Local authorities can play an important role in increasing walking, wheeling and cycling. Through influencing planning and taking a wider, strategic view of travel infrastructure across their area, authorities can ensure that active travel infrastructure connects residents to services. Local authorities also support community groups that wish to take action in their area.
Did you know transport is the largest source of carbon emissions in the UK - and the fastest growing? It's also one thing we all do that we all can do something about - even if it is just changing one trip.
As many businesses and organisations strive to work towards Net Zero, it is essential to look at transport habits to, from and within the workplace as there can be some easy wins.
Commuter journeys are by their nature repeated and done as a habit - same route, same mode of transport as you have always done, even if a better option becomes available. Helping staff to transition to better travel habits will have a long lasting, repeated impact.
Whilst many businesses nowadays are measuring Scope One or even Scope Two emissions, in future there will be a need to measure and address Scope Three emissions. These are the greater, wider, most impactful emissions from an organisation and include commuter journeys to work. By measuring and addressing these early on, you will get ahead with your Net Zero and carbon emission reduction achievements.
Local authorities should prioritise reducing emissions over using emission offsets (such as through tree planting); ultimately offsets should only be used for areas where emissions are not avoidable due to a lack of technical alternatives.
Action to encourage sustainable transport, which may involve reducing the space taken up by cars, can provide potential for more tree planting and green space. This can increase the resilience of urban areas to heatwaves and also increase absorption of heavy rainfall, thus reducing flooding.
The LAQM (Local Quality Air Management) process places an obligation on all local authorities to regularly review and assess air quality in their areas, and to determine whether or not the air quality objectives are likely to be achieved.
Air pollution is a major public health risk, ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity. It shortens lives and damages quality of life for many people. Adults and children with lung or heart problems are at greater risk of symptoms.
Idling cars can have a significant localised effect on air quality, especially around schools, care homes and train crossings. Local authorities can issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who leave their engines running unnecessarily while their vehicles are stationary on a road.
Particulate matter (PM) is everything in the air that isn’t gas. PM can get into the lungs and blood and be transported around the body, lodging in the heart, brain and other organs. 12% of PM comes from road transport.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are a group of gases that are mainly created from burning fossil fuels. When the gas reacts with others in the air, it can create nitrogen dioxide (NO2). It also creates ozone (O3). 35% of (NOx) comes from road transport.
For most of us, the health benefits of walking and cycling far outweigh the risks of roadside exposure to air pollution. Aside from the health benefits of the additional exercise, it has the potential to reduce your exposure to air pollution. This is because air quality inside a car or van can be worse than it is outside.
Increasing urban traffic volumes cause problems related to congestion, traffic safety, local pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, public health, and urban liveability.
Town and city centre streets have evolved over centuries and traffic and congestion act as a barrier in accessing and enjoying them. Councils have a leading responsibility in alleviating this and there are examples from across the country of the steps that innovative councils are taking to reduce congestion and its impacts.
Tackling traffic congestion will minimise environmental pollution, enhance travel efficiency and safety, reduce morbidity and premature deaths, especially among people living or working near the major roadways and improve sustainable health and well-being in urban areas.
Increased play and activity opportunities for children. Children can enjoy safer access to a diverse outdoor environment on the front street and opportunities for extending their free range mobility along footpath networks and traffic calmed roads
In the UK there are rules regarding noise pollution from vehicles.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), noise is second only to air pollution in the impact it has on health. It is a major cause, not only of hearing loss, but also of heart disease, learning problems in children and sleep disturbance.
Traffic noise has been flagged as a major physiological stressor, second to air pollution and on roughly equal footing with exposure to second-hand smoke and radon.
There’s no legal limit to road noise, although noise levels might be taken into account when new roads or houses and offices near roads are planned. This is why it is important to make sure good and linked active travel infrastructure is planned around new roads, housing and businesses.
Road injuries halved in low-traffic neighbourhoods installed during the coronavirus pandemic when compared against areas without the schemes, a study has found.
Motorists adjust their behavior in the presence of people walking and bicycling, leading to a reduction in the rate of collisions between motorists and bicyclists and walkers. Environments in which walking and cycling are easy choices will be safer for everyone. Implementing and promoting quality active travel infrastructure can prompt behaviour change encouraging people to opt for an alternative mode to the car.
