- Walking to the shop
- Cycling to work
- Walking to the bus station
These are just a few examples of ‘active travel’ which is making a journey using your own physical activity. Each year, many of us make lots of short journeys by car. We think there is a better way to make those journeys. It’s free, benefits your health and saves you money.
In 2018, just under one quarter (24%) of all journeys were taken by walking, cycling or public transport.Travel Survey for Northern Ireland.
Why active travel is good for us
It boosts our health and protects our environment. Which in turn boosts our health.
Countries with the highest levels of active travel generally have the lowest obesity rates. Working Together to Promote Active Travel, Public Health England.
Recent figures from member states of the European Union (EU) indicate that 6 in every 10 people above 15 years of age never or seldom exercise or play a sport and more than half never or seldom engage in other kinds of physical activity, such as cycling, dancing or gardening.10 key facts on physical activity in the WHO European Region
OK, what does that really mean?
Let’s face it, we all love convenience, but that convenience has come with a cost. As a nation, we are less active today than ever before. This makes us overweight, more susceptible to illness, and consequently a drain on the health service.
Across the UK, about 40,000 people die from air pollution each year and road transport is a huge contributor to poor air quality.
In Northern Ireland 10x more people die each year from air pollution than on our roads in car accidents. Just think about that for a moment.
Most of our air pollution comes from road vehicles, our homes, and farming.
Stop taking your health for granted
Let’s be realistic for a moment. Most of the journeys we make are by car. The average car journey is 7.6 miles. In Northern Ireland we need our cars – we get that. But we need to understand that by using our cars we are causing air pollution. Not only is this bad for our health, it’s causing climate change. We need to find ways to reduce our reliance on cars.
How you can become an active traveller?
The easiest way to become an active traveller is to reduce the amount of journeys you make in your car each week.
Try to understand how you use your car
What do you use your car for?
How many of those journeys could be made by an alternative form of transport?
Could you walk to the shop?
Can you use public transport to get to work?
Do you have a bike?
Which journeys could you make using your bike instead?
Do you have secure cycle parking at your work? Where is there secure parking nearby?
Does your work provide changing facilities or showers?
Some employers offer a ‘Cycle to Work Scheme’. Ask your boss if you have one.
Are you up for a challenge?
Getting out and about at this time of year is a challenge. It’s cold, dark and generally not the best time to try and become an active traveller. However, we want you to try and change your car habits one step at a time. Join us on our #OneSmallThingMyNI Active Travel challenge.
- Ditch your car and support #OneSmallThingMyNI
- Ditch the car one day a week and get the bus or train to work.
- Use a park and ride service one day per week.
- Use small shopping tasks as an excuse to walk to the shop.
- Walk to school
Active Travel Schools
Did you know that there are already 340 schools enrolled on the Sustrans Active Travel Schools programme? There’s a good chance that your kids go to a school that supports this programme.
Increasing the number of children who regularly walk, cycle or scoot to school has numerous benefits including:
- Increased physical activity levels resulting in improved health and wellbeing
- Reduced congestion and pollution around schools
- Improved academic performance and attendance rates
- Increased road safety awareness
- Increased confidence, self-esteem, and independence for young people.
At the end of the 2017-18 school year, the number of children walking, cycling and scooting to school at participating schools increased from 34% to 44%. At the same time, the number of pupils being driven to school fell from 58% to 47%. Sustrans
Benefits of active travel
Active travel is one of those win-win situations. Yes, it’s hard to change our habits, but once we do, we all benefit.
If you start to walk further or even start cycling, you are going to boost your physical and mental health. You will feel better.
You may even be helping to develop your local community by supporting local businesses.
If we all become active travellers, there will be less cars on the roads. You know where this is going…fewer cars on the roads means lower carbon emissions. And lower carbon emissions improves our air quality.
We also reduce our need for energy (fuel) and should be saving money.
By joining us on this active travel challenge, we will all start to benefit from cleaner air.