Mar 3, 2011

Portland’s Recreation Investments Reap Big Rewards

Investments made in biking lanes and other recreation infrastructure will return millions of dollars in health care cost and fuel savings to the residents of Portland, OR, according to a new study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

“Costs and Benefits of Bicycling Investments in Portland, Oregon,” analyzed the city’s decades of infrastructure enhancement — connecting residential areas with parks, shops, and restaurants with interconnected bike trails — and future plans to estimate that “By 2040, investments in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings of $388 to $594 million [and] fuel savings of $143 to $218 million.”

“Biking to work or around town is a convenient way to engage in routine activity,” said lead author Thomas Götschi. “Physically active people are healthier and spend less on medical care, hospital visits and other costly health interventions.”

The study was released in time for the Active Living Research conference on February 22–24, 2011, which happened to come at the heels of President Obama’s unveiling of the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Report on February 16. The study is in tune with AGO’s emphasis on augmenting the national recreation infrastructure.

“These studies show that if you build a better bike lane or a walking path, people will use it,” said James Sallis, director of Active Living Research. “City leaders should look for realistic solutions, like protected bike lanes or sidewalks, to help residents be more active and less dependent on cars.”

The AGO report recommends the “support [of] community-based efforts to increase access to outdoor recreation.” Portland’s forward-thinking infrastructure investments are already doing just that, and now have the health and recreation economy statistics to prove the benefits of enhancing recreation economies throughout the country.