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Wed, 21 October 2020

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Connecting cycling and walking with journeys on clean buses and trains

Connecting cycling and walking with journeys on clean buses and trains

Credit: Go-Ahead

Katy Taylor, Chief Strategy and Customer Officer | Go-Ahead

4 min read Partner content

As society comes through the pandemic the opportunity is there to increase fitness and well-being, while building a more sustainable transport system, and better neighbourhoods. 

I consider myself to be an avid runner, walker and cyclist (partly to offset being an enthusiastic chocoholic), and I know how difficult it is to find the time to be physically active  alongside a busy work and home life.

During lockdown being active became even more important as home became my office, my family space and my entertainment.

Back in May, Grant Shapps announced a £2 billion package ‘to create a new era of cycling and walking’ in the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

This reflected the previous £5 billion investment for bus travel and cycling announced in February. The wider target is to have walking and cycling levels doubled by 2025.

In January 2019 Go-Ahead, in partnership with active travel experts RunFriendly and the University of Leeds, published a study examining the health benefits of active travel combined with public transport.

The report found that a short walk or cycle ride to a station can deliver a significant boost in physical and mental health, and that people commuting by bus or train can typically accumulate 20-28 minutes’ physical activity per day.

For those travelling to work this can provide a compelling alternative to a car journey.

Research from Transport Focus shows that customers travelling on our services in recent weeks have found them to be clean, safe and reliable - unsurprising given the enhanced cleaning regimes, contactless payment systems, along with mandatory face coverings that were introduced during lockdown.

Go-Ahead’s bus and rail companies have also been at the forefront of creating more space for social-distancing on our services to keep people safe.

Our apps and websites now give detailed information on how busy services are likely to be - our ‘When2Travel’ feature was introduced in June for bus and Southeastern launched a new ‘Seat Finder’ service in August - all helping people to better plan their journeys.

There is a large body of evidence indicating that the infection risks on public transport are very low compared with other activities.

Increasing confidence in using public transport, while improving its integration with walking, cycling and running, will provide long term health benefits through tackling air pollution and obesity.

Dr Julian Tang, a professor of respiratory sciences at Leicester University spoke to the media about it earlier this month. He said that safety measures imposed on public transport around the world had made them ‘the safest places on earth. He added that if people took the same precautions in other high-risk areas such as crowded streets and pubs, the number of cases would reduce there.

Increasing confidence in using public transport, while improving its integration with walking, cycling and running, will provide long term health benefits through tackling air pollution and obesity. It will help us create towns and cities that are attractive and congestion free.

As part of Go-Ahead’s programme looking at the Future of Transport we recently held a roundtable to agree a set of concrete actions for boosting active travel.

In the report we highlight nine possible interventions that can further encourage ‘combo’ travel. It includes better use of digital wayfinding tools, such as GoJauntly and Active Things. 

Exploring partnerships with leisure clothing retailers to offer deals on active wear, such as free trainers, when you buy a season ticket.

Retail pop-ups could also be placed in train stations and near bus stops to further encourage and explain how people can build activity into their regular work or leisure journeys.

Increasing active travel is an important health aim. But more widely Go-Ahead’s bus and rail companies have also been at the forefront of creating more space for social-distancing on our services to keep people safe.

As society comes through the pandemic the opportunity is there to increase fitness and well-being, while building a more sustainable transport system, and better neighbourhoods. 

It is a big prize and one that we need to begin working towards now.

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