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Sustainable travel is essential to community wellbeing, say charities

Coronavirus: Joint statement argues public and shared transport, walking and cycling are central to a green recovery

Mark Moran
16 June 2020
Cycling and walking help promote wellbeing and encouraging healthier lifetstyles, NGOs such as Sustrans argue
Cycling and walking help promote wellbeing and encouraging healthier lifetstyles, NGOs such as Sustrans argue

As lockdown restrictions begin to be eased, and many people start to travel again, an alliance of charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is highlighting the importance of public, community and shared transport, combined with walking and cycling, to the recovery of communities and their health, wellbeing and the environment.

The joint statement making this point has been signed by Bus Users, Campaign for Better Transport, Community Rail Network, Community Transport Association, Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK), Greener Journeys, Living Streets and Sustrans.

The organisations argue that the UK is at a critical juncture with transport and travel. They say there is now a chance to reset transport priorities, putting people’s communities, health and wellbeing, and the environment at the forefront.

Efforts are underway across Britain to develop space and facilities for walking and cycling. The charities want to lock-in the longer term benefits of these projects.

The group points to Access to transport and life opportunities (2019), a report by NatCen and University of West England that shows that individuals, families and communities across Britain depend on public, community and shared transport, alongside walking and cycling, for their health, wellbeing and prosperity.

A third of people – including many young, marginalised and vulnerable people – do not have personal access to a car, they say. Reducing private car use is increasingly recognised as fundamental to reducing air pollution and decarbonising for the sake of our climate, with transport now the biggest source of emissions, mostly from cars and vans.

The Department for Transport recently published a report and call for evidence on Decarbonising Transport, with an aspiration to make “public transport and active travel… the natural first choice for our daily activities”.

The eight national organisations are highlighting that:

  • Buses, trains, minibuses, trams, shared mobility hubs, and walking and cycling paths and facilities have continued to be crucial through the pandemic, for moving keyworkers and goods, and keeping us well and connected
  • While social distancing is posing challenges now for transport operators, moving forward, public, community and shared transport, combined with active travel, will be doubly important
  • A sustainable, inclusive transport network will enable us to reduce private car use and decarbonise transport, to tackle the increasingly urgent climate emergency, and create stronger, healthier, happier communities, with less pollution and more equal access to opportunity.

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Together, our organisations are offering support and expertise, to work with governments and authorities, partners and communities, to forge a more sustainable and inclusive transport future.”

Claire Walters, Chief Executive, Bus Users, said: “Public, community and shared transport, alongside and connected with walking and cycling, must be safeguarded, celebrated and developed, to ensure everyone can access sustainable mobility in the future. Evidence shows that this is crucial, for health and wellbeing, community cohesion and resilience, our climate and sustainable development – and for creating the future we all want.”

Jools Townsend, Chief Executive, Community Rail Network, said: “Our organisations are working together to support and empower communities, and advise transport partners and authorities, on COVID-19 recovery and the vital role transport has to play. We want to help pave the way to achieving climate-safe, healthy, inclusive transport for all, which is more important now than ever.”

Stephen Edwards, Director of Policy and Communications, Living Streets, said: “This is about recognising the huge benefits for our communities, our local places and global environments, of reducing private car use, and enabling everyone to get around by healthy, community-minded and environmentally-responsible means. We have a major opportunity at the moment to connect up improvements to walking and cycling with public, shared and community transport, and great gains to be made from this.”

Richard Dilks, Chief Executive, Collaborative Mobility UK, said: “We are asking local, regional, devolved and national governments, and our partners within transport and within communities, to work with us, to make this a reality. We are at a critical point: now is the time to ensure we have our transport priorities right, based on health and wellbeing, our communities and environment, and ensure we take the sustainable and inclusive path forward.”

The joint position statement can be found in full here

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