Cycle and walking 'must be norm' for short journeys

Cyclist Only 11 minutes per day is spent walking or cycling on average

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Cycling and walking should be the norm for all short journeys, experts say.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said people should shun their cars if a trip could be done in 15 or 20 minutes on foot or bike.

It said the approach was needed to combat the "silent epidemic" of inactivity posing a risk to the health of people in England.

The advisory body called on councils to do more to make walking and cycling an easier option in local communities.

It said their new responsibility for public health, which the NHS will hand over next year under the government's reform programme, offered a "unique opportunity" to make a difference.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said councils should look to introduce bicycle-hire schemes, car-free events and better cycle-route signalling and maps.

Start Quote

It's not necessarily about spending more money on transport, but investing existing money in our health by rethinking the way in which budgets are being spent”

End Quote Dr John Middleton Faculty of Public Health

Walking routes should also be better highlighted, with signposts indicating the distance and time it takes to walk to local destinations.

Schools and workplaces should also be encouraged to get more pupils and staff cycling and walking.

NICE has previously given its backing to 20mph speed limits in certain areas.

'Costing lives'

The group said local authorities needed to take action, as the levels of inactivity were costing lives.

A recent report in the Lancet said inactivity was now causing as many deaths as smoking.

Latest figures suggest six in 10 men and seven in 10 women are not doing the recommended levels of physical activity.

The figures are little better for children.

Line graph showing distances travelled on foot and by bike

In particular, levels of cycling and walking are falling - with England lagging well behind other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. Only 11 minutes a day on average is spent cycling or walking.

Prof Mike Kelly, from NICE, said: "As a nation, we are not physically active enough and this can contribute to a wide range of health problems."

Dr John Middleton, vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health, said cycling and walking needed to be made an "easy option".

"It's not necessarily about spending more money on transport, but investing existing money in our health by rethinking the way in which budgets are being spent."

Local transport minister Norman Baker added the new duty on councils should make it easier to ensure transport, planning and health officials worked together to help change the way people travel.

"We want to see more people walking and cycling," he added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    I think the biggest barrier to more cycling is the level of aggression among car drivers on urban roads and streets.

    As a city cyclist you have to put up with verbal abuse and aggressive manoeuvres from drivers on a regular basis.

    Never mind the physical risk posed by bad drivers, the hassle alone is enough to put most people off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    Before encouraging more cyclists onto our roads we should make sure that the current road users know how to do so safely.
    Drivers have passed a test to use the road, are insured, and have a reg no in order for bad driving to be penalised.
    It is about time that cyclists have to do the same. At the least they should have a theory test, 3rd party insurance and a reg no for bad cycling to be penalised

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    I prefer to walk as I despise the majority of London cyclists with a passion. They don't adhere to the highway code. I've had grown men cycling on pavements run into me/expecting me to move out of their way! Man up!If cyclists want respect then they should respect vehicles & pedrestrians. Also they should pay road tax & adhere to the highway code. They have no done me a favour by not using a car.

  • rate this

    Comment number 925.

    I agree totally with the idea of more walking and cycling. However to be effective for walking that means walking at a reasonable pace. To that effect could those staring at their phones, whilst wlaking slowly and meandering, consider those who want to walk at a decent pace. Also cyclists off pavements and respect the rights of pedestrians to cross roads when the lights are red against the cyclist

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    To all those who think it takes longer to cycle. I quit my car for my work commute in Cardiff back in May - it used to take about 40 minutes to drive in. I now cycle it in 20-25 minutes. Cycling is much faster! I still use the car for shopping and visiting relatives but other than that I save loads on petrol. I've also lost _loads_ of weight. Best thing I've ever done was take up cycling.


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