Rising Gas Prices Make It A Good Time to Build Friendlier Physical Activity Communities
With the cost of a barrel of oil heading towards $70, this a good time to begin thinking about Plan B -- what to do when driving to and from work will cost the average commuter, literally, his or her lunch.
Searching for that comforting 'silver lining' to today's higher gas prices appears futile. What could be worse than having to pour endless dollars into a black hole in the back of your car? But wait a minute -- perhaps there is a way out of this mess. How about more walking, wheeling, and rolling? Rising gas prices may well be a blessing in disguise for fitness enthusiasts, energy conservationists, physical activity and health professionals, and other warriors of the modern-day obesity epidemic.
|A woman walking with a man using a power wheelchair|
Oil is starting to become the proverbial four-letter word. Everyone is feeling the pinch. WalMart, the mega-giant of the retail industry, reported lower profits due to spending more on fuel. Delta Airlines recently filed for bankruptcy, the coup de grace coming from the spike in gas prices. Even United Parcel Service is urging its drivers to turn off their engines between deliveries! Across the country, families are trying cut costs by finding ways to use their vehicles less, such as carpooling to soccer games and encouraging walking and biking.
The surge in gas prices will hopefully get the attention of local planning boards and encourage them to build more walkways, bike paths, and trails in and around their communities. A model city that is way ahead of the curve is Boulder, Colorado. The town seems to have been built from the perspective of a cyclist, with travel by motorized vehicle as an afterthought. Paths at intersections dip under street level to avoid dangerous crossings, continue along beautiful streams, and weave in and out of key areas of the city that are frequented by students, workers, and recreational enthusiasts. A path is within stone's throw of every part of the city. Cyclists are everywhere. Even cars and trucks stop in the middle of the street to let bikers, wheelers, or pedestrians cross.
Every city must do its part to eliminate our nation's dependence on foreign oil. A trip to Boulder or another bike-friendly town such as Portland or Eugene, Oregon, would be an excellent place to start. What city managers will find there are ubiquitous bike paths that beg for riders, walkers, and wheelers, paths that cut into the heart of town and then back out to local neighborhoods. Buses run along major thoroughfares and allow bikers who must travel long distances to hitch their bikes to the front of the bus so that they can travel around town by bike.
|A woman walking with a woman using a manual wheelchair|