Lockdown shift to sustainable travel at risk
News Article | October 2020
Newly published Department for Transport (DfT) research (May-July 2020) from their National Travel Attitudes Study finds that during the pandemic, overall car use reduced to 1955 levels, with more people choosing to walk and cycle. However, this shift to more sustainable forms of travel is now at risk as more people return to driving cars.
The Government is being urged to prioritise and accelerate work to advance active travel promotion, fresh off the back of trends seen in lockdown, where 39% of people reported that they walked more and 38% said they cycled more than before the pandemic. 94% of those surveyed said that they would continue to walk and/or cycle once the travel restrictions were lifted.
Since travel restrictions were eased, children return to school and life has been encouraged to return to as normal as possible whilst the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Brake, the road safety charity, has noted a significant rise in private car use, fearing that the opportunity for reforming the way we move may soon be missed.
In response to the latest DfT research figures, Brake is applying pressure, pushing the Government to move quicker with planned reforms in the updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns for Brake, said:
“Walking, cycling, and public transport are at the heart of a safe and healthy future for our communities and we must use all the policy and investment levers we can to make these the natural choices for our journeys.”
“The fact that more people walked and cycled during lockdown is welcome, but unsurprising, news – all of us will have seen the joyful sight of roads with fewer cars and more people getting around on foot or by bike, in early summer. The fact that nearly all who said they increased their walking and cycling also planned to continue doing so, after lockdown restrictions were lifted, is significant and must make Government press on with reforms, urgently.”
Louise Elstone, Commercial & Operations Cycling Manager, for TTC Group shared her thoughts on the current situation, urging the Government to do more to help drive strategy at a Local Authority level and to continue investing in active travel initiatives:
“Whilst lock-down saw car usage reduce to 1955 levels, it’s not surprising that when restrictions eased, people quickly returned to the comfort and convenience of their motor vehicles for their commute, weekly shop and school run.”
“No-one would disagree that walking or cycling is better for our economy, health, wellbeing and environment, however our towns and cities are primarily designed around motor vehicles, rendering them unsafe, unattractive and difficult to navigate for pedestrians and cyclists.”
“Creating a cultural shift to more sustainable, healthier and cheaper modes of transport sadly doesn’t happen overnight, requiring a consistent vision and level of investment previously lacking in the UK.”
“The government’s Gear Change published in late July may well prove be the bold vision that’s required to trigger the transformation of our streets and wider behavioural change. However, as we’re still waiting for the establishment of Active Travel England and the appointment of a national cycling and walking commissioner to drive this strategy through Local Authorities, it is unlikely that we’ll see any traction until next year at the very earliest. “