The Kings’s Fund supports active travel for improved public health

December 12th, 2013 by The King's Fund

The King’s Fund, an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England, has produced the report ‘Improving the Public’s Health‘, which states that investing in the right public health interventions provides an excellent return on investment for local government as well as improving the health and well-being of local communities.

The report identifies nine key areas where human health can be improved.

One of these areas relates to active and safe travel. The report encourages walking and cycling, the introduction of 20-mph speed zones in areas with high accident rates, and the promotion of the ‘Cycle to Work‘ scheme.

(click image to expand - ©RLLord)

PF+A architects in St Peter Port encourage their employees to walk, cycle and car share to work (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

Cycling to work reduces the relative risk of mortality by almost 40% by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and by improving general health, which reduces work absenteeism.

The report cites the UK Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, which stated in 2009 that ‘nearly 80% of car trips under five miles could be replaced by walking, cycling or using public transport.’

The biggest obstacle to getting more people to cycle is the perceive danger and yet more young men die in car accidents than in bicycle accidents.

The report recommends that local authorities work to change the perception of bicycling by promoting the health and cost benefits that outweigh the risk of accidents.

Helena Carter bicycles 20 minutes each way between home and work each day (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Helena Carter, ITV News reporter based in Guernsey, bicycles 20 minutes each way between home and work each day (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

The ‘Improving the Public’s Health‘ report recommends creating safe, attractive and enjoyable local environments, “with roads that prioritise ‘place’ over cars to increase pedestrian use.

The report cites the 2009 UK Cabinet Office report, which states the cost to society of transport-induced poor air quality, ill health and road accidents exceeds £40 billion annually.

The report refers to health experts quoted in The Times that said that if England were to match spending levels on bicycling infrastructure in the Netherlands, the UK NHS could save over £1 billion per year, and for every £1 spent on cycling provision, the health service recoups £4 in reduced health costs, while the economy ‘makes’ £0.35 profit for every mile travelled by bicycle instead of by car.

Jon Snow, Channel 4 News presenter and President of the Cyclists' Touring Club cycles to work at ITN television in London (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Jon Snow, Channel 4 News presenter and President of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, cycles to work at ITN television in London (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

David Buck, Senior Fellow, Public Health and Inequalities at The King’s Fund, said “local authorities have a proud history of meeting crucial public health challenges.”

“As local government councils continue to face the most severe financial challenge in their history, there is a compelling business case for putting public health at the top of the local government agenda,” he said.

 

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