Can we afford to be this stupid?

In fall of 2015 I attended a conference about walking, held in Vienna. People from various Western European countries (including England and Switzerland) explained that due to austerity programs, their governments could not afford to fund improvements for walking, including programs to ensure that children can walk to school safely. Now, this is blatantly absurd on a number of levels. Governments don’t save money by cutting back on funds for walking. When people walk less, they are more likely to have a number of health problems including obesity, leading to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and various kinds of cancer. These health problems can cost a government billions of dollars. Meanwhile governments have plenty of money for expensive infrastructure—for instance, in Warsaw they continue to build bridges and underpasses for people to cross streets, even though crosswalks would be vastly cheaper as well as more popular among pedestrians. And for someone coming from Bangladesh to hear European countries cry poor when it comes to low-cost infrastructure is, well, about as absurd as the whole idea of austerity (which, by hurting the poor and middle class and cutting jobs, creates more poverty and thus the need for more austerity). Obviously we can do better…and we need to learn to speak up, not remain silent, when we are told such ridiculous stories!