An increase in walking and cycling in England could prevent over 6,000 deaths every single year, according to research conducted by the Health Foundation.
The researchers analysed the negative impacts that transport has on health, from air pollution to road accidents and then they compared the multiple ways in which transport infrastructure and services can positively impact our health.
They found that increasing levels of walking and cycling in all regions of England could prevent 1,189 deaths per year.
If exercise levels increased each week by a combined 30 minutes of cycling and 30 minutes of walking – a relatively small increase across the population as a whole – there would be an annual reduction of around 6,100 deaths.
This analysis, which is based on the World Health Organisation’s HEAT tool, suggests that the majority of this improvement (around 80%) would come from those aged 50 to 74, with the greatest possible improvement in the rate of prevented deaths in the North East and West Midlands given the lower levels of cycling and walking there currently.
The charity has highlighted coming out of lockdown presents a unique opportunity for policymakers to further encourage greener and healthier forms of travel by investing further in infrastructure that supports these activities.
David Finch, senior fellow at the Health Foundation, said: ‘A good transport system is essential for a healthy society. The impact of air pollution on health is well known but transport affects the health of people across society, in multiple ways. Investing in transport is one way we can help address widening health inequalities and regional disparities in people’s health.
‘The investment required to support the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to reshape our transport infrastructure and “level up” access. It is essential that the government embeds these aims in new infrastructure projects, to increase safe cycling and walking facilities and to improve the availability, reliability and affordability of public transport services.’
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