The value of investment in active travel reviews evidence from around the world, and concludes that schemes to encourage a shift from private motorised transport to walking and cycling are the most cost efficient use of transport funds.
These 'active travel' schemes are also likely to be the most cost efficient means of increasing physical activity levels across the population, says Sustrans. Government policy and public health guidance call for increases in physical activity, noting that two-thirds of the UK population are insufficiently active to protect themselves from major risks to health such as heart disease and some cancers, and that physical inactivity now costs the UK over £10 billion a year.
The research cited includes analysis of three local walking and cycling route projects built in 2005, using a new Department for Transport cost benefit assessment tool. The returns on investment for these turned out far higher than for typical transport schemes focused on private motorised transport.
The main reason for this is that the DfT valuation now includes the impact of physically active travel on the risk of heart disease, stroke and colon cancer, although numerous other diseases are not included, meaning that the health benefits shown are still very conservative.
Sustrans' Active Travel Director, Philip Insall says: "We have to reverse the steep rise in healthcare costs arising from inactivity, which is consuming a larger and larger share of the NHS budget, and we also need to reduce climate change emissions from transport and cut congestion.
"The value of investment in active travel clearly shows that walking and cycling investment is better value than wasting more transport money catering for private motor transport. Now really is the time for a major shift in transport spending, and for the majority of our transport investment to go into helping people become healthier, rather than the reflex car-centred planning of the past."
The full report is available as a PDF download on www.activetravel.org.uk