Increasing levels of active travel has environmental and health benefits, but to achieve truly healthy mobility, it must also be safe and feel safe. Making active travel more attractive may also release pent-up demand and help more people make the switch.
Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are schemes that remove through motor traffic from residential streets using ‘modal filter’ measures such as planters or lockable bollards. By reducing motor vehicle volumes, LTNs are expected to reduce the risk of road traffic injuries per trip to people walking or cycling.
We all know that our high streets and town centres face challenges. It’s time for them to be rediscovered as places where people like to get together, socialise and feel part of a community. The vibrancy and success of our high streets and town centres is most clearly demonstrated by the numbers of people walking around and spending time in the area. Well-planned pedestrian-friendly places increase footfall can be seen to directly lead to increased retail sales.
Investing in better streets and spaces for walking can provide a competitive return compared to other transport projects; walking and cycling projects can increase retails sales.
It is often assumed that more parking is the answer to struggling high streets. However across Europe, studies have linked the quality of public spaces to people’s perceptions of attractiveness of an area, contributing towards their quality of life and influencing where they shop.
In recent years, successive governments have placed more emphasis on walking and cycling on health, environmental and safety grounds. Active travel also complements efforts to revive high streets and create liveable communities. As well as being relatively cheap forms of transport, walking and cycling infrastructure requires less comparative government investment.
Places that are designed for walking and cycling are generally more attractive. Communities will benefit from this, becoming more desirable places to live.
Governments and local authorities invest millions in public realm projects to make city centres and other shared spaces more attractive. These projects increasingly include, or are driven by, active travel infrastructure, aimed at increasing the numbers of people cycling and walking and reducing the use of cars.
The health benefits that can be delivered through public realm design go far beyond those associated with physical activity. Increased active travel offers many other advantages, such as cleaner air throughout the city, less urban noise, more connected neighbourhoods, less stress and fear, and fewer road traffic injuries.
Well-designed public realm that invites people to walk, cycle, and use public transport whenever possible allows people to relax and enjoy their city.
Improving walkability can help improve inclusion and reduce inequality. It can provide opportunities for social interaction, build stronger communities and reduce isolation. Better streets and places may create a virtuous circle by raising self esteem for residents.
Increased investment in active travel could help narrow socio-economic inequalities in physical activity levels, as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to use active travel than those from more affluent backgrounds.
The idea of the ’20-minute neighbourhood’ (also known as 15-minute cities) has grown with interest around the world, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of the liveability of where we live. There are multiple benefits including improving people’s health and wellbeing and increasing social connections in communities. Research shows the more you interact with your neighbours, the better. If you feel a sense of belonging to your neighbourhood, that’s a massive protector of your mental health. If 20/15 model could strike this balance, then maybe a happy urban future for the human species is possible.
The health gap has grown between more affluent and less affluent groups. The provision of policies for equitable active travel such as cycling and walking is highly important to reduce health inequalities.
Walking and cycling, forms of active travel, have the potential to contribute significantly towards overall physical activity levels. Implementing safe routes support physical activity in groups for which exercise can fall below the recommended levels, including among older people.
Even small increases in physical activity among those who are the least active can bring great health benefits . As the former chief medical officer noted: “The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or ‘miracle cure’.
Social prescriptions, including walking, wheeling and cycling, will be offered by GPs as part of a trial to improve mental and physical health and reduce disparities across the UK. Some local authorities have been awarded funding to carry out feasibility studies for active travel social prescribing pilot schemes. These studies will be assessed to decide which authorities will then receive funding to create future active travel social prescribing schemes for the financial years 2022 to 2025.
The Local Government Association (LGA) reports that if cycling rates were elevated to London levels across other UK cities, this would avoid at least 34,000 incidences of 8 life-threatening conditions between 2017 and 2040.
Research shows the greatest benefits of active travel are ones related to health. Arguably, it’s not possible to tackle public health problems related to inactivity without a policy focusing on active travel.
Active Design promotes physical activity, health and stronger communities through the way we design and build our towns and cities.Active travel can reduce the risk of, and manage, depression, stress and anxiety, and can increase motivation, drive and self-confidence. People who are inactive have on average three times the rate of moderate to severe depression as active people.