A report by the UK Faculty of Public Health has called for a major shift away from the use of cars as a primary method of transport in favour of walking, cycling and public transport, in a bid to tackle air pollution.
Research released by the health charity last Tuesday (5 July) coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act suggested that 68% of people make journeys of under two miles by car at least once a week, whilst 40% say they make a journey by car when they could have walked.
And, according to the organisation, a number of steps can be taken by local authorities to help reduce the health impact of cars and to aid the design of towns and cities to encourage active travel such as walking or cycling.
These measures include:
The UK Faculty of Public Health has also outlined areas that could be improved if local authorities focus on improving street environments and public transport, which it describes as: cost-effective transport interventions which will deliver a wide range of health, environmental and economic benefits to residents and communities and therefore provide a winwin opportunity for local authorities.
The report also urges councils to consider changes to planning policy that would enable more journeys to be made by walking and cycling, which would include the promotion of car-free residential areas, cycle parking in developments and encouraging developments with a mix of uses such as retail, residential and leisure to reduce the need to travel by car.
Professor John Middleton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: Everyone in public health, local authorities and across the health and social care sector needs to work together to reduce the health harms of driving. For the sake of our health now and generations to come, we need a change in culture so that walking or cycling becomes part of our daily routine, rather than spending hours sitting in cars.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he is determined to tackle the issue of air pollution in the capital.
He said: Cleaning up the toxic air in our city is one of my top priorities and I am aiming to encourage people out of their cars by making cycling and walking far safer and easier, and ensuring public transport is affordable and efficient.
Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, believes a shift away from car use will tackle climate change, lower congestion and reduce air pollution.
Commenting on the report, she said: This important report confirms that the case for sustainable transport is stronger than ever.
When planning any new town or city development local authorities must make adequate provision for public transport, walking and cycling to ensure our already busy roads do not fill up with even more traffic.
Getting more people out of their cars won’t just help improve public health but would help tackle climate change, lower congestion and reduce air pollution.