Far more Californians are choosing biking or walking to get around these days. Over the last 10 years, the number of trips Californians made on foot and by bike doubled, according to the latest California Household Travel Survey.
Now the state has launched the Active Transportation Program (ATP). Caltrans funds, combined with other regional and federal grants will create a $360 million pot of money that will be awarded to program applicants this August.
The money will be targeted at projects like bike lanes and safer intersections for pedestrians, but also non-infrastructure programs like bike-to-work events and community engagement.
Jeanie Ward-Waller is the California advocacy organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. She said this is the most money by far that has been offered to improve walk/bike routes.
But she said that it is also unique because the priorities for awarding the money are not just about transportation. Part of the decision about awarding the money will be based on potential boosts to public health. Some money is earmarked for projects in disadvantaged communities.
“It’s watershed in terms of supporting walking and biking, but it’s also a watershed in how it is being targeted,” Ward-Waller said. “I think it’s a new standard about how we are approaching transportation and prioritizing things like public health and sustainability and making sure equity is a lens.”
There are plenty of studies linking improved health to walking or biking.
According to Every Body Walk, walking 20 to 25 minutes a week can extend life by several years. A 45-minute daily walk halves the odds of catching a cold. Walking also leads to improved outcomes with depression, arthritis and dementia.