According to the 2018 Napa County Community Health Assessment, if half of Napa residents walked, biked, or even used public transit for five miles of travel (approximately 22 minutes) per day, the burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the population could each decrease by over 13%.
Bicycling is a great way to get around, particularly for short trips in relatively flat places like the Napa Valley floor. Bicycling allows a person to get exercise while avoiding the stress of traffic congestion. Moreover, use of bicycles for transportation helps reduce air pollution, which in turn reduces the burden of health problems, such as asthma, across a region.
Similarly, for those who are able, walking is a free and healthy way to get from one place to another. However, communities themselves are not always built for easy walking or biking. A person may not choose to bike or walk to work and school as a way to increase their physical activity because there are no safe routes to their destinations.
The way in which a person travels to work – whether by car, public transportation, bicycle, or other means – has an effect on their well-being. The most common mode of commute transportation, the individual automobile, is associated with poorer health and psycho-social outcomes, whereas commutes undertaken by foot or bicycle are associated with improved cardiovascular fitness and greater self-reported well-being; those who walk to work often report the highest levels of happiness.
Regular physical activity provides many benefits to the development and long-term health of children. Exercise helps young people develop healthy musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, improve their neuromuscular awareness, and maintain a healthy body weight. Habitually engaging in physical activity as they age also reduces the risk of developing many chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis. The benefits of being active extend beyond the physical and improves psychological health as well, such as fostering resilience and social connections.
Sadly, the common sentiment among families across the Napa Valley was that their neighborhoods were not as safe as they could be for pedestrians or people on bikes.
Creating bikeable and walkable communities is an important way to promote health. More than 70% of American would bike/walk more if they felt safe. The Napa Valley VINE TRAIL has a great potential for increasing walking and bicycling in Napa County by offering a safe place to walk, run or bike.