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Bigbypic2 By Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby

This Friday is Walk/Ride Day in Boston and communities across Eastern Massachusetts. So leave your car at home and enjoy connecting with neighbors, friends and colleagues on a healthy and sustainable commute.

Rarely can a single, small act that is easy generate so much good – for our communities and ourselves.  With increasing evidence of the impact of climate change and greater understanding of the implications of an inactive lifestyle making a commitment to walk, take public transportation or carpool to work is something we all need and can benefit from.

Walk/Ride Days, which take place on the last Friday of every month, were created by Green Streets, a non-profit advocacy group that celebrates and promotes the use of sustainable, active transportation.

On Friday, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray will travel by commuter rail train from Worcester to Boston's South Station, where he will thank other commuters for doing the same. The state’s Transportation Secretary Richard Davey will be commuting by T, and I will be carpooling with a colleague who lives in my neighborhood.

Making a commute ‘active’ by walking or taking public transportation instead of driving is a way for busy working people to stay healthy — physically, mentally and emotionally.  Even minutes spent walking to the bus stop or train station can add up and contribute to the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week recommended for all adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, in addition to providing exercise, active commuting, carpooling or even driving part of the way improves our air quality; makes roads safer for bicyclists; and helps us take advantage of the many mass transit resources available in the Commonwealth.

Walk/Ride Days are changing commuting habits. A recent Tufts University Urban and Environmental Planning graduate school course studied the efficacy of Walk/Ride Days and discovered impressive results. Thirteen percent of those who checked in on Walk/Ride Day would have otherwise driven that day. Similarly, at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-based oncology research firm, staff have observed Walk/Ride Days for more than a year. Higher numbers were often reported in many Boston and Cambridge-area classrooms.

The Boston area’s infrastructure for buses, subways, and the commuter rail and its densely-planned neighborhoods provide a rich variety of transportation options.  Though many other locales have yet to adopt them, Green Streets has fielded calls from rural Massachusetts and other areas about how to implement Walk/Ride Days.

Many resources are now available to discover these surprisingly small distances: Google maps, with public transportation, walking and bicycling options; the MBTA's Trip Planner, and Nextbus which shows in real time, the exact location of a bus on its route!

On Walk/Ride Day this Friday, give healthy and ‘active commuting’ a shot.   Almost anything counts – walking, bicycling, using public transportation or even walking a few extra blocks as part of one’s commute counts.  I invite you to join me in participating in Walk/Ride day this month by using one of our many transportation options and demonstrate how the Commonwealth can lead the way in healthy, green commuting.

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