The Northern Ireland Assembly should be directing funds earmarked for road building to encourage more people to get out of their cars and walk or cycle, according to sustainable transport charity Sustrans.
The organisation will today submit a report to the Regional Development Committee Inquiry into Sustainable Transport, proposing that by directing funds away from road building the rising levels of obesity, congestion and social inequality in the province will be tackled head on.
Sustrans' proposals include a ten year project to work with all of the schools in the region to encourage children to cycle or walk. The plans will cost an estimated £30m - or under £100 per child over a ten year period.
At present more than half (65 per cent) of journeys made in Northern Ireland are under five miles.
"We are pleased to be contributing to the Assembly's thinking on transport issues,” said Steven Patterson, director of Sustrans in Northern Ireland.
“In Northern Ireland 65 per cent of all journeys are less than five miles, a distance easily made by bike, yet commitment by Government to making this an attractive and safe option is very low.
"Half of households in certain areas of Belfast don't have access to a car and so re-defining the way people move around is crucial as the NI Assembly aims to deliver a prosperous, healthy, safe, inclusive Northern Ireland. Local journeys are the key to this and we believe that the Assembly should invest in doubling the number of short journeys made by foot, bike and public transport to four out of five by 2020.
"This inquiry gives us a golden opportunity to completely overhaul the transport system in Northern Ireland and bring in solutions that will save the tax payer money. We can do that by cutting the £500m cost of physical inactivity and obesity and reducing congestion levels predicted to cost £250m per year."
Sustrans' proposals include:
- -Encouraging people to change their travel behaviour by supporting those that travel more sustainably.
- -Creating safe, attractive walking and cycling conditions
- -Increasing public transport usage by improving services and reducing fares
- -Ensuring that planning policy and practise reduce the need to travel
- -Reform taxation and increase spending on sustainable travel
For more on those proposals, visit the Sustrans site.