Profile of existing conditions
Physical activity levels among adults and children
Compared to the rest of Philadelphia, there are fewer adults in the Spring Garden neighborhood with low physical activity levels (who exercise less than three times a week) in Spring Garden compared to Philadelphia. This is a good sign of health, and likely has to do with the neighborhood’s walkability and proximity to many transit options. However, the same survey indicates that children in Spring Garden are more likely to be physically active less than two times per week, compared to the rest of Philadelphia.
Means of transportation to work
Residents of the Spring Garden area (including all census tracts that touch the proposed Greenway) are more likely to use active forms of transportation, compared to the entire Philadelphia population. This may be due to its central location and proximity to Center City, which makes active forms of transportation more feasible.
Expected changes resulting from proposed Greenway
The Greenway’s roadway design may lead to a decrease in pollution, which would affect the incidence of bronchitis, asthma and deaths caused by motorized vehicle emissions.
- Spring Garden has an existing bike lane; by segregating cyclists from vehicle traffic and adding landscaping, the quality of experience will improve. These added amenites may encourage more cyclists to use the Greenway for transportation and leisure. To the degree that the Greenway and new roadway design encourages people to shift from motorized to active transportation, it will decrease total vehicle miles travelled (VMT). Reduced VMT leads to less vehicle emissions. Fewer emissions decrease traffic-related air pollution.
- Besides producing virtually no air pollution, cycling usually replaces short trips, which are responsible for the highest vehicle emission rates. (Litman 1999)
- Traffic-related air pollution has shown to cause bronchitis and asthma. One assessment of the health impacts of traffic-related air pollution stated that about half of all deaths caused by air pollution were attributed to motorized vehicle emissions. The same study also attributed traffic-related air pollution to cases of chronic bronchitis and asthma. (Kunzli et al 2000) For every 1% of vehicle miles travelled that are replaced by bicycling, vehicle emissions air pollution are reduced by 2% – 4%. (Litman 1999)
- Research has shown that the introduction of bicycle infrastructure is necessary but not sufficient to increase riders. (Dill 2009) Potential reduced emissions would stem from the cumulative effect of the entire roadway design, not just the increase in bicyclists.
An increase in bicycle use and physical activity will result in a more active population, which can lead to decreased levels of chronic diseases such as heart disease and obesity.
- Spring Garden has an existing bike lane; by segregating cyclists from vehicle traffic and adding landscaping, the quality of experience will improve. These added amenites may encourage more cyclists to use the Greenway for transportation and leisure.
- The increase in active transportation is essentially an increase in physical activity, the health benefits of which include reduced risk of obesity, cardiovascular and heart disease. One study concluded that a sedentary lifestyle has an equivalent cardiovascular risk to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Another study concluded that if one-third of short trips shifted from driving to bicycling, heart disease would decline 5-10%. (Litman 1999)