Remember skipping happily to school, without a care in the world?
Remember cycling to the park with friends, laughing and chatting, without noisy traffic speeding past?
Remember walking down your street, bumping into your neighbour, and stopping for a good catch-up?
We’re not sure we do either: maybe it used to be like this, or maybe these are just scenes from an old TV programme. These days, the reality for many of us is that we step out our front door, go a few metres to the car, and drive, even if we’re only going round the corner. Those of us who walk or cycle usually have to brave busy, noisy streets, full of pollution, fast traffic and risky drivers. Is this the way we want it?
At Brake, we think road safety isn’t just about driving safely and legally or using the green cross code (although they’re important). It’s about making our streets safe and pleasant for everyone to use freely, and it’s about us all doing what we can to protect ourselves, people around us and the planet we depend on. A big part of that is driving less, as little as possible, or not at all if you can: it can make a huge difference to road safety and your health, wallet, community, and the planet.
That’s why this Road Safety Week, we’re encouraging everyone to consider how they use roads, and if they can ditch some driving, and instead walk, cycle or use public transport as much as possible. Work out how much money you’ll save, calories you’ll burn, and pollution you won’t create, and build it into your routine. If you are driving, drive slowly and smoothly, and GO 20 in towns and villages, to protect people on foot and bike and reduce fuel use. And if you’re already a walker, cyclist or public transport user, or wish there were better alternatives to driving in your area, join us in speaking out about active and sustainable travel and safer streets for all, such as by supporting our GO 20 campaign.
Some ways you could get involved and help promote our theme:
- if you’re an employer, you could: set up a scheme encouraging active and sustainable commuting and/or run a car free day for staff; organise a sponsored run or bike ride; run an activity showing how many calories walking and cycling burns; analyse your ‘at-work’ mileage to see if journeys can be reduced or better planned to improve efficiency;
- if you’re a local authority, road safety practitioner, volunteer or community leader, you could: run a car free day for your town, signing up employers and schools to be involved; help local schools and companies run any of the activities suggested above; run a local survey to identify barriers to active and sustainable travel and identify and make improvements; set up a section on your website or send out a special bulletin to local contacts promoting active and sustainable travel options in your area and highlighting cost savings and other benefits;
- if you’re a school or college, you could: run a travel survey, or task students with doing this, to help build a picture of how pupils are getting around; map out safe active travel routes in your area, promote these to students and parents through a display or web page, and communicate any improvements needed to your local authority; run lessons and assemblies that explore the benefits of sustainable and active travel, using ideas in Brake’s teaching guide.
A few facts on why our theme is important
- Two thirds (63%) of trips are made by car1, including four in 10 (40%) trips of less than two miles2.
- Average walking trips per person have decreased by 27% since 19953.
- A quarter of adults in England are obese4 and the cost to the NHS of people being overweight is estimated at £4.2 billion a year5.
- Incorporating activity like walking and cycling into everyday life is effective for losing weight6.
- In 2013 there were 1,770 people killed and 22,377 people seriously injured on UK roads7. The vast majority of casualties are attributable to driver error8.
- Nearly half of households in England could be struggling with the costs of car ownership9.
- On average a family can save £642 a year by swapping a car-based school run for walking or cycling10.
- 22% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from road transport11.
- Air pollution is estimated to cause 24,000 deaths a year in the UK, half attributable to road transport12.
- The number of cars is set to increase by 43% by 2035 and traffic delays by 50%13.
1 Commuting and Business Travel, Department for Transport (2011)
2 National Travel Survey, Department for Transport (2010)
4 Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, Health and Social Care Information Centre (2014)
5 The economic burden of obesity, National Obesity Observatory (2010)
6 Start Active, Stay Active: a Report on Physical Activity from the Four Home Countries’ Chief Medical Officers, Department of Health (2011)
7 Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2013, Department for Transport (2014) and Police Recorded Injury Road Traffic Collision Statistics: 2013 Key Statistics Report, Police Service of Northern Ireland (2014)
8 Dimensions of aberrant driver behaviour, Aberg, L. and Rimmo, P. A., Uppsala University (1998)
9 Locked Out: Transport poverty in England, Sustrans (2012).
10 Estimate by Sustrans based on figures from the AA, DfE school statistics, DfT National Travel Survey, DEFRA & DECC GHG conversion factors and the Bike Station (June 2014)
11 New Car Fuel Consumption & Emission Figures, Vehicle Certification Agency (2013)
12The Cost of Air Pollution, OECD (2014)
13 Keeping the Nation Moving – Time to face the facts, RAC Foundation (2011)