Tucson is truly a community where you can live, work and play. Home to breathtaking mountain views, the renowned University of Arizona and coveted climate that provides ample amounts of sunshine, the Old Pueblo is well positioned to support physical activity. Yet, it is also home to traffic congestion and health complications. In fact, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, in 2017, there were 1,984 deaths in Pima County related to heart disease.
Alarmingly, in Pima County, 30.2 percent of the population has high blood pressure, and 2.9 percent have reported having a stroke. With education and lifestyle changes—such as being more physically active and eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits—the risk factors for these chronic diseases can be largely prevented. However, our City isn’t currently set-up to support many of these positive lifestyle changes.
For the health and well-being of our loved ones and ourselves, our neighborhoods need to be able to safely accommodate a range of transportation modes to assure access to physical activity. We need to make the roads safe for members of the community who walk, run, use public transit or even ride a bike. We all deserve the right to access safe routes. It’s not a privilege. It’s a necessity.
By developing protected walking and biking lanes, we are building a healthier Tucson and creating opportunities for people to commute to nearby grocery stores, obtain healthy foods, go to work or school. This will have a direct impact on the risk factors for heart disease and stroke and will promote a healthy lifestyle and possibilities to be more physically active.
How can we ask individuals to move more and exercise if they don’t feel safe doing so? Riding a bike down the street or even walking to their neighborhood park should be met with ease, not strife. We shouldn’t have to weigh our options and ponder whether or not it’s better to stay indoors or risk embarking on a walk that may have fatal consequences.
Proposition 407 is a meaningful investment for our city as it will improve overall health and alleviate traffic congestion. It features community-based strategies to increase physical activity, as well as a $67 million plan that is dedicated to connectivity projects that will provide more protection for cyclists and walkers.
The $225 million in improvements will enhance pedestrian safety by adding greenways that will connect neighborhoods and community assets, such as parks, schools and historic landmarks.
We know all too well the perils of inactivity. If we live a sedentary lifestyle and do not receive the recommended weekly amount of aerobic and strengthening movement, a multitude of health problems can result. Luckily, we do not have to accept this fate.
In order to reduce the burden of chronic disease in our city, we need to take action and make investments that are truly going to provoke change and lead to a better life for us all. Our community needs access to safe and accessible walking and bike paths.
Neighborhoods with access to trails, sidewalks and bike paths encourage an environment where members of the community can engage with each other and live healthier lives. Studies have shown such areas are linked to lower body weights. Additionally, individuals and families who have access to walking and biking paths, parks, and recreation facilities nearby tend to take advantage of the pathways and exercise more than those who do not have access to the amenities.
By supporting Proposition 407 does much more than tackle traffic congestion. It ensures a healthier Tucson where its residents can travel and explore the city’s beauty safely. We are investing in the future of our city and creating a livable and active community for all generations.
Greg Taylor is a Board Member for the American Heart Association’s Tucson Division