Promoting and enabling more ‘active’ travel modes such as walking and cycling enables people to integrate increased physical activity into their everyday lives.
This has multiple benefits:
- Reduced road traffic accidents: There is strong evidence that interventions to change traffic conditions (such as cutting speed limits) reduce road accidents. This is important: according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) almost 27,000 people died or were seriously injured in road traffic accidents in Britain in 2009. The Marmot Review highlighted that disadvantaged communities are much more likely to be affected.
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from traffic, benefiting those suffering from respiratory illnesses.
- Physical activity not only contributes to wellbeing, it is essential for good health. Increasing physical activity levels in the population will help prevent or manage over 20 conditions and diseases. This includes coronary heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and obesity. It can also help to improve mental health (NICE, 2008).
- Reduced social isolation: Those living in ‘walkable neighbourhoods’ are more likely to know their neighbours, participate politically, trust others, and be socially engaged (Leyden 2005).
- Reducing health inequalities: The adverse health effects of transport fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable groups, generally those living in poorer communities who suffer from a more ‘obesogenic’ environment which discourages active travel and active play, and who experience more accidents.
“Transport policies have an important role to play in facilitating sustainable development but also in contributing to wider sustainability and health objectives.”
High land use densities, a mixture of land uses including housing and jobs, good ‘permeability’ for pedestrians and cyclists and the provision of convenient, traffic calming, safe and attractive routes and facilities (e.g. cycle parking, showers at work) for bicycles and pedestrians can increase walking and cycling (Active Community Environments, undated; (Living Streets, 2011; NICE, 2008).
In other words an integrated approach to neighbourhood planning is required, bringing together planning, health, transport and environmental sustainability expertise.
“In the South East, people travel further on average than in any other region, at over 8,300 miles per person per year. Correspondingly, the region has a larger proportion of the UK?s road traffic than any other…”
Kent Local Transport Plan, 2011 – 2016