BC on the Move – in a healthier direction

As the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) develops its ten-year transportation plan, ’BC on the Move,’ health and community groups have outlined how the plan can move BC in a healthier direction.

Walk, Bike and Roll – the plan should:

  • Commit to a comprehensive ‘Active Transportation Strategy’ for people to walk, bike or roll, aligning policy and funding to support the development of local infrastructure within a larger provincial network.
  • Prioritize investments in walking and rolling facilities which include enhancements such as traffic-calming and safe street crossings, benches, lighting and way-finding as these are important to meet the needs of those in wheelchairs as well as the growing demands of an aging population.
  • Invest in Triple ‘A’ (all ages and abilities) cycling facilities which have been shown to motivate higher numbers of people to travel by bike (including seniors and women with children), while also reducing risk of injury for all users.[i], [ii]
  • Support Active School Travel Planning – including education and programming as well as street design and end-use facilities for healthy, active children.

Public Transit – the plan should:

  • Provide funding and policy support for the BC Transit Strategic Plan 2030 and TransLink’s Regional Transportation Strategy (2013).
  • Support transit authorities and local governments to fund transit infrastructure and service improvements through alternative funding mechanisms such as vehicle levies, road pricing (including tolling), local fuel and parking taxes and expansion of community/group passes (such as the U-Pass).
  • Address the needs of small towns and rural communities by providing funding and policy support for innovative approaches to public transit within communities and between regional centres.

Roads – the plan should:

  • Improve the MOTI’s process for working with local governments to lower speeds, place safety-related signage and improve cycling and pedestrian environments and crossings on highways within communities.
  • Develop an Inspection/Maintenance (I/M) program for heavy-duty vehicles to reduce emissions.
  • Include an ongoing program with funding for auditing, planning and upgrading cycling and walking facilities on provincial roads and bridges.

Social and Health Impacts

  • The benefits of public transit and active transportation are multiple and come from increases in physical activity and accessibility, and reductions in traffic congestion, injuries, localized air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
  • The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure should work with the Ministry of Health and health authorities to incorporate a Health Impact Assessment into this plan and subsequent transportation projects. Health professionals can provide valuable information to increase the quality of the health assessment, quantify risks and offer evidence-based proposals for mitigating health risks and addressing inequities.


  • The plan should implement the British Columbia Road Safety Strategy 2015 which would make significant progress towards the goal of zero fatalities.[iii] This would also be consistent with Canada’s road safety stakeholders’ vision, which is to have the “safest roads in the world”.[iv]
  • This plan must address speed limits. Lowering speed limits can increase safety, fuel efficiency and promote people to spend more time outdoors.
  • Pedestrians’ chances of surviving a crash at 30 km/h are much higher (90%) than if they are hit at 50 km/h (30%).
  • Transit in Canada has a much lower fatality rate than other modes of transportation.xii

Chronic Disease

  • Physical inactivity and air pollution are risk factors for chronic diseases. Overall, the 34% of British Columbians diagnosed with chronic conditions consume approximately 80% of the combined Medical Services Plan, PharmaCare and acute care budgets.[v]
  • Air pollution affects human health, from minor upper respiratory irritation to chronic respiratory and heart disease, lung cancer, acute respiratory infections in children and chronic bronchitis in adults, aggravating pre-existing heart and lung disease, or asthmatic attacks and reduced life expectancy.
  • The World Health Organization has classified Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) as a Class 1 human carcinogen based on evidence that is a cause of lung cancer.[vi]
  • Reductions in air pollution have been shown to extend life expectancy.

Physical Activity

  • BC research found that adults are 2.5 times more likely to engage in active transportation when living in compact and well connected neighbourhoods and more likely to get the recommended amounts of daily physical activity and have reduced likelihood of obesity.[vii]
  • Studies estimate that the average transit rider walks between 1 – 1.3km per day and is more than 3 times more likely to meet the minimum guidelines for daily physical activity.[viii]
  • The Ministry of Health’s ‘Healthy Families BC Policy Framework’ identifies seven evidence-based “best investments” for physical activity, which includes “transport policies and systems that prioritize walking, cycling and public transport.”

