by Beth Bradshaw | January 31, 2018 11:25 am
Peter Walker (author of Bike Nation) notes that cycling is mentioned just five times in the 98 page document, compared to 212 mentions of roads and cars.
Active travel is an excellent form of sustainable travel, reducing environmental, social and economic impacts. It is also a feasible approach to increasing levels of physical activity across the lifespan, especially given the sedentary nature of 21st century living .
In neglecting urban active travel options, the report appears to assume that the best option for all distances and commutes, short or long, are best made by car or public transport. This is absolutely not the case for all journeys in the North. However, with 75% of all journeys made by car, a car occupancy of only 1.54 and an 8% increase in road trips between 2012-2016  – it is clear that we need to change the way we travel in the North. More needs to be done to encourage alternative ways of travel, which this plan ultimately fails to do.
There are two key objectives of the Transport for the North plan that could easily align to promoting active travel.
Firstly, ‘Tackling overcrowding and congestion’. Building relief roads is an unsustainable approach to overcrowding on public transport and congestion on busy roads. Furthermore, there is little evidence to show building more roads actually reduces congestion – rather it creates new traffic or ‘induced traffic’. Many people may make new trips they would otherwise not make, and will travel longer distances just because of the presence of the new road . Active transport, through walking and cycling, is not only a sustainable mode of transport, but it also means less people on the roads and reduces overcrowding on public transport. The more people who make their commutes and journeys by active travel, the less overcrowding and congestion there will be.
Secondly, ‘Deliver a sustainable transport network that supports improving quality of life…’ We know that traffic congestion increases vehicle emissions and degrades ambient air quality. Recent studies have shown excess morbidity and mortality for drivers, commuters and individuals living near major roadways . Furthermore, participating in regular physical activity has numerous benefits to health: including reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, fractures and more. All of which will contribute towards a better quality of life .
The plan has been criticised by Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s commissioner for walking and cycling, claiming the plan will be a ‘very regressive approach if adopted’ .
“Investing in motorways to link cities gets you more cars, pollution, ill health, & ultimately congestion. Investing primarily in public transport to link cities reduces all of these and ENABLES local active travel to thrive.”
Active travel is seen by policy makers and practitioners as not only an important part of the solution to obesity, but also for achieving other health goals, including reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions . We should be implementing policies that reduce car use and promote active travel, not ignoring it. Over the last few years London has been building ‘Cycle Superhighways’ across the city, investing millions of pounds into the network to make cycling across the city easier for commuters. These networks are experiencing significant growth in usage every year, and Transport for London publically recognises the importance of active travel in reducing congestion and overcrowding across the capital . Statistics show that the number of people cycling to work grew by 10% in 2016 . Just this week, the Major of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed that a further six new cycling routes will be introduced in London, given the rapid growth in the number of commuters walking and cycling in the city. This forms part of his plans to make 80% of all journeys by foot, bike and public transport by 2041 .
Why can’t the North benefit from investments in infrastructure and ambitious plans to enable and promote active transport, as seen in London? The North-South divide springs to mind, not to mention a study published this month revealing transport spend per head is two and a half times greater in London compared to the North of England .
What do you think about the plan? If you echo our concerns about this plan then consultation is now open until the 17th April 2018.You can submit your feedback here: https://surveys.ipsosinteractive.com/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll Alternatively, if you would prefer to respond in greater detail, you can send a written submission by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be submitting our thoughts
Robin Ireland and Beth Bradshaw
 Transport for the North. (2018). Strategic Transport Plan: draft for consultation [online]. Available at: http://transportforthenorth.com/wp-content/uploads/TfN-Strategic-Plan_draft_lr.pdf [Accessed: 30th January 2018].
 Saunders, L.E., Green, J.M., Petticrew, M.P., Steinbach, R. and Roberts, H. (2013). What are the health benefits of active travel? A systematic review of trials and cohort studies. PLOS one. 8 (8), e.69912.
 Campaign to Protect Rural England. (2017). The end of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus [online]. Available at: file:///C:/Users/HEGProjectSupport/Downloads/TheZendZofZtheZroad.pdf [Accessed: 30th January 2018].
 Zhang, K., & Batterman, S. (2013). Air pollution and health risks due to vehicle traffic. The Science of the Total Environment, 0, 307–316. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.01.074
 Chris Boardman quoted on twitter 17th January 2018. Available at: https://twitter.com/Chris_Boardman/status/953638642412638208
 Reid, Carlton. (2017). Huge growth in use of London’s protected cycle superhighways, says Transport for London [online]. Available at: https://www.bikebiz.com/news/huge-growth-in-use-of-londons-protected-cycle-superhighways-says-tfl [Accessed: 31st January 2018]/
 Sustrans. (2018). Mayor of London confirms six new cycle routes [online]. Available at: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/news/mayor-london-confirms-six-new-cycle-routes [Accessed: 31st January 2018].
 The Mirror. (2018). Study reveals that London gets more than twice as much money for transport as the North [online]. Available at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/study-reveals-london-gets-more-11904446 [Accessed: 30th January 2018].
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