Doctors’ Note Says Complete Streets Are Vital to New York’s Health

Transportation Alternatives and the New York Chapter of the American Association of Family Physicians today released a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, signed by 140 medical professionals from a broad spectrum of specialties, praising the city’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure as essential to the health of New Yorkers. It’s a solid counterweight to the hysteria surrounding the recent Hunter College bike-ped crash study:

Considering that streets and sidewalks make up 80 percent of New York City’s public space, the pedestrian plazas, car-free spaces, neighborhood bike networks and world-class bicycle lanes you have created are vital to the public health of our city. In piloting Safe Routes to School and Safe Streets for Seniors programs, reducing car hours in our largest parks and producing events like neighborhood play streets and Summer Streets, you are pioneering the redistribution of our public space for health’s sake.

While one can imagine a tsunami of ink engulfing the city if over a hundred doctors and other providers had joined up to condemn bike lanes and public plazas, with media types refusing to print a positive word about measures that are making streets safer, it will be quite a feat if this ringing endorsement pierces the news cycle.

Read the text of the letter after the jump; see the original with signatures here.

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

We, the undersigned medical professionals, write to acknowledge and encourage your efforts to calm traffic and make New York City streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. As a result of your efforts, from re-envisioning Times Square to building the first protected bicycle lanes in the U.S., more New Yorkers are biking and walking than ever before. Mayor Bloomberg, we urge you to continue to set ambitious goals for how our streets and public spaces can help make all of New York City more healthy and safe.

Considering that streets and sidewalks make up 80 percent of New York City’s public space, the pedestrian plazas, car-free spaces, neighborhood bike networks and world-class bicycle lanes you have created are vital to the public health of our city. In piloting Safe Routes to School and Safe Streets for Seniors programs, reducing car hours in our largest parks and producing events like neighborhood play streets and Summer Streets, you are pioneering the redistribution of our public space for health’s sake.

These changes help pave the way for a city that breathes cleaner air and is in better physical condition. Commuting to work by bicycle or increasing the distance of daily walks has been shown to promote weight loss better than any exercise program or medication we could prescribe. Vital to fighting the epidemics of asthma and obesity is the opportunity for children to have safe places to play and clean air to breathe. The traffic calming infrastructure you have built is as valuable as a playground toward encouraging active youth and instilling healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Thanks to your leadership, bicycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in New York City and pedestrian safety is at an all-time high. Mayor Bloomberg, we enthusiastically support your efforts to improve bicycling and walking in New York City. As you shape your legacy, please continue to make safe, complete streets part of the prescription for a healthy New York City.

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