Doctors Say Healthy People Come From Good Urban Design

A new report written by a handful of doctors titled Improving Health Care by Design concludes that in order to have a healthy populace we need cities designed for health. There is nothing startling in the report but it does provide one more reference and tool for people to use inspire positive change in their own communities.

The results: if we want healthy people, we need to build healthy communities. This means, the doctors suggest, that our communities need to made more conducive to walking, cycling, and public transit. The report concludes with calls for “major changes” in community design across the GTHA.

These are not perhaps particularly novel observations, few would argue that more opportunities for physical activity leads to better overall health. But the report, written as it was by doctors, adds leverage to these ideas by attempting to quantify more specifically, the health effects of good community planning.

Read more.

More Cyclists = Safer Cyclists

In a recent report from the City of Minneapolis (recently voted the best city in the US to ride), data shows that the more cyclists are on the roads, the fewer the collisions there are between cars and bikes.

For 2008, the most recent year for which complete data were available, the crash rate was one-quarter that of 10 years earlier. Moreover, a trend line shows a steady decrease in the crash rate even as the number of commuting cyclists more than doubled.

These findings are consistent with other cities too!

It squares with a 2003 analysis on biking and walking in two California cities. “A person is less likely to collide with a person walking or biking if more people walk or bicycle,” public health consultant Peter Jacobsen wrote in the journal Injury Prevention.

So if you want to feel safer on your bike, get your friends on the road too!

Read the whole article at The Star Tribune.

Riding the Green Wave in San Francisco

For the past two years, Valencia Street in San Francisco has been experimenting with a system called “The Green Wave.” By programming the timing of traffic signals, the city of San Francisco has made it possible to ride a bicycle at a steady 13 mph (~21 km/hr) without hitting a single red light. This effectively eliminates the tiresome stopping and starting for cyclists, thus making biking even more efficient! It was recently announced that the pilot project will now become a permanent feature of Valencia Street.

Although the concept of optimizing signal timing for cyclists isn’t new, the programme in San Francisco has made some improvements that make it even better than similar systems in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Portland.

San Francisco’s Green Wave is already unique because it is the first in the world to work two ways simultaneously, something Mayor Newsom calls “another example of our leadership in providing quality cycling improvements for this community.”

“Those who bike in San Francisco have seen their rides become safer and more efficient. Our continued commitment is to further the progress made and further establish San Francisco as a champion for providing multiple modes of transportation,” said Newsom.

Read more at, and check out their information on cycling in cities around the US.

Toronto’s First Bike Boxes

Cyclists in Portland have long since known the benefits of Bike Boxes (also called advance stop lines.) which allow a safe place for cyclists to stop at an intersection. This gives cyclists increased visibility when taking the lane to make a left turn, and generally increases the safe space around bikes. Toronto’s first bike boxes have sprouted up at Harbord and St. George recently and although many motorists and cyclists are unfamiliar with them, they’re a step in the right direction!

Read more of Derek Flack’s article at BlogTO.

Google Adds Bike Directions to Google Maps

The League of American Bicyclists has announced that Google has added bicycling directions to their US maps! Unveiled at the National Bike Summit, the bike feature will have cycling directions (in addition to driving, walking, and in some cities, public transit) as an option to plan a route between point A and point B.

This new feature includes: step-by-step bicycling directions; bike trails outlined directly on the map; and a new “Bicycling” layer that indicates bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly roads. The directions feature provides step-by-step, bike-specific routing suggestions – similar to the directions provided by our driving, walking, or public transit modes. Simply enter a start point and destination and select “Bicycling” from the drop-down menu. You will receive a route that is optimized for cycling, taking advantage of bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly streets and avoiding hilly terrain whenever possible.

Google has said that the inclusion of cycling directions has been the most requested addition to Google maps. Here’s hoping that additional pressure from cities around the world will soon lead to cycling directions becoming available in your city!

Read more at the League of American Bicyclists blog.

EDIT (March 12)

It appears at least one Canadian city won’t have to wait long for something similar! Ride the City has gone live with Toronto bike directions! Ride the City Toronto is based on the open source maps system, and offers much the same functionality as the Google map version in the States. Check it out here and start planning your route by bike!

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