Image by Luisella Planeta from Pixabay
As an avid reader of the DTP blog, you will be well aware that our senior team recently made their way from the north-east to Birmingham NEC to attend the Traffex roads and highways event. Over the three days many sessions were provided covering topics like, the ‘Route to Zero Carbon’, ‘SMART Motorways’, the ‘Future of EV Infrastructure’ and ‘The Road to Investment in the North’.
Following Active Travel England’s unveiling of their £32.9 million plan back in January 2023, DTP were keen to attend a talk discussing ‘Delivering Quality Active Travel Infrastructure’ led by Lynsey McGarvey, a Principal Inspector at Active Travel England, to see how the scheme was developing. The plans aim is to get people fit, save them money and reduce their carbon footprint. The key is public engagement, with those who ultimately do the walking and the cycling consulted on feasibility schemes, ideas and local plans.
What are the benefits of active travel?
But first, let’s dive a little deeper on the benefits of active travel to discover why it is such a hot topic. One of the main benefits of active travel is that it produces zero emissions, making it a cleaner and greener mode of transportation. In addition to being environmentally friendly, active travel can also help to reduce traffic congestion, with the more people who walk and cycle, the fewer cars on the road.
Sounds great, but what exactly is Active Travel, and is it all it’s made out to be for your health? Well, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) outline the importance of increasing the amount someone walks or cycles for the betterment of both physical and mental health, as well as the sustainability of the environment. In particular, research has historically demonstrated walking and cycling to work can improve fitness through adaptations in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems1.
So, we know that Active Travel can be great for our health, but NICE guidance proposes that in order to facilitate an increase in walking and cycling, a more supportive transport environment must be created. For example, analysis of cycle to work data from the 2001 and 2011 census data demonstrates that proximity to off-road paths is associated with increased levels of cycling to work, but proximity to on-road lanes show no effect2. This supports the notion that employees prefer traffic-free cycle routes, therefore improving on-road cycle provision may not be the best tactic to ensure more people cycle to work. This may be something your Active Travel Network expert consults you on with regard to a scheme in your local area!
However, it’s important to note that not everyone is able to walk or cycle. An alternative may be to use e-bikes, which have the capacity to reduce car CO2 emissions by 24.4 million tonnes a year in England alone3. 3,400 census zones have been identified with a high capability to replace car travel with e-bikes3, highlighting their potential. However, the burning question remains; do you still get fitter if you’re riding an e-bike? Put simply, yes. As e-bikers are more likely to take longer trips compared to cyclists the increases in physical activity from active travel are comparable4.
So, who are Active Travel England?
Active Travel England is government agency created to make everyday journeys simple, easy and fun, where ‘active travel’ such as walking, wheeling and cycling is the preferred choice for everyone to get around.
To achieve this Active Travel England, aim to improve not only people’s attitudes to travel, but the availability and quality of cycling and walking infrastructure, including traffic free walking/cycling paths and routes, cycle parking, e-scooters to hire and safe crossing points, to name a few.
At the active travel session at Traffex, many topics were covered, including the overall active travel vision for England and Active Travel England’s delivery of this vision by working closely with local councils and developers.
From June 2023, as part of the planning process, Active Travel England are now to be consulted on developments over a threshold of more than 7,500m² or where more than 150 homes are proposed. Active Travel England will be ensuring that the active travel infrastructure associated with these proposals are facilitating a beneficial environment for those wishing to walk, wheel or cycle.
DTP will continue to keep up to date with Active Travel England’s guidelines and investments in the active travel network to allow us to work with our clients to ensure existing and new active travel infrastructure is integrated into development proposals where appropriate, ensuring active travel is a viable option on the multitude of schemes we work on.
*If you are looking to get planning for your development and wish to provide an effective active travel infrastructure, DTP would be happy to help and can provide planning application support to cover your highways needs, as well as Travel Plans and Travel Packs to encourage your users to choose sustainable when it comes to travel*
1Oja et al., 1991
2Feng and Dibben, 2018
3Phillips et al., 2022
4Castro et al., 2019