Physical inactivity is a public health issue that has been linked to obesity and several chronic health conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is a priority focus area of the 2019-2024 Prevention Agenda published by the New York State Department of Health. To encourage more physical activity, the NYS Department of Health is recommending local communities develop opportunities for a more active lifestyle, including bicycling. As a nurse in this community, I am writing to encourage fellow Ithacans to actively support this endeavor by urging the City to prioritize the development of bicycling infrastructure and programs.
If you build it, they will come. A recent survey completed at the request of Bike Walk Tompkins found that between 75% and 80% of residents wanted more bike infrastructure, a majority of non-students said they would drive less often if they cycled more, and approximately 60% of respondents stated that they do not feel safe riding near moving vehicles. We already have many beautiful and safe routes for cyclists including bike lanes on Cayuga Street and off-road paths such as the Black Diamond Trail and the Waterfront Trail. Establishing a transportation plan that clearly demarcates bike lanes with barriers will encourage more cyclists and could potentially decrease automobile traffic in the city. With over 50% of trips in Tompkins County being less than 2 miles long, the potential for bicycling is significant.
Both the city’s Comprehensive Plan, Plan Ithaca, and the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) have goals and objectives that strongly support reducing our car dependency by prioritizing transit, walking and bicycling. Bicycling is singled out in the LRTP as the “missing mode” since there is no community-wide network of cycling routes and Plan Ithaca calls for the city to “complete, adopt and implement a City Transportation Plan.” This effort is soon to begin and presents a perfect opportunity to provide the bicycling infrastructure that will allow our community to fully take advantage of a mode of transportation that improves your health and reduces roadway congestion while benefiting the environment. I encourage all residents of the city to become involved and take advantage of this opportunity.