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Many people know about the myriad health benefits of walking and bicycling — but what happens when an entire community proactively focuses on improving its walkability and bikeability?

New research shows that the public-health advantages are much more far-reaching and complex than the physical-health benefits that any individual rider experiences from biking, according to Blues Zones, an organization that studies the world’s longest-lived cultures as a way to ­empower everyone to live better.

“Bikeability has other benefits not directly related to population health as well, such as decreased traffic congestion, better air quality, and improved sales at local businesses in areas that have been made more accessible to bicyclists,” writes Blues Zones’ Lisa Monroe in a 2022 analysis.

“The world’s longest-lived people . . . live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.”

Adding bike lanes to roads, creating new bike paths, installing bike racks at businesses, and other measures that promote bicycling improve a city’s overall health in numerous ways.

“We conclude that investments in bicycle lanes come with an exceptionally good value because they simultaneously address multiple public-health problems,” write the Columbia University authors of a 2016 study on bike lanes in New York City. “Investments in bike lanes are more cost-effective than the majority of preventive approaches used today.”

Similar advantages — as well as benefits to the climate overall — are attributed to better walkability, according to a 2021 report from the Climate Reality Project.

“The world’s longest-lived people . . . live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it,” explains Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner.

This article originally appeared as “Boost Walking and Biking, Boost a City’s Overall Health” in the April 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Michael Dregni

Michael Dregni is an Experience Life deputy editor.

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