A Sustainable Future Relies on A Smarter Approach to Active Travel.

This article was written by John Nuutinen.

The writer is the CEO of SkedGo.

There are few more effective ways to protect the planet than to encourage people to switch to more sustainable transport methods.

With this in mind, we might expect governments to invest heavily in encouraging behaviour change that could support reaching the net zero target by 2050.

Unfortunately, we’ve recently seen governments taking backwards steps in this area.  

The UK government’s latest budget, for instance, slashed funding for active travel in England, leaving schemes effectively reduced by 75%, from £200 million a year to just £50 million.

It’s a move that follows the French government announcing it will ban rented e-scooters in Paris from September, despite the fact just 4% of the city’s residents took part in a vote on the issue.

With active travel able to tackle pressing societal challenges – while slashing emissions and mitigating climate change – there’s reason to be disappointed by these decisions.

 

Beyond government support, there is more to be done to ensure active travel reduces congestion and boosts mental wellbeing across the population.

 

That means providing the benefits of low-cost active travel to people whether they have limited mobility, chronic health conditions or face challenges within their built environment.

This requires government collaboration with technology businesses and local authorities to address barriers to active travel.

Barriers to active travel 

Some 22% of the UK population (or 14m individuals) have a disability in the UK, which means there’s a clear need to tackle inadequate infrastructure in parts of the country. From uneven footpaths to poor bike and wheeling routes, there are too many barriers to ensuring active travel serves the entire population.

Data demonstrates that a lack of progress in this area has real-world consequences – Sustrans, a UK charity, carried out a nationwide study that highlighted just 12% of disabled people cycle weekly, compared to 19% of non-disabled cyclists surveyed. While Sustrans is working hard to remove barriers to cycling, it owns just 2% (271 miles) of the 12,763 National Cycle Network.

Community collaboration

Dialogue with people from all backgrounds will be key to addressing these barriers. That means transport authorities not only need to engage with users of their services prior to the planning stage, but also ensure this engagement continues throughout the entire process. This can enable transport authorities, mobility providers and other stakeholders to better meet accessibility needs while ensuring built environments are more easily navigable. This lays the groundwork for a more inclusive approach to active travel that can deliver significant environmental benefits.

The power of technology

Equally, technology businesses can drive change – partnering with local authorities to promote active travel.

At SkedGo, we collaborated with Leicester City Council in the UK to launch two Android and iPhone apps, offering an easy-to-use journey planner that incorporates public transport, e-bikes, Park and Ride spaces, taxis, cycling and walking routes. This partnership supported Leicester City Council’s Transport Recovery Plan, which focuses on active travel by helping residents to reduce their car use.

Supporting participation in active travel

Active travel also needs to be supported by a smarter approach to public transport, which should include providing reliable information on accessible routes alongside wheelchair-friendly stations and pathways.

Authorities could also explore offering adapted equipment, such as recumbent bicycles, tricycles and handcycles, which would allow individuals to travel safely and comfortably, perhaps through shared bike schemes. This would depend on well-planned policies, as well as the government funding that has recently been lacking.

Ultimately, with the cost-benefit ratio of active travel schemes far more favourable than road building schemes, the time has come for governments to invest in creating a more sustainable and inclusive society by supporting active travel. A concerted effort, with a focus on dialogue and collaboration, could mean a more sustainable future for everyone is within reach.

This article was written by John Nuutinen.

The writer is the CEO of SkedGo.

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