Act today to provide transportation options

    The default is powerful. Ask grocery store owners who influence your purchase by stocking certain items at eye level and at the end of aisles. Ask software companies, who encourage downloading add-ons by defaulting the settings to automatically download such add-ons unless you “uncheck” a box. Ask city planners, highway engineers, and zoning officials, who can influence default health behavior options by designing our cities and streets to encourage or discourage active transportation. What is your default transportation “choice” every day?

    According to national data, half of the four trips taken in an average household are 3 miles or less. This trip is comfortable on a bike — in fact 85 percent of all bike trips are 3 miles or less — can burn up to 300 calories even at a modest pace, and cost up to $3.75 to drive in an SUV according to AAA. However, only 1.8 percent of these trips are ridden on a bike. Trips 1 mile or less encompass 27 percent of all daily trips, yet 62 percent are taken in a vehicle. One mile is a comfortable distance to walk, can burn up to 100 calories, and costs roughly 75 cents in an SUV according to AAA. I save some $1,000 annually in transportation costs by walking, riding and using transit rather than driving my 7 miles round-trip daily.

    Commuting to work or school is a great captive moment where we must change the default option. What influences our commuting decision? A major factor is how our streets are designed. Bicycles have the same rights as vehicles on the road. Does the design of our roadways make you feel comfortable riding on the road? Pedestrians have facilities to accommodate them — sidewalks and crosswalks. Does the design of our sidewalks provide a safe route for you to commute on foot? Public transportation users walk 70 minutes more per week than non-users. Does the design of our transportation system encourage you to walk or bike to public transit?

    We live in an urban area that is ripe to become a national model for active commuting. However, our state maintained roads are dangerous by design limiting such beneficial activity. Roughly 20 percent of the road mileage in Morgantown is managed by the state, yet 66 percent of all pedestrian-vehicle accidents in the last six years have occurred on these roads. Ask your legislators to support House Bill 4074 which would encourage the state Division of Highways to design our streets so that users have safe transportation options. HB 4074 is set for a House Roads and Transportation Committee vote Wednesday. This is our chance to change the default.

    Christiaan Abildso Chairman, Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board Morgantown Chamber’s ideas about progress right on target

    The Jan. 27 The Dominion Post contained an impressive letter from the Chamber of Commerce to its membership. Among other satisfying signs of progress, the Chamber noted its pleasure concerning the existence of a new countywide smoking policy in workplaces.

    This kind of progress matters. The Chamber deserves congratulations, along with others. The courage of Morgantown officials to put this citizen issue on the table, the wisdom of the Chamber to assist the push to a fully justified countywide effort, and the consideration of the Monongalia County Board of Health were sequential parts of a success for the citizenry. Teamwork counts when progress is on the table, and many views need to be heard.

    There is no shortage of challenges for the continued growth of our region. There are very substantial infrastructure problems to be overcome in transportation, sewage, water and access to recreation areas so that our city, county and region will enjoy continued success and growth.

    Success in meeting these challenges will generally share the same dynamic as a successful public smoking policy. Although not every person will be pleased, we need to pull together as a community.

    The thoughtful leadership of the business community made a difference for health and wellbeing of employees who work in our county as regards smoking.

    There are other goals to tackle, and I hope it is a good challenge. Onward and upward.

    Alan M. Ducatman, MD Chair, Community Medicine Interim founding dean, School of Public Health Morgantown