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Ky. communities unfriendly to walkers, joggers, cyclists

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by AL CROSS
Kentucky Health News

Few Kentuckians live in walkable communities, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Only 32 percent of Kentucky adults said there are a number of destinations within an easy walking distance from their home, and only 47 percent said they live in communities with sidewalks or shoulders on streets that allow for safe walking, jogging or biking.

“Walkable communities aren’t just safe for walkers, but cyclists, joggers and those engaging in other forms of recreation as well,” the foundation said in a news release. It noted that the results varied regionally, with 60 percent of Northern Kentucky residents and 63 percent in the Lexington area saying they have safe places for walkers, joggers and and cyclists. Eastern Kentucky reported the least access, with 28 percent. Louisville and Western Kentucky fell in the middle at 49 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

“The good news is that we’re seeing more local governments finding innovative ways to support healthier lifestyles with small policy changes, like re-striping a country road to provide clear paths for walkers and bikers,” said Dr. Susan Zepeda, CEO of the foundation. “While we’re not surprised by the results, the foundation is concerned about the lack of walkable communities, considering the obesity epidemic we’re facing in Kentucky.”

According to Walk Score, a website dedicated to promoting walkable neighborhoods, communities that provide more safe walking options have healthier residents, less pollution and higher property values than more sprawling areas. Residents of walkable communities have places to go within an easy distance of their home, and can often make quick trips or run errands without using a car or public transportation.

The poll, conducted annually by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati, is jointly funded by the foundation and The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. Its statewide sample of 1,677 results in a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points; regional samples are smaller and have higher error margins, around 5 percentage points. The foundation is the principal funder of Kentucky Health News.

Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky and funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.