Active travel is by no means a new concept, and choosing to walk, cycle or scoot and leaving the car at home is a great way to improve our health and reduce air pollution. Despite its seemingly obvious benefits, many myths surround active travel and prevent some of us from taking the leap from commuting in our cars and choosing more active ways to get to work. Here are five Active Travel myths that need to be debunked.
Myth 1: We can’t cycle in the rain
We live in the UK, and with 800-1400 mm of rainfall every year, we are going to see more than our fair share of wet weather commutes. The thing that puts the majority of commuters off cycling in the rain is the thought of arriving at the office cold and damp and having to deal with wet clothes. It’s not a nice thought, but the reality is that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices.
Want to avoid getting your shirt and trousers wet? You simply need a raincoat and a pair of waterproof trousers to protect you from the elements. If you consider walking in rainy conditions, you can also cycle it and probably reduce your commute time too.
Myth 2: Low Traffic Neighbourhoods cause pollution
Low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTN) have received some bad press in recent times. One of the most common misconceptions is that LTNs increase pollution rather than decrease it. This is because some believe that by closing traffic in one area, we simply push it onto the main roads instead. Resulting in no reduction in vehicle use, just bigger traffic jams.
LTNs exist to promote a behaviour change and encourage pedestrians to walk or cycle for short journeys instead of taking the car. Research shows that 27% of the journeys we take in the UK are under 2 miles, a distance that could be quickly cycled or walked. In London, this percentage increases to 50%, showing a need in the larger cities to promote active travel. If people can be encouraged to cycle a route they would have previously driven, they can cut their travel time compared to taking the longer route in the car.
Myth 3: School Street schemes
School street schemes limit vehicle access to streets outside a school during drop-off and pick-up times. They were introduced to reduce congestion around schools, improve air quality and encourage active travel to school rather than taking the car for the short journey to school.
Despite some initial worries about traffic displacement and local businesses not being able to receive deliveries for a short period each day, the scheme has been well received. It has made school drop-offs safer and calmer, and we are seeing more children getting active and cycling or walking to school.
Myth 4: Cycling isn’t safe
Cycling, like any other form of travel, comes with risks. Cycling accounts for around 6% of road fatalities every year, and of course, many more are injured. Reports have shown that cycling to work is 45% more dangerous than other modes of transport.
However, it’s not all bad news, this is counterbalanced by the fact that those who choose to cycle are at a far lower risk of cancers, heart diseases, and other causes of death and typically live longer, healthier lives.
This information shouldn’t put us off cycling; it should pave the way to creating better infrastructure and safer cycling initiatives to get more of us on our bikes.
Myth 5: Cycling takes longer than driving
If we are talking dual carriageways and motorways, then yes, driving is faster than cycling when traveling the same distance. The tables are turned, however, when it comes to traveling in our bustling towns and cities. We all know during rush hour, getting across town can take a long time in our car, and if there has been an accident or road closure on the route, you could be waiting a while.
Cycling, especially in urban areas, can save you time, as well as money that you save by not burning fuel sitting in traffic.
We firmly believe that these cycling misconceptions need to be addressed if we are to get more people out on their bikes and commuting to work across the UK. Cycling to work or school is one of the healthiest ways to travel and reduce air pollution in your local area.