The economy could be saved tens of billions of pounds in preventable costs each year if we became a nation who walked and cycled everyday short journeys. This is the view expressed by a diverse spectrum of professions in a new report underpinning the case for an active transport revolution in the UK.
Britain is facing an inactivity crisis with associated health impacts costing society an estimated £10 billion a year. Poor air quality, caused in no small part by traffic pollution costs £19 billion and traffic accidents cost £9 billion. Excess traffic delays incur urban economies expenses of £11 billion every year.
Making our towns and cities places where walking and cycling are both safe and attractive options could reduce these costs significantly. There is a raft of wider benefits, not least boosts to local high street spending, more attractive and inclusive neighbourhoods and greater climate resilience associated with such measures.
55 percent of car journeys are less than 5 miles and could often be taken by active modes, yet in the UK only 2 percent of journeys are taken by bike at present (compared to 27% in the Netherlands).
These messages have been recognised in health and transport sectors for some time but this is the first time that they have been championed by such a broad collective of authoritative bodies. The Active Transport for Healthy Living collaboration includes preeminent professional bodies from health, transport, architecture, planning, engineering and the environment.
Alastair Chisholm, Policy Manager at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, said:
“A bold commitment to increasing the uptake of active transport in the UK would cost-effectively contribute to addressing a serious health crisis, create more attractive, cleaner, safer towns and cities with better social integration and thriving local economies. These benefits are now very extensively recognised within and outside of Government, as this report demonstrates. Yet there remains insufficient political support for an extensive programme to make active transport the safe and attractive option it should be. This is a sorely wasted opportunity and we urge Ministers to publicly recognise the potential and commit to achieving it.”
Philip Insall, Director of Health for Sustrans, added: “The sheer scale and breadth of this coalition is impressive. It shows the support of the architecture, engineering, environment, health, planning and transport sectors for real policy and investment in active travel.
“The whole ‘Active Transport and Healthy Living Coalition’ has approved of the ‘Local Sustainable Transport Fund’, introduced by the current government, but now there is a risk that the investment may dry up, and the decline of walking and cycling resume. The health consequences of this would be grave.”
Active Transport for Healthy Living is a collaboration between:
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM); Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE); Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (CIHT); Faculty of Public Health (FPH); Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI); Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA); Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH); Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Sustrans.