Summer means getting outside and enjoying the lovely weather. For many of us, it also means dusting off our bike, running shoes, rollerblades, or anything else we love for human-powered recreation. All people deserve access to this type of active living and to recreate and live in safe, healthy communities. People who live in neighborhoods where it is easier and safer to walk around are more active and have reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. That is why the American Heart Association enthusiastically supports community-led efforts to pass policies that promote active living. From investments in bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, to comprehensive Complete Streets policies, policy change can create more livable and safe neighborhoods for everyone to walk, bike, roll and use transit.
thumbnail_alt_text===Kids riding their bikes on a protected bike trail
While Utah has made great strides in this respect over the last decade, there is still much to be done. According to the Utah Department of Transportation, In 2022, there were 53 pedestrian fatalities and 15 bicyclist fatalities, both more than in 2021. These are scary numbers, but we know there are policy solutions to address these within our grasp. For the AHA, it’s important to us that Complete Streets policies have ongoing evaluation and equity principles and formal policy that works towards the creation of a safe, equitable multimodal transportation network through the strategy of requiring that every road construction and reconstruction project makes a street safe and comfortable for all users, preferably with prioritization of investment in communities that have historically been under-resourced.
There are excellent examples of these principles all over Utah. Official Complete Streets policies in places like Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and Park City, and commitments to incorporate active transportation and Complete Streets principles from entities like Utah Department of Transportation, Wasatch Front Regional Council mean we’re headed for a better future for healthier communities. However, we know more can be done at the regional planning level, as well as at the highest level of transportation in Utah, the Utah Unified Transportation Plan. It is an ongoing policy priority of the American Heart Association here in Utah to continue to work at the local and regional levels to help entities adopt and continually improve Complete Streets principles. If you like to walk, bike, or use alternative modes of transit for transportation or fun anywhere in Utah, please reach out, we'd love to hear from you. There is a path forward to safer streets for all of us, and we’re going to keep running towards it!