The 2012 Quality of Life Indicators Report provides a snapshot of a number of indicators, or socioeconomic factors, demonstrating progress or regression in these areas. It includes a number of “call to action” ideas to move our region forward. One Region is to be commended.
Out of the six indicators analyzed in the 2012 report, the only two given declining marks were transportation and health. These are the very two indicators on which non-motorized transportation has a direct positive impact.
In this region, we have an encouraging, increasing interest in health and recreation, as evidenced by our expanding non-motorized transportation network and a growing realization of its benefits.
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission will work with One Region to identify and add some relevant measures on the existence and performance of our non-motorized transportation network.
Since 1990, the number of regional trail miles has grown from roughly 13, to now near 100. These facilities offer a viable alternate transportation option by connecting a number of communities together.
Municipalities have also discovered the value of creating interconnected networks along existing roadways, or what we now call “complete streets.” These take into account all intended transportation means within a corridor – including bikes and pedestrians.
These improved networks aid greatly with children safely accessing their schools, which in turn reduce automobile congestion since 20 percent of all morning traffic are just parents dropping off their kids.
On the health front, biking and walking clearly aid in improving one’s physical fitness. The indicators report highlights disturbing trends in unhealthy diet habits such as smoking and fast food availability. The burgeoning non-motorized network provides critical outlets for exercise. A major call to action should include more dialogue on expanding the physical environment for safe walking and biking.
The benefits don’t stop there. More people walking and biking greatly aid in our environmental quality since automobile traffic is, by far, the worst polluter of our skies.
Did you know that one-third of our population doesn't drive? Yes that includes children, but also people with mobility issues. Seeing that our baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement, this is truly an issue that we can either face up to or be swallowed by.
As our non-motorized networks continue to expand in Northwest Indiana, NIRPC will work with One Region to consider non-motorized transportation and its positive impacts on our lives. For further information, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 763-6060 ext. 133.
Mitch Barloga is non-motorized transportation and greenways planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.