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Utah public health workers take the lead on bike, pedestrian access.

When Utah received a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant in 2010, public health workers wanted to make sure it created healthy opportunities for as many residents as possible. To do that, they turned to one of the few things nearly everyone has in common: the need to travel.

"We wanted to capture the whole state, to address things at the most broad level," said Brett McIff, PhD, MSPH, Community Transformation Grant coordinator at the Utah Department of Health. "And everyone travels."

The idea turned into the Utah Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Design Guide, which was released late last year and is Utah's first comprehensive approach to active transportation. Created under the auspices of the Utah Department of Health and in collaboration with state transportation officials, the step-by-step guide takes local officials through the process of developing a bicycle and pedestrian master plan for their own communities. The guide details the many social, economic and health benefits of transportation systems that support multiple modes of travel.

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"Evidence has shown that transportation systems, development patterns and community design and planning decisions can all have profound effects on the amount of physical activity residents late," states the guide, which was sent to every city administrator in Utah. "People can lead healthier, more active lives if communities are built to facilitate safe walking and biking."

The guide covers the gamut, from public involvement to shaping local policy, and even details the costs and benefits of specific road features, such as pedestrian countdown signals and bicycle ramps. In addition to highlighting health benefits, the guide notes that better walking and biking infrastructure is often a boon for local business and tourism as well.

Rather than take a one size-fits-all approach, McIff said the 214-page guide was designed to help local officials create a plan tailored to local needs. He noted that expanding biking and walking opportunities does not have to come with a hefty price tag, especially if such work is integrated into existing street and maintenance projects.

"We understand that the quickest way to develop a statewide system is to get local government on board and this (guide) has everything they need," said Evelyn Tuddenham, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator at the Utah Department of Transportation and a member of the task force that developed the new guide. "This is something we all need to work on together. There comes a point when we can't build enough road, we can't build ourselves out of congestion, and we need to look at other ways to deal with it."

While the guide is the first such statewide effort, it had some local examples to build on. One such example is Orem, about an hour south of Salt Lake City. Orem's City Council adopted a bicycle and pedestrian plan in 2010 and today the city boasts more than five new miles of bike lanes, which were added during street resurfacing projects, according to Paul Goodrich, transportation engineer for the city of Orem. Goodrich noted that more than 1,000 residents provided input on the plan and that the adoption of a complete streets policy, which ensures officials accommodate bikes when resurfacing or widening streets, was critical to Orem's success.

Goodrich said health was a big focus in the run-up to Orem's bicycle and pedestrian plan and that work is now turning toward walking, with a particular focus on creating safe routes to schools.

McIff, at the Utah Department of Health, said the new guide has been his "passport" to the transportation world.

"Bringing health to the table (with transportation officials) has been one of the best outcomes of this process," McIff told The Nation's Health. "My hope is that this becomes the way we do transportation in Utah."

For more on the Utah Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Design Guide, visit www.udohnews.blogspot.com.

Issues at the state and community levels
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Title Annotation:STATE & LOCAL
Author:Krisberg, Kim
Publication:The Nation's Health
Geographic Code:1U8UT
Date:Apr 1, 2012
Words:648
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