Social Connectedness and Equity

  • By providing a means of transportation to go to work, access social networks, education, and leisure activities to those that otherwise may not have access can dramatically improve mental health and reduce social isolation. Equity should be a goal in transportation planning.[ix]
  • Transit is a significant factor in determining rates of labour force attachment. One study found that low-skilled workers were 30% more likely to have a job and to be working more than 30 hours per week when their community was served by public transit.xii
  • “People living in rural communities generally need to travel longer distances, and often on more dangerous roads, for work, shopping and other reasons. Not surprisingly, injuries and death due to traffic accidents are much more common in rural areas” according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.[x]
  • Studies have found that transit investments can positively affect access to healthcare in rural communities and among immigrant communities.xii
  • The plan should consider fare adjustments for coastal communities as outlined in the UBCM paper, ‘Boatswains to the Bollards: A Socioeconomic Impact Analysis of BC Ferries’

Environmental Impacts

  • The proposed plan includes the building of new roads to improve the movement of goods and people. More cars on the road may prevent the province from achieving the legislated targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – a reduction by at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. [The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act]
  • “Emissions from the transportation sector have grown 42% since 1990 and made up 37% of BC’s total GHG emissions in 2005. Within the sector, 60% of these emissions came from road vehicles, and most of the road vehicle emissions came from light passenger vehicles.” [xi]
  • The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure should ensure that new transportation infrastructure projects align with the Ministry of Environment’s air quality and climate change targets.

Economic Costs and Benefits

  • Excess weight costs $612M and inactivity costs $335M in direct healthcare costs annually in British Columbia.[xii]
  • One UBC Study found that 1000 passenger miles taken by transit instead of in a vehicle saves $0.051 in healthcare complications.xii
  • The approximately 60 walking and cycling fatalities per year is estimated to cost society $900 million annually.
  • High quality cycling facilities that are attractive to a significant portion of the population such as bicycle paths and separated bicycle lanes can cost from $1 million to $4 million per km (1/6 the cost of one km of road network for motorized vehicles).
  • Cycling Tourism has enormous economic potential. Tourists cycling in Oregon “generated approximately $400 million in 2012, or $1.2 million per day.”[xiii]
  • The Netherlands, considered a global leader in cycling provides funding at $40/person/year and other jurisdictions have made similar investments: Winnipeg $32/person/year; Brisbane $51/person/year; London $27/person/year.  To compete with other leading jurisdictions, BC should be investing between $88M and $175M in active transportation per year over the next ten years.


[i] Winters M, Davidson G, Kao DN, Teschke K. Motivators and deterrents of bicycling: Comparing influences on decisions to ride. Transportation 2011;38(1):153-68.

[ii] Winters M, Babul, S et al. Safe Cycling: How Do Risk Perceptions Compare With Observed Risk? Can J Public Health 2012;103(Suppl. 3):S42-S47.

[iii] British Columbia Road Safety Strategy 2015 http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/osmv/road-safety/road-safety-strategy.htm

[iv] http://ccmta.ca/crss-2015/strategy.php#summary

[v] British Columbia. Office of the Provincial Health Officer. Investing in prevention: improving health and creating sustainability: the Provincial Health Officer’s special report., August, 2010 http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2010/Investing_in_prevention_improving_health_and_creating_sustainability.pdf

[vi] BC Lung Association. BC State of the Air Report 2014 http://www.bc.lung.ca/airquality/documents/StateOfTheAir2014WebLR.pdf

[vii] BC Recreation and Parks Association. (2009). Physical Activity and Transportation Benefits of Walkable Approaches to Community Design in British Columbia. Available at http://www.bcrpa.bc.ca/recreation_parks/active_communities/documents/BCRPA_Transportation_Study_2009.pdf

[viii] Canadian Urban Transit Association. Economic Impact of Transit Investment in Canada: A National Survey.(2010) http://www.cutaactu.ca/en/public-transit/publicationsandresearch/resources/Final_CUTA-EconomicBenefitsofTransit-FinalReportESept2010.pdf

[ix] http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/literature-review-community-severance-social-connectedness/docs/literature-review-community-severance-social-connectedness-definitions-pathways-measurement.pdf

[x] The Canadian Institute for Health Information. How Healthy Are Rural Canadians? An Assessment of Their Health Status and Health Determinants. September, 2006. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/rural06/pdf/rural_canadians_2006_report_e.pd

[xi] BC Climate Action Toolkit http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/solution/transportation

[xii] H. Krueger & Associates Inc. “The Economic Benefits of Risk Factor Reduction in British Columbia: Tobacco Smoking, Excess Weight and Physical Activity”, July 2013. www.krueger.ca

[xiii] Runyan, Dean Associates (2013). The Economic Significance of Bicycle- Related Travel in Oregon: Detailed State and Travel Region Estimates, 2012. Presented to Tourism Oregon


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