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Working Together to Promote Active Travel: A briefing for local authorities

Walking and cycling are good for our physical and mental health. Switching more journeys to active travel will improve health, quality of life and the environment, and
local productivity, while at the same time reducing costs to the public purse. These are substantial ‘win-wins’ that benefit individual people and the community as a whole.

This briefing has been written for transport planners, others concerned with the built environment, and public health practitioners. It looks at the impact of current transport systems and sets out the many benefits of increasing physical activity through active travel. It suggests that while motorised road transport has a role in supporting the economy, a rebalancing of our travel system is needed.

Some key messages when developing a healthy local transport strategy include:

  • physical inactivity directly contributes to 1 in 6 deaths in the UK and costs £7.4 billion a year to business and wider society
  • the growth in road transport has been a major factor in reducing levels of physical activity and increasing obesity
  • building walking or cycling into daily routines are the most effective ways to increase physical activity
  • short car trips (under 5 miles) are a prime area for switching to active travel and to public transport
  • health-promoting transport systems are pro-business and support economic prosperity. They enable optimal travel to work with less congestion, collisions, pollution, and they support a healthier workforce

This guide suggests a range of practical action for local authorities, from overall policy to practical implementation. It highlights the importance of community involvement and sets out key steps for transport and public health practitioners.