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July 22, 2011

Drive or Walk?

Walking The heat is on in DC and maybe that explains why the auto industry is getting overheated in its campaign to ensure Americans remain addicted to oil. The auto industry and their lobbyists have launched a full scale assault on what is shaping up to be a proposal to increase the mileage of new vehicles sold between 2017-2025 to 56.2 mpg.

We know President Obama and his administration are working hard in preparation to actually propose these gas, pollution and money-saving standards for the cars and trucks we might buy in 2025.  Having high mileage cars in the future is a critical step to ending our oil addiction, but there are plenty of other steps we can take – literally.

The folks from Walkscore just announced the 10 most walkable cities. The score ranks cities and neighborhoods based on proximity each address has to things like restaurants, shops, transit and other amenities. A walkable neighborhood means that you don't need to hop in the car (even if it gets 60 mpg) to enjoy an evening out.  Walkscore notes the following benefits of walking

Cars are a leading cause of climate change. Your feet are zero-pollution transportation machines. 

Health: The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood. 

Finances: One point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for your property. Read the research report.

Communities: Studies show that for every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10%.

New York City leads the pack (DC comes 7th)  - you can check out where your city ranks.  But Walkscore isn't just about big cities – you can check out how your town does here.

But walking (and biking) also has to be safe and ensuring we invest in better infrastructure for walking in all of our communities is much needed.  We noted with disappointment that as Congress begins shaping our next 6 year transportation bill, Chairman Mica of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee axed dedicated funding for walking and biking.   This is a bad place to start (for this and other reasons cited in our post). 

The Senate is getting moving, too, with an outline released from Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Boxer.  The initial news seems good – support for biking and walking are included.

In the end, the folks at Walkscore have it right: our feet our zero-pollution transportation machines.  Whether our cars get closer to that is up to President Obama and the decisions his Administration will make in days ahead.  

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

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