Pedestrians, cyclists and those who use public transport should be given priority when new roads are built or upgraded, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said.
It has said planners should develop policies and initiatives to ensure that safe, convenient, inclusive access for pedestrians, cyclists and people who use public transport is maximised and is prioritised over motorised transports.
The proposal is made in a draft quality standard for encouraging physical activity within the general population, published today.
The aim is to get people to be more active in their day-to-day lives by encouraging safe, convenient, active travel that is accessible for everyone, including older people and people with limited mobility.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “Getting people to be more physically active by increasing the amount they walk or cycle has the potential to benefit both the individual and the health system.
“As a society we are facing a looming type two diabetes crisis, which is in part caused by people not exercising enough.
“We need more people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise.
“People can feel less safe when they walk or cycle compared with when they drive. We’ve got to change this.
“So asking planners to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and those who use public transport when roads are built or upgraded can ensure they are safe, attractive and designed to encourage people to get out from behind their wheel.”
Xavier Brice, chief executive at Sustrans, said: “We welcome the proposal from NICE, which puts the needs of our most vulnerable road users first.
“For too long roads in our towns and cities have been dominated by cars and a shift to people-prioritised streets will not only encourage more of the public to travel actively, but also help to create safer environments for everyone to move around in.
“Involving local authorities and residents in the redesign of their neighbourhoods and streets is essential as it ensures a good design that targets the issues people experience locally every day, and we have seen positive uptake in active travel through this approach.
“However, more needs to be done across the UK to enable more people to choose walking and cycling as their primary mode of transport for local journeys.
“Cycling and walking for more journeys is part of the solution to many of the challenges we face, including road congestion, air pollution and high levels of inactivity.
“This proposal demonstrates how – with some practical design solutions – we can address these challenges, while also protecting people who cycle and walk.”
Joe Irvin, CEO of Living Streets, said: “For decades our towns and cities have been built to prioritise motor vehicles; resulting in unhealthy air, congested roads and a decline in people walking everyday journeys.
“The better planning that NICE is suggesting is absolutely necessary. Those who are the most vulnerable – children and older people - are currently suffering the most from bad air, unhealthy lifestyles and social isolation.
“It’s time that towns and cities were built for everyone – first and foremost for those on foot. Placing key services like schools, GP surgeries and bus stops within walking distance is vital.
“More people getting out and walking everyday journeys, such as to work or school, will make us a healthier country.”