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Study supports reducing traffic volumes and reallocating road space to pedestrians

This story discusses recent research into the negative effects of busy, polluted roads.

Research by  University College London study has found that road traffic cost local communities an estimated £31.9 billion per year, i.e. 1.6% of the Gross Domestic Product, or £631 per person.  

The study highlighted that Britain’s congested roads are affecting millions of people’s lives and health because they act as physical barriers that prevent local journeys by foot, new research has found. Many cannot cross roads, either clogged or made dangerous by speeding traffic; residents are just opting out of what should be quick trips to local shops, friends or amenities.

The researcher in the project found that one billion walking and cycling trips don’t happen every year because people can’t face dealing with their local traffic. They estimate that 135 million of those trips are replaced by car journeys, 90 million by public transport, and 775 million trips are “suppressed – trips that people want to make but end up not making because of the fear and inconvenience of road traffic”, the study has found.

This research is being released when organisations such as Living Streets call on making walking and wheeling more inclusive. Recent work by the organisations demanded that transport strategies, planning and investment, which include walking and wheeling should be designed around the diverse needs of citizens and prioritise marginalised groups. This includes reserving and maintaining pavement space for people walking and wheeling.

Anna Denham, Programme Manager at Get Yourself Active said: 

“It is desperately sad that people are avoiding walking, wheeling, or cycling simply because their local roads are so dangerous. 

We are all aware of the need to reduce car usage and cut emissions to tackle the climate emergency. And that active travel can be a great way to get active. However, many people are left with little choice. If you encounter barriers, such as a lack of dropped kerbs, or dangerously high levels of pollution, you may be more inclined to use your car for short journeys. And if you don’t have access to a car or to good low-cost public transport, you are potentially stuck. 

More needs to be done to ensure that everyone can travel locally safely–and without using a car, if that is an option for them.”

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