The Government is being urged to accelerate work to advance active travel take-up on the back of trends seen in lockdown.
Newly published Department for Transport research found the pandemic “had a substantial and potentially sustainable impact on active travel”. Carried out from May-July 2020, the research saw 39% of people report that they walked more and 38% said they cycled more than before the pandemic.
Interestingly, of those who reported that they were walking or cycling more, nearly all (94%) thought that they would continue to do so once travel restrictions were removed.
But Brake has noted that private car use has been back on the rise since restrictions have been lifted and that the opportunity for reforming the way we move may soon be missed.
As such, the road safety charity is now urging 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.”
As well as an increase in active travel, the study also found that 86% of people expressed concerns for their health when thinking about using public modes of transport (e.g. bus, plane, train), compared to 19% regarding private modes (e.g. walking, cycling, private car). Nearly two-thirds of respondents say it is very likely (38%) or fairly likely (27%) that they will avoid using public transport if it is crowded once travel restrictions have been removed.
Harris added: “These figures show that lockdown provided a unique opportunity to change the way we move, for good, with public will seemingly behind reforms. Unfortunately, with private car use increasing since lockdown restrictions were lifted, this opportunity may have been squandered.”
To access the DfT’s National Travel Attitudes Study, click here.