By Amanda Li, B.A., Junior Policy Associate
Increasing cardiovascular health, building muscle strength, enhancing flexibility, promoting joint mobility, reducing stress and anxiety…this is by no means an exhaustive list but gives you an idea of the health benefits that come with cycling. Cycling is a cheap, fun, and low-impact form of exercise that people of all ages can enjoy to stay physically active. When used as an alternative mode of transportation, it is also beneficial to our environment.
Although cycling is great for both our health and our environment, without Complete Streets and safe places to bike on, cycling can be dangerous. In 2014, in New York State alone, there was a total of 5,827 bicycle/motor vehicle accidents, 47 of which were fatal. We need a safer way to allow New Yorkers to enjoy the many benefits of cycling.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 750 mile long Empire State Trail might be the solution we are looking for. Back in January 2017, Cuomo proposed that the Erie Canalway and Hudson River Valley Greenway trails be completed by 2020 to form the Empire State Trail. Once completed, this will be the nation’s longest statewide multiuse trail, with one part running from Manhattan Battery up into Canada along the Hudson River Valley, and the other part running between Albany and Buffalo along the Erie Canalway Trail. In order to complete and connect the Erie Canalway and Hudson River Valley trails into a 750 mile long trail, 350 miles of additional trails will need to be constructed to fill in any gaps and form the long stretches of the Empire State Trail.
With 70 percent of the Empire State Trail located off the roads, it gives cyclists, hikers, and runners alike the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenes of nature while on the move, without the stress of vehicles and traffic. The health benefits of providing people across the state of New York with a safe and accessible way of staying active outdoors by creating the Empire State Trail are undeniable. According to Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state’s parks, studies show that adolescents who cycle have a 48% less chance of being overweight, and with each dollar devoted to developing trails, there results in $3 worth of savings in medical expenses. With Cuomo proposing to spend around $200 million on the Empire State Trail, New York State could be saving a potential $600 million in medical expenses.
DASH-NY sees this as a huge step towards making New York a better connected, more active, and healthier state.