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February 2024 ITE Journal President's Message: Healthier Communities

By Mr. John Davis P.E., PTOE,TSOS,RSP1 posted 02-01-2024 10:43 AM


I hope that you are doing well as we celebrate February and Heart Month to encourage heart-healthy lifestyles. Back in December, I viewed an excellent ITE webinar, “Safe System Approach: Working Across Disciplines to Improve Safety and Health Equity Outcomes.” The perspectives by Tiffany Smith from the Vision Zero Network, Dr. David Ederer (M) from the CDC, Meghan Mitman (M) of Fehr & Peers, and moderator, Kelly Rodgers (M) of Streetsmart Planning LLC resonated deeply, particularly Dr. Ederer’s insightful comments about the pivotal role of transportation professionals in impacting public health through the built environment.

As transportation engineers and planners, we may not hold medical degrees, but our work significantly influences public health outcomes and contributes to healthy lifestyles. Here are some key areas where our profession plays a vital role:

  • Safety Improvements: Transportation engineers and planners work to plan and design roads, intersections, and traffic control systems with the aim of enhancing safety. This includes measures to reduce traffic crashes and injuries, making streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
  • Active Transportation Promotion: Encouraging active transportation, such as walking and cycling, is a key strategy for improving public health. We can design pedestrian-friendly environments, create bike lanes, and plan for mixed-use developments that promote physical activity.
  • Access to Healthcare: Transportation planning and design affects people’s ability to access healthcare services. We can address gaps in a community’s sidewalk network for travel to transit that connect communities to healthcare facilities, ensuring that residents have convenient and affordable means of reaching medical services.
  • Equitable Access: Transportation professionals can address issues of transportation equity, ensuring that all communities, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to safe and reliable transportation options. This is particularly important for ensuring equitable access to education, employment, and healthcare.
  • Mental Health and Well-being: Transportation decisions influence the overall quality of life in a community. Well-designed and accessible transportation systems contribute to a sense of community and improve overall mental well-being.
  • Emergency Response Planning: Lastly, we can play a role in emergency response planning. Ensuring that transportation systems are resilient and adaptable during emergencies contributes to public health.
While not healthcare professionals, we, as transportation engineers and planners do play a vital role in public health. The synergy between transportation professionals and public health experts is increasingly recognized for creating communities that promote physical and mental well-being through transportation safety. Our upcoming Spring Conference, themed “The Journey to Safer Communities,” presents a unique opportunity to further your knowledge and skills in shaping community health outcomes through active and safe transportation. I hope to see you then.

Let’s make 2024 a year of heightened engagement and collaboration within ITE. As I look forward to the baseball season with pitchers and catchers reporting in February, maybe I’ll see you at the ballpark, so let’s play ball and travel safely!