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.
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.
Governments, politicians and big business have ambitious targets to meet. However these can’t be achieved unless millions of individuals like you and I also take some of the responsibility, for example taking action to adapt the way we travel. We may not be able to see the impact of our own tiny actions. But by taking action on a small scale, sharing our successes and inspiring others our reach as individuals or small communities can be much greater.
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.
Increasing urban traffic volumes cause problems related to congestion, traffic safety, local pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, public health, and urban liveability.
You may live in an area that has a 'rat run' street causing congestion, safety and noise issues. Your input to your Local Authority could make changes in your neighbourhood to make changes to the infrastructure and reduce congestion.
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. This helps recover the vibrancy of streets and children feel the space is theirs to share.
Increasing the mode share of walking and cycling may also contribute to reduced crime.
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. You could provide valuable local information to your Local Authority on missing active travel links in your community.
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.
Increasing levels of active travel has environmental and health benefits, but to achieve truly healthy mobility, it must also be safe and feel safe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See our article for more information. Why Promote Active Travel in your Community