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Transportation and Health

PennDOT recognizes that transportation plays a critical role in the health of communities and individuals. For example, by promoting modes of active transportation such as walking or biking, communities can improve roadway safety through reductions in crashes and limit congestion and air pollution even as they ensure that those who walk or bike out of necessity have access to services like schools, full-service grocery stores, and medical care.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, transportation and health are linked in multiple ways:

  • Physical activity/obesity. Sidewalks and bike trails that connect to destinations encourage active transportation choices, such as walking and biking. Pedestrian and bicycling facilities built for general transportation purposes can provide active recreational opportunities for added health benefits.
  • Injury levels. Improved design of roads and street crossings helps reduce motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicyclist injuries.
  • Air pollution and associated respiratory and heart diseases. Increased opportunities to walk or bike to destinations and availability of public transit can help decrease traffic congestion and vehicle miles traveled in automobiles. This decrease helps lower air pollution known to cause health problems. In addition, locating facilities like schools and walking and biking routes away from the most heavily trafficked roads may also help reduce exposure to air pollution, which tends to be higher near high-trafficked roadways.
  • Social capital and mental health. Increased availability of walking, bicycling, and public transit may help reduce stress from long car commutes to and from work and allow for more social and family time. Development patterns and zoning codes that allow work, school, home, and essential services to be built closer together help reduce commute times.
  • Environmental justice/social equity. Highways were often built through low-income areas of cities without consideration of the vulnerable populations living there. Addressing the potential health effects of a proposed transportation project, plan, or policy before it is built or implemented can ensure that the health of residents is not compromised. Creating safe biking and walking access to key destinations helps residents get where they need to go regardless of income, age, or ability.