A brief in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease reports on efforts to increase physical activity in Hidalgo County, Texas, a county on the Texas-Mexico border home to more than 850,000 people, around one-third of whom are obese. Texas A&M University Health Science Center and Texas A&M School of Public Health researchers Ms. Evelia Castillo and Drs. Monica Campos-Bowers & Marcia Ory investigated the efforts of a community-driven program aimed at improving bicycle infrastructure.
The Working on Wellness (WoW) program, an initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on health interventions in Hidalgo County. The first was identifying the needs of the community and developing partnerships with local government, businesses and the public. Next, an assessment of the county’s built environment was conducted, finding the infrastructure needed for physical activity (sidewalks & bike lanes) was lacking. In 2016, five miles of bike lanes were created in the city of Weslaco. WoW partners also launched an advocacy program called the Weslaco Bikearoos. This program organized twice-weekly group bicycle rides and held regular bike rodeos, which were events for teaching children bicycle safety and giving them a safe place to practice their riding skills. Local businesses got involved in the program soon after, joining the Bicycle Friendly Business program established in partnership with the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2017. More than 50 businesses throughout Hidalgo County participated in this program, providing bike racks, water refill stations and other amenities for bicyclists.
On the government side, Hidalgo County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee adopted a new action plan to further improve walking and bicycling infrastructure throughout the county.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on January 10