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If you want a healthier future, leave the car at home and walk

 

By Gordon Clarke, NI Director, Sustrans

The old adage "we are what we eat" could be appropriately amended to "we are how we travel".

Certainly the latest Travel Survey for Northern Ireland is revealing of the continued dominance of the car in how we get about. Over four-fifths of respondents (82%) travelled to work by car/van, with 80% driving on their own.

This is not good news for our health, the environment or for tackling congestion and air pollution.

So how do we get more people to travel actively or take public transport?

The survey found that when respondents were asked what would encourage them to use public transport, the most popular answer was "cheaper fares" - as 28% said.

Of course people always want value for money, and public transport must remain competitive to attract customers.

Translink's #smartmovers campaign promotes the fact that the average commuter can save money as there are no fuel, car parking or car maintenance costs.

The campaign also highlights the fact that the average person who takes the bus or train daily can walk 11 marathons in one year!

There certainly could be more incentives for people to use public transport and travel actively.

At Sustrans we are working to encourage multi-modal journeys such as cycling to the train station or park & ride sites.

For example, Translink could offer discounts to cyclists especially, as car parking at transport hubs is often at capacity.

We also need to invest in behaviour-change campaigns to highlight the benefits of walking and cycling for everyday journeys, such as commuting.

The most damning aspect of the survey is the fact that less than two-thirds of people walk at least 20 minutes a week.

Whatever savings people imagine they are making by driving daily, they are storing up health problems and the inevitable cost of the obesity and diabetes epidemic on our overburdened NHS.

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