The second annual national Walking Summit was held in Washington, D.C. last week and attracted more than 500 advocates from the U.S. and around the world (double the number two years ago). It also attracted the executive director of Healthy Central Florida, Jill Hamilton Buss, who was invited to speak. Joined by Michelle Sartor, Healthy Central Florida Walking Coordinator, Jill and Michelle networked with leaders and shared stories and successes from Central Florida, including our very successful efforts to get more children walking and rolling to school.
Also in attendance was the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who underscored his recent Call to Action to promote walking and to increase walkability in our cities.
Representing health departments, hospitals, municipalities and community health organizations, walking is being seen as the best way to prevent chronic disease, heart disease, diabetes, depression and some cancers. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone walk or engage in other moderate exercise for a half hour a day, five days a week. (An hour a day for children.)
For our target communities of Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville, conditions are fair for walking. We have some highly walkable neighborhoods, but many are ringed by dangerous high-speed roads, like Lakemont, Forsythe, Horatio or 17-92. Our coalition of advocates is working hard to improve walkability in these more dangerous areas.
In some areas of our communities and in greater Central Florida, especially among low-income households, people of color and some immigrant communities, walking conditions are deadly and limit access to jobs and education. One-third of all African-Americans and one-quarter of all Latinos live without access to a car, according to a recent report. That means walking and public transit (which involves walking) represent important pathways to opportunities.
The ability to walk helps reduce the need to spend money on a car. Low income families spend 42% of their income on transportation compared to 22% among middle-income Americans (because the average cost of owning and operating a car is $8700 a year) .
Speaker after speaker at the conference stressed the fact that walking is a matter of equity. The Surgeon General said this is not about “checking the box” on equity, but about “all meaning all”. We must continue to strive for healthy walkable places for all Americans.