No Coincidence that America’s Fittest Cities Are Safer for Walking and Biking

Washington D.C. | Photo: Beyond DC

Last week, the American College of Sports Medicine released its ninth annual American Fitness Index measuring health and fitness levels of the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S. Three metro areas within the tri-state region were included in the study: Hartford, CT; New York, NY; and Buffalo, NY. Another metro area studied, Philadelphia, PA, included some parts of southern New Jersey: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem Counties.AFI report

For the third report in a row, Washington, D.C. was ranked as the most fit metropolitan area in the nation. Hartford broke into the top 10 ranking this year in ninth place. New York ranked 22nd, followed closely by Philadelphia in 24th and further down the line, Buffalo in 35th.

Once again, it appears that fitter cities tend to also be safer for people on foot and on bike. Seven of the top 10 fittest cities were also denser than average.* With that in mind, one might assume that since New York City is both high-density and relatively bike-walk friendly, the surrounding region would rank better than middle of the pack. The report reveals, however, that less than a quarter (23.1 percent) of people in the New York metro region are meeting recommended levels of physical activity. One way to get people more active would be, of course, a regional network of safe, dedicated infrastructure for biking and walking.

The connection between safe streets and public health is clear. Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, even launched a campaign calling on transportation and planning professionals to design more walkable communities to improve public health.

*Hartford, CT was not included in the Alliance for Biking & Walking benchmarking report but is denser than the average used.