Objectives: We quantified health benefits of transportation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE).
Methods: Statistics on travel patterns and injuries, physical activity, fine particulate matter, and GHGE in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, were input to a model that calculated the health impacts of walking and bicycling short distances usually traveled by car or driving low-emission automobiles. We measured the change in disease burden in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) based on dose-response relationships and the distributions of physical activity, particulate matter, and traffic injuries.
Results: Increasing median daily walking and bicycling from 4 to 22 minutes reduced the burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes by 14% (32,466 DALYs), increased the traffic injury burden by 39% (5907 DALYS), and decreased GHGE by 14%. Low-carbon driving reduced GHGE by 33.5% and cardiorespiratory disease burden by less than 1%.
Conclusions: Increased physical activity associated with active transport could generate a large net improvement in population health. Measures would be needed to minimize pedestrian and bicyclist injuries. Together, active transport and low-carbon driving could achieve GHGE reductions sufficient for California to meet legislative mandates.