Government initiatives to improve cycling and walking infrastructure need to be joined up with efforts to address air pollution in towns and cities, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans has claimed.
A report published today by the charity â€“ â€˜Actively Improving Air Qualityâ€™ â€“ claims that cycling and walking programmes have a â€˜key role to playâ€™ in reducing emissions from vehicles, which are responsible for the â€˜majorityâ€™ of air quality limit breaches, through a shift away from car journeys.
However, Sustrans has claimed that local authorities face challenges in effectively implementing these programmes, through challenging timescales, a â€˜lack of leadership on air qualityâ€™, funding and â€˜car dominanceâ€™ in urban areas.
Findings of the report were compiled after a round table session involving local authorities and the Greater Manchester cycling commissioner Chris Boardman.
Among the measures highlighted in the report are a national campaign to increase awareness of issues related to air pollution, direct measures to limit private vehicles in city centres and dedicated funding for walking and cycling initiatives.
Sustrans also claims that local government should place health practitioners in transport and planning teams, to â€˜integrate cycling and walking infrastructure that promotes a healthier lifestyle and better air qualityâ€™.
Commenting on the proposals today, Anita Konrad, England director for Sustrans, said: â€œWe face an air quality crisis. This is an invisible issue that kills tens of thousands of people prematurely every year in the UK; and will be the greatest environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050.
â€œOne of the best ways to improve air quality in the UK is to reduce the number of motorised vehicles on the road and offer alternatives to private vehicle travel, such as walking and cycling.
â€œWeâ€™re calling on the UK government to take joined-up action on linking policy and funding for walking, cycling and reducing air pollution and to help local authorities to encourage more people to travel by bike and on foot for shorter journeys. It is time for the Government to take the lead and work with others to deliver tangible solutions to save lives.â€
The proposals have been welcomed by Neil Tuck, sustainable city team leader at Southampton city council who has called for measures that will help councils to go beyond compliance with air pollution legal limits.
He said: â€œWe want to see a long term commitment by Government to delivering ongoing improvements to air quality that go beyond compliance to EU standards by 2020.
â€œAccessing funding for, and developing, walking and cycling schemes needs to be made as easy as possible, and a priority for Government, if we are to enable healthier lifestyles, improve air quality and see long term transformation in UK cities. Promoting the health benefits associated with active and sustainable travel is essential for creating an environment where people want to live and work.â€
Report – Actively Improving Air Quality