Walking and cycling should become the norm for short journeys

A plan for co-ordinated action to identify and address the barriers that may be discouraging people from walking and cycling more often or at all

More people should be encouraged to keep fit by incorporating walking and cycling into their everyday lives, in an attempt to tackle declining rates of physical activity in England, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says.

Regular physical activity is key to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as well as being important for good mental health.

However, cycle use is lower in Britain than it is in other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and France.

The average time spent travelling on foot or by bicycle has decreased; in England from 12.9 minutes per day in 1995/97 to 11 minutes per day in 2007.

This latest guidance is aimed at schools, workplaces, local authorities and the NHS to encourage them to promote walking and cycling.

The NICE recommendations include:

  • Co-ordinated action to identify and address the barriers that may be discouraging people from walking and cycling more often or at all.
  • Town-wide programmes should be put in place to promote cycling for both transport and recreational purposes. These could include cycle hire schemes, car-free events or days, providing information such as maps and route signing, activities and campaigns that emphasise the benefits of cycling, fun rides, and others.
  • Walking routes should be integrated with accessible public transport links to support longer journeys. Signage should give details of the distance and/or walking time, in both directions, between public transport facilities and key destinations.
  • School travel plans should be developed and implemented that encourage children to walk or cycle all or part of the way to school, including children with limited mobility, according to the guidance.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, said: “As a nation, we are not physically active enough and this can contribute to a wide range of health problems.

“It is important that there is comprehensive, evidence-based guidance in place that can help address these issues. We want to encourage and enable people to walk and cycle more and weave these forms of travel into everyday life.

“This guidance is aimed at making it easier for people to do this, as well as explaining the benefits and helping to address some of the safety fears that some people may have.”

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