“Building trails is cost beneficial from a public health perspective. The most sensitive parameter affecting the cost-benefit ratios were equipment and travel costs; however, even for the highest cost, every $1 investment in trails resulted in a greater return in direct medical benefit.”
-A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Physical Activity Using Bike/Pedestrian Trails
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents were obese in 2009 –2010. Health and Human Services recommends that Americans maintain 30 minutes of physical activity per day to stay healthy. However, 51 percent of Americans do not meet this national physical activity recommendation. This switch to active transportation, especially for quick short trips, could have a positive impact on obesity rates in America. According to the National Household Travel Survey, 25 percent of all transportation trips in the U.S. are one mile or less. These types of trips are the easiest to convert from driving to walking or biking.
Decreasing vehicle miles travelled by automobile can also improve health through improved air quality. Motor vehicle exhaust contributes to the risk of respiratory diseases and many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Active transportation infrastructure can help mitigate rising health care costs by providing alternative, healthy options for users.
Health and Environmental Benefits of Walking and Bicycling, Federal Highway Administration, 2014
Infographic: The Role of Transportation in Promoting Physical Activity, Active Living Research, 2012
Promoting Active Transportation: An Opportunity for Public Health [PDF], Safe Routes to School National Partnership, 2012
CDC Transportation Recommendations, Center for Disease Control, 2011
The Business of Trails: A Compilation of Economic Benefits, Terry Eastin, 2018
Physical Activity and Changes in Health Care Costs in Late Middle Age, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2006
Higher Direct Medical Costs Associated with Physical Inactivity [PDF], Dr. M. Pratt, C. Macera, and G. Wang, 2000