More walking and cycling?

Imagine if, with an email, you could help to start a national conversation about cleaning up the air where you live, improving the health of your community, boosting the local economy and making your neighbourhood a happier place to be. Well, you can – and you’ve got until 1 June.

This is the government consultation on its cycling and walking safety review, its purpose, “to help make cycling and walking the natural choices for shorter journeys”.

If you’re sitting, or standing there, thinking, “I don’t cycle, why should I care?” don’t look away just yet, because this is not just about walking and cycling. This is about having a national conversation about the places we live, and what we want them to be like. Do we want to tackle our lethally and illegally poor air quality, for example? Do we want the choice to cycle and walk to the shops, to school, to work, without fear of dangerous roads? Do we really need every one of our neighbourhood streets to be thoroughfares for passing motor traffic, or would we like them to be places to play, to walk, to sit and shoot the breeze?

Around 11% of trips less than a mile, and 29% of one to two miles, are currently taken by car. Imagine our streets, and our air, if more people walked and cycled those trips.

On the surface cutting car use for shorter trips sounds a great idea. But not all short trips are amenable to walking or cycling – for example the weekly shop. There is also the issue of time – a two mile walk will take say 80 minutes there and back – quite a bit of time.

Simply exhorting people to walk or cycle will not work. We do need to cut car use but this requires a more nuance approach:

Yes if you want to nip out to get a pasty or some sandwiches, don’t get in your car!

If you can combine activities into one trip do so – don’t make separate journeys

But we also need to cut out the longer trips

There really is no need to go shopping, just because you ‘want to look around’

If you like surfing in the evenings and weekends but like living in an area away from the coast – perhaps you need to think again

But there is also the general approach to development

More of it means that new housing is further away from the old town centres

Lots of developments are traffic generators – out of town shopping

There are increasing numbers of events which generate traffic – Boardmasters in Newquay, Falmouth week and firework displays

As individuals and as a society we need to take a different approach – simplistic ideas may make good soundbites but poor policy!


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