Last Friday, Transportation Alternatives kicked off a new phase of its campaign for safer streets with the Stop Speeding Summit, bringing together doctors, elected officials, transportation advocates and engineers to outline the high costs of high vehicle speeds and plot a course toward slower traffic.
We’ll be bringing you a series of posts from Friday’s event and wanted to let Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, start things off. Farley laid out the public health argument for 20 mph traffic at the summit and offered to send Health Department staff to community boards and other public meetings to lend some lab coat gravitas to livable streets arguments.
Farley made clear that building safer streets is a top priority for him as a health professional. “We are living in the era of chronic diseases and injuries as the top killers,” he explained. Nearly all the top killers in New York are chronic diseases, with heart disease topping the list. “Accidents,” a category which includes traffic crashes, come in at number four.
That means promoting physical activity is a public health necessity. “Even just taking transit as opposed to driving could make a substantial reduction in heart disease deaths,” Farley said, adding that walking or biking for longer distances would improve health even more.
Because obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions correlated to the lack of physical activity are so widespread, Farley said that New York needs to address them by redesigning the city, not through individual conversations with doctors. “The way that we have an impact on the entire population is change the environment in which they live,” he said.