You may have heard the term active travel but not exactly know what is meant by that. Active travel means making journeys by walking or cycling. These are usually short journeys, like walking to the shops, walking the kids to school, cycling to work, or cycling to the station to catch a commuter train.
Kent County Council has written an Active Travel Strategy to encourage Kent residents to take part and do what they can.
Active travel has quite a few benefits:
- improves health
- saves money
- reduces traffic congestion
- increases levels of physical activity
- improves air quality.
Tools To Help You Start Thinking About Active Travel
Explore Kent Town Maps – imagine being able to explore your local town on foot or bicycle and discovering the best of what it has to offer. With Explore Kent’s walking and cycling maps, you can do just that! A large downloadable map shows you all the walking, cycling routes and