Meet walking & cycling targets to prevent thousands of premature deaths, says Sustrans

More than 12,000 premature deaths from air pollution would be prevented if England and Scotland reached their official goals to get more people to walk and cycle over the next ten years.

Sustrans, in partnership with environmental consultancy Eunomia, has released a first of its kind model to measure air quality benefits from both: reducing motor emissions due to shifting to walking or cycling, and the changes in personal exposure to air pollution.

cycle pathThe model aims to support local authorities in making the case for investment in walking and cycling and estimates the contribution of active travel in reducing air pollution and the benefits to public health.

It found that if the targets in England's Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy were met, this would prevent more than 8,300 premature deaths from air pollution and would result in £5.67 billion in benefits to the public purse over ten years.

Additionally, if the goal of 10% of everyday journeys by bike set out in Scotland's Cycling Action Plan was to be met, nearly 4,000 premature deaths would be avoided and £3.64 billion of savings would be made over a decade.
Ann Ballinger, lead modeller and air quality expert at Eunomia said "This innovative model could be of considerable value in supporting local authorities and government, as these bodies consider options to tackle the air pollution emergency at a local level."

Xavier Brice, CEO for Sustrans, said "At a time when road transport is responsible for the majority of air quality limit breaches in the UK, it has never been more important to reduce the number of motorised vehicles on our roads.
"The new findings reiterate that walking and cycling has a huge role to play in tackling the air quality crisis that causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year. If we are to make a major modal shift, we need to provide a network of direct protected cycle routes on roads in addition to quieter routes across the UK.

"We're urging governments at all levels to include funding for walking and cycling infrastructure in their Clean Air Plans and the UK Government to prioritise investment in active travel as part of wider urgent action to make air safe again."

Ballinger continued "This is the first time that Sustrans' data has been used alongside public health data to understand what impacts walking and cycling schemes have on an individual's exposure to air pollution.

"Our analysis suggests investment in cycling and walking has considerable potential to improve local air pollution. We believe this innovative model could be of considerable value in supporting local authorities and government, as these bodies consider options to tackle the air pollution emergency at a local level."

For further information about the new model and the accompanying research Air Quality Benefits of Active Travel go to: www.sustrans.org.uk/airquality.

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