a more common topic of debate, why is making cities more walkable and bikeable important?
By Louisa Sevier
Climate change. It’s a scary thing, right? And while it’s true that one person cannot solve this problem, we can each do something. The first way to take climate action that most people think of is to bike and walk more rather than driving a car. But that is easier said than done, especially in the middle of a pandemic and, even more importantly, when your city does not have the proper infrastructure like bike lanes and sidewalks.
Now you may be wondering “what’s so important about making cities safer for walking and biking?” The obvious answer-since we are talking about climate change-is that fewer people driving means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, but there are other reasons why making cities more walkable and bikeable is important. When less gas powered vehicles are on the road, air pollution levels drop making the city’s air healthier to breathe-kind of important when we’re in the middle of a pandemic that is more dangerous if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions. Also, walking and biking are forms of exercise and the more accessible they are for people the healthier we will be. On that note, being active outside is essential not just for our physical health but for our mental health too-did you know that just 5 minutes outside improves your mood?
I understand that a lot of people see electrification as the solution to reducing the emissions from transportation, but it is essential that we pause and ask ourselves “is a vehicle even necessary for this?” If your body and a bike can get you where you need to go then you should take advantage of that because walking or biking are much less expensive than driving.
What local governments should do to support and increase their citizens’ ability to commute by walking or biking is use some of the money they receive as recovery funds to put in more sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike trails. This will create jobs for construction workers and help cities work towards a more eco-friendly future at the same time.
The solutions to climate change do not have to be big and fancy, we already have most of them. All we need is the political will and courage to put the needs of humanity before the needs of industry and big corporations.