Study measures health impacts of Genesee Valley Greenway

Aug 3, 2018

A Rochester non-profit has taken what its CEO says is a novel approach to measuring the impact of the Genesee Valley Greenway.

Wade Norwood says Common Ground Health’s assessment of the park is the first to examine its effects on people’s health, and the first in the state to assess how a park’s connection to transit affects its usage.

A new study from Common Ground Health and the Genesee Transportation Council leads to recommendations to increase accessibility of the Genesee Valley Greenway.
Credit Common Ground Health / Genesee Transportation Council

Norwood says this type of study, called a health impact assessment, can be used to examine the effects on physical well-being of places and policies that people often don’t think of as being connected to health.

Transportation, for example, is not just about moving people from one place to another, Norwood said. Choosing to walk or ride a bike for short trips can have significant health benefits—and there are many opportunities for short trips along the park’s 90-mile length from Rochester almost to the Pennsylvania border, said Norwood.

The thinking behind studies like this one, Norwood said, is that people should connect the dots between their health and their choices about where they play, how they commute, and where they live.

“Don’t think of this as just a park. Don’t think of this as just a transportation project. Don’t think of this as just a housing project. Think of the impact on health that these things have,” said Norwood.

The assessment led Common Ground to recommend adding bike racks to the fronts of buses serving areas near the park and better signage at entrances to entice people in.

These are simple, inexpensive solutions, Norwood said, but they will encourage people to be physically active and improve their health.

Other recommendations are aimed at coaxing people who typically stay away from the greenway to give it a try. Smoothing the path and topping it with stone dust will make it more friendly to people using wheelchairs, and adding bus stops along the trail will make it more accessible to people who rely on public transit.

“This should not just be a spandex parade. This should really be where all of the members of our regional community are using the trail system because it’s a treasure that belongs to all of us,” said Norwood.