Of Bicycle paths and Infant mortality

 

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Go Team!

I have never rooted for a ball team or rah rah-ed for a school. But I celebrate when governments compete to better the lives of their people.

For several years now Minneapolis has been in the top tier in the contest for best bicycle town in the U.S. and recently made it onto the top 20 world listing I am happy to say our current city council is playing the game, scheming how to make our town ever more bicycle friendly. I applaud. My cheerleading chant for them is

Access, access, access for all. North first, then South, East, and West, Heed the call. Go team!

More bike access is not the same as more bike paths overall. Location and access matters. I hope those conducting the contest, keep this mind.

Landing in Havana, Cuba on New Years Day in 1987, I was puzzled by a news headline that filled the front page to the fold. It was a number.

The figure referred to the number of infant morality deaths per 100,000 for 1986. Propaganda? Of course. But what better way to compete for the hearts and minds of your people and the world!

Infant mortality is a figure that measures more than prenatal health. The World Health Organization views it as a broad indicator of overall healthcare and well being. When I visited Cuba again in 2006, I saw indications that Cuba had perhaps focused more of its severely limited health resources on infant care for the severely sick, at the expanse of older children. Infant mortality is measured by survival up to one year– an indicator that the World Health Organization may need to refine its measurement to encourage the very best health practices. But the space to “cheat” is minimal – if your children over age 1 do not receive the best health care, it will show up in infant mortalities beginning a decade later.

Cuba was/ is competing with itself — forever pushing to get the number downward to zero — and with the rest of the world, especially the super-wealthy United States, where it has the advantage.

I wish the United States was playing the lowest infant mortality game. I’d be the first to yell, Go team!

The above came to me while taking a curve on the West (Mississippi) River Road bike path on this most beautiful early autumn day, September, 26, 2015.

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