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Mayor Leads Charge to ‘Fit Worth’

This story appeared in our September-October issue of American Bicyclist, a benefit to members of the League. 

In 2012, nearly one-third of adults and 50% of students were overweight or obese in Fort Worth, Texas. But Mayor Betsy Price is looking to roll back those numbers and use bicycling as a prescription for improved community health.

“We’ve watched this growing epidemic of obesity and diabetes among children and adults,” Price says, “and so many people I know, their health has gone down.”

So Price has made it her goal to transform Fort Worth into “Fit Worth,” spearheading a citywide initiative focused on promoting active lifestyles and healthy habits.

“Bicycling is one of my favorite causes; it’s a passion of mine,” she says. “I’ve been cycling most of my life, but seriously for about 25 years.” She’s not only completed RAGBRAI — the famous ride across Iowa — but taken in the sites of France and Austria from the saddle. “And it’s a great alternative form of transportation, too,” she says. “You get your exercise in and get to where you’re going. Just yesterday morning, I had to get my manicure, so I hopped on my bike. By the time I rode back, they were already dry and I was ready to get dressed and go to work!”

As Mayor, Price is leading the charge — quite literally — to improve bicycling infrastructure, safety and community acceptance. Under her tenure, the city has added miles of bike lanes, dedicated $1.2 million for trails and created signature events like Tour De Fort Worth, which has grown from 30 to more than 200 participants in just a few short years.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Price has been a visible role model, becoming the first mayor to pilot Rolling Town Hall Meetings, which not only invite folks to join her in the saddle but puts an everyday face on cycling. “People like to talk, to ride up next to you and tell you about their neighborhood,” Price says of the bicycling town halls. “And it raises awareness on the streets. Because the mayor has such a strong bully pulpit, people will say ‘I saw you out riding and went home to get my bike out.’ It’s kind of cool to have the ability to do that. ”

And, for her, a Fit Worth doesn’t just benefit her individual constituents. “For the city, this is economic development,” she says. “It used to be that businesses just asked about taxes and education, but now they’re asking about the health of your community, because healthcare and lost productivity is such a huge cost for any business.”

“A fit city is a strong, engaged place,” she adds. “With more focus on trails and parks, people can get out and enjoy. When they’re out running, walking their dog, riding their bike we have a more fun, more vibrant city.”

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