Active transportation integrates physical activity into daily routines such as walking or biking to destinations such as work, grocery stores or parks. Active transportation policies and practices in community design, land use and facility access have been proven effective to increase physical activity and promote an active lifestyle.
In November 2015, the Regional Active Transportation Plan was finalized, thus providing Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties, along with the Regional Active Living Advisory Group (RALAG) with a five-year work plan to create a region where walking and biking is part of everyday life.
SHIP staff have been working closely with cities in Benton County to assist them in planning for the future, and creating changes that increase access to healthy foods, allow for active transportation, and reduce tobacco Use and exposure.
Rice Parks & Trails
The City of Rice is working to improve the quality of life, community and individual health by increasing opportunities to walk, bike, and play. Improvements of current conditions are necessary and there is a need, and demand from the community for additional sidewalks and trails. As part of this active living effort and with the assistance of SHIP technical assistance, the City of Rice adopted a Comprehensive Parks and Trails Plan. This plan has been a priority of the Rice Park Board for a couple of years, and they have finally secured funding to complete the project from the city and SHIP in 2016. This plan will support them in future funding opportunities, and give them an opportunity to create a well-connected trail and sidewalk system.
Bike Friendly Communities
The Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) program through the League of American Bicyclists provides a road map to improve conditions for bicycling and the guidance to make your distinct vision for a better, bikeable community a reality. A BFC welcomes bicyclists by providing safe accommodations for bicycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. Making bicycling safe and convenient are keys to improving public health, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and improving quality of life.
SHIP staff from Benton, Sherburne and Stearns County worked with city staff from St. Cloud and Sartell to apply for a BFC designation. St. Cloud was awarded a bronze level BFC award, and Sartell was awarded honorable mention.
To view communities across the state and nation visit the League of American Bicyclists website.
Benefits of Biking
Simple steps to make bicycling safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community and economic development. Given the opportunity to ride, residents enjoy dramatic health benefits, reduced congestion, increased property values and more money in their pockets to spend in the local economy. When your community is bike-friendly, tourism booms, businesses attract the best and the brightest, and governments save big on parking costs while cutting their carbon emissions.
For more information, please view the BFA Brochure (PDF).
Both Sartell and St. Cloud see the impact health has on the economic growth of their communities. The Public Health Departments of Benton, Sherburne and Stearns, and CentraCare staff worked closely with St. Cloud and Sartell to include health language in their comprehensive plans. The environment strongly influences the health of individuals. Similarly, the health and vitality of a community depends on that of its people.
Planning and the built environment contribute to many of the problems and solutions to improving our health. Social determinants of health include income, education, employment, housing, transportation, stress levels, access to healthy food, safe places to be physically active, exposure to environmental hazards and availability of early learning opportunities. These conditions interact to increase or decrease risk for major diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Contributing Factors to Health
Approximately 50% of a person's health can be attributed to factors that include our environment (e.g. whether a neighborhood has networks of sidewalks, easy access to grocery stores and health care services) and our socioeconomic status which makes up 40% of a person's health. Communities that increase opportunities for regular physical activity, access to healthy food and decrease tobacco use and exposure support health and can expect economic growth. A city’s comprehensive plan can be a powerful tool in creating a culture of health in the community.