Public Health England calls for ‘rebalancing of the travel system’

12.00 | 2 August 2016 | | 6 comments

Public Health England has issued a briefing to local authorities in a bid to help them promote active travel such as walking and cycling.

Aimed at transport planners and public health practitioners, the briefing looks at the impact of current transport systems and sets out the benefits of increasing physical activity through active travel – highlighting the substantial ‘win-wins’ that will benefit individuals and the wider community.

Public Health England says that physical inactivity directly contributes to one in six deaths in the UK and costs £7.4bn a year to business and wider society.

The briefing suggests that while motorised road transport has a role in supporting the economy, a rebalancing of the travel system is required – attributing the increased use of cars to reduced levels of physical activity and a subsequent increase in the prevalence of obesity.

It describes short car trips of under five miles as a ‘prime area for switching to active travel and public transport’, and advocates building walking or cycling into daily routines as the most effective way to increase physical activity.

Public Health England says that switching more journeys to active travel will improve health, quality of life, the environment and local productivity, while at the same time reducing costs to the public purse.

The briefing puts forward a range of practical actions for local authorities, from overall policy to practical implementation. It highlights the importance of community involvement and sets out key steps for transport and public health practitioners.


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    When I read the PHE report last week, it had nothing new in it. So I’m not sure that it is worth anything for a large part of the target audience – the Local Authorities transport planners (and road safety practitioners?). They (the TPs) should already know the report’s contents as part of their regular day job.

    This PHE report reminds me of the quote: “a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time”. At least PHE didn’t charge for the report.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    My prime reason for using the car is to save time. Time is money, it takes too long to walk very far and I am not going to relearn to cycle now that I am 80. R.Craven describes the perils of public transport very well. It seldom saves time. From a brief skip through the report I can see no mention of motorcycling, which provides fast journey times and little congestion.

    Robert Bolt, St Albans
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    Noting the authors of the report then I would say that they have a very good understanding of the issues and are aware that 20mph limits give a range of speed reductions between 0 and 7mph which average out at between 1 and 2mph across the whole network.

    Certainly we don’t conflate the two and specifically compare the cost and results from physically calmed 20mph streets and non-physically calmed streets. For one recent example of this see

    Rod King, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    Rod, appropriate speeds are the key – whether accompanied by 20mph speed limit signs or not. I guess PHE imagine lower speed limits result in significant speed reductions – which is quite understandable given the propensity for LAs and campaign groups to (deliberately?) misleadingly conflate the two.

    Charles, England
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    I question the benefits that the use of public transport will have on improving the public’s health. A walk down the road maybe 100 yards to the bus stop and then a sit down on uncomfortable seating for ages on a bus that takes forever to reach one’s destination and then a similar walk to the office for an 8 hour sit down or wherever one is going. I don’t think that will in many ways stop obesity or diabetes. Maybe taking one less sugar in one’s Latte, or having the will power to not have a cream tea every day of the week.

    Such a change in lifestyle would do far better for one’s overall health rather than being concerned with transport issues and the increased dangers particularly by the increased usage of bicycles within the normal framework of current traffic conditions.

    When it comes to saving monies from the public purse what about the billions that have already been spent on supporting cycling and the further billions that will have to be spent over the next decade to keep them safe. That’s got to come from somewhere. Oh yes the public purse.

    R.Craven Blackpool
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    Good to see the strong support and recommendation for 20mph limits within the report.

    Rod King
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