ACTIVE TRAVEL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Want to find out more about Active Travel in South Yorkshire, including the work of the Active Travel Commissioner and the Cycle Walk SYMCA team?
Active Travel – what does it mean?
The phrase Active Travel refers to journeys – for work or leisure – being undertaken on foot or by bicycle, either in their entirety or in combination with another form of transport. Work done around Active Travel seeks to make undertaking journeys in this way easier, more convenient, safer and more appealing.
You can read more about our Active Travel progress in South Yorkshire on our Timeline page.
Why is Active Travel so important?
Enabling more people to switch to methods of Active Travel will have a positive impact on physical and mental health, traffic congestion, air pollution levels, productivity and the economy, all of which in turn make a direct and positive contribution to the quality of life within our communities.
Allowing people to make small changes to their lifestyle will result in exponential benefits for them as individuals, for our communities and for our society in general.
Further details about why increasing levels of Active Travel in our region is so important can be found in our Active Travel Implementation Plan.
How effective is Active Travel?
Physical inactivity directly contributes to one in six deaths in the UK, with our population currently around 20% less active than it was in the 1960s. A person who is active every day reduces their risk of a number of different health conditions (as highlighted on page 17 of our Active Travel Implementation Plan), crucial in South Yorkshire in particular, where nearly 66% of adults are overweight or obese, which is higher than the average in England, and many other combined authority areas.
The physical health benefits of exercise have long been known, however the positive impact on our mental health is becoming more understood and more important.
The mental health charity, Mind, illustrates on their website exactly how increased levels of physical activity can benefit an individual, including by managing stress and anxiety; promoting self-esteem; and reducing the risk of depression.
Air pollution is a major public health risk and the largest environmental health risk in this country, causing around 40,000 deaths in the UK every year and contributing to poor health. In South Yorkshire, nearly 5% of deaths can be attributed to particulate air pollution.
Motorised transport is the single biggest contributor to poor air quality, and getting more people out of their cars where possible, and travelling on foot or by bicycle, is a solution to a problem that could otherwise threaten to spiral out of control.
The effects on air pollution of the recent lockdown, and its reduced traffic levels, are reported in The Guardian newspaper.
An often over-looked, but crucial, benefit of increased Active Travel levels is the economic boost it can deliver, both to society as a whole and to individual businesses, our local high streets and town centres.
In terms of wider society, it is estimated that motorised road transport costs English urban areas between £38 and £49 billion a year, while the average cost of a road traffic collision is £98,232. Meanwhile, sickness absence costs UK businesses around £29 billion annually. Cycling commuters take – on average – one day less sick leave on average each year, which is estimated to save UK businesses around £83 million.
At a more local level, Transport for London research shows that walking and cycling improvements to high streets and town centres can increase retail spend by up to 30%, while on average, cycling parking delivers five times more retail spend per square metre than the same amount of car parking.
I rely on my car – how will active travel benefit me?
Active Travel isn’t just for the benefit of ‘cyclists’ or ‘pedestrians’. The vast majority of those who cycle and walk also drive, and a fair percentage of those who drive will walk or cycle as well.
As detailed above, there are numerous societal benefits to increased levels of Active Travel, with the most immediate one for those who depend on motorised vehicles being the reduction in the demand for finite road space, therefore a reduction in congestion. Pedestrians and cyclists take up far less space than cars, allowing the movement of a far greater number of people through a commuter route if they choose to travel on foot or by bicycle, resulting in less congestion and more reliable journey times for everyone.
The statistics behind this are available in our Active Travel Implementation Plan (page 19), while the evidence from other areas, such as London, where within a year of opening, cycling infrastructure was moving 46% of peak-time traffic despite occupying only 30% of equivalent road space, is stark.
The fewer vehicles on the road, the less time spent in congestion, the more productive road users become.
The construction of infrastructure and bike parking facilities is taking away much-needed car parking spaces. How is this a benefit?
Research shows that cycle parking delivers more retail spend compared to the equivalent square meterage of car parking space, resulting in benefits for businesses. In addition, parking spaces in close proximity to a business premises often see minimal turnover of vehicles, with spaces being occupied for a long time, or by staff at the business, therefore not actually contributing to significant footfall.
Research also suggests that a large number of motor vehicles puts people off visiting their high street or town centre, with a greener, cleaner environment also beneficial for businesses.
The convenience of parking outside shops has led to this being the default behaviour for people who could also walk and cycle the same journey in almost the same amount of time. As stated in our Active Travel Implementation Plan, creating a joined-up network of infrastructure will provide people with convenient and appealing alternatives to driving over short distances (up to 5km on a bike and up to 2km on foot), helping to accelerate the benefits listed above, but also cutting down on congestion and the competition for road space and parking spaces for those who are genuinely reliant on their cars.
Car parking isn’t something that should be completely eradicated. Disabled parking spaces, for example, are crucial, but as below, by creating accessible infrastructure we are aiming to support people of all backgrounds to have the independence that not relying on a motor vehicle for short journeys provides.
We know that so many of our businesses rely on passing trade which many associated with motor traffic and car parking facilities. However, as outlined above, accessible infrastructure is the right solution for thriving businesses and high streets.
How does Active Travel benefit those with mobility issues, who cannot walk or cycle?
The development of Active Travel infrastructure will provide safe, accessible spaces for those who choose to walk or cycle, but also wheelchair users, those who use mobility aids or adapted bikes, runners, or parents with pushchairs, buggies and toddlers.
One of Dame Sarah Storey’s four pledges when she was Active Travel Commissioner was to require infrastructure that is accessible for all; Active Travel can benefit everyone, and the infrastructure called for within our Active Travel Implementation Plan will do just that in our region.
I rely on public transport, however the service is becoming more unreliable due to added congestion caused by cycle lanes.
As stated on page 10 of our Active Travel Implementation Plan, it is important that Active Travel plans aren’t viewed in isolation, and instead are joined up with plans for the rest of the transport network, including our public transport services.
Currently, our roads are too congested. The number of motor vehicles on the roads is higher than ever and, according to the RAC, the growth has vastly outpaced the increase in size of the UK’s road network.
Providing safe and accessible infrastructure for walking and cycling will take more people out of their cars, will free up road space and will allow our public transport services to function in an effective and efficient way.
The infrastructure in my local area is stopping me from walking and cycling – what should I do?
Our Active Travel Implementation Plan sets out (on page 20) the top ten challenges facing the existing Active Travel infrastructure in South Yorkshire. A previously piecemeal approach, leading to inconsistencies and a lack of cohesion, is cited. To combat this, we launched an Interactive Map to allow residents to highlight the areas or pieces of infrastructure that require attention – or equally, those that meet a best practice standard and should be replicated – so that this information can be fed into future plans for our region’s roads.