Top Things to Know: Creating Built Environments That Expand Active Transportation and Active Living Across the United States

Published: August 13, 2020

  1. The American Heart Association supports safe, equitable active transportation policies in communities across the country that incorporate consistent implementation evaluation.
  2. Active transportation is any mode of transportation that is powered by the human body, such as walking, biking, skating, and using mobility assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers, and accessing public transportation. Many adults and children do not get enough physical activity in their daily lives.
  3. One of the leading, evidence-based strategies to increase physical activity across all ages, incomes, racial/ethnic backgrounds, abilities, and disabilities is promoting active transportation through policy, systems, and environmental change.
  4. However, most people in the United States, especially those living in under-resourced communities, do not live in areas accessible for active transportation. This can limit an individual’s access to economic and social opportunities.
  5. Equitable transportation policies are those that support the development of accessible, efficient, affordable, and safe alternatives to car travel; encourage high-density, mixed-use, mixed-income development and affordable housing with good access to transportation options, especially in low-income and underserved communities; connect all people to employment and other opportunities that can improve quality of life; and recognize that all segments of communities should be represented in planning processes, with an emphasis on engaging those who have been historically most disenfranchised
  6. Improvements for bicycling can include road space for bicycles, bicycle parking or storage facilities and bicycle sharing systems – and should also accommodate those who use wheelchairs or other mobility assistive devices. The goal for these improvements is to make pedestrian and bicycling convenient and socially acceptable, while reducing the risk of crashes and improving safety.
  7. A Complete Streets approach requires that users of all ages, incomes, and abilities be considered in all roadway construction, repair, reconstruction, and routine maintenance. As of 2019, more than 1,400 Complete Streets policies have been passed in the United States.
  8. Safe Routes to School is a federal and state funded transportation program that facilitates active, safe commuting to and from school with street scale improvements and other supports. These initiatives include educating children how to safely walk, bicycle and roll.
  9. Effective interventions to increase active transportations are likely to require broad partnerships across federal, state, and local governments; as well as stakeholders that represent a variety of professional disciplines, community perspectives and advocacy groups to help address differing priorities and improve accountability.
  10. Adequate funding sources for improvements in transportation, infrastructure and site designs are essential.


Young DR, Cradock AL, Eyler AA, Fenton M, Pedroso M, Sallis JF, Whitsel LP; on behalf of the American Heart Association Advocacy Coordinating Committee. Creating built environments that expand active transportation and active living across the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print August 13, 2020]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000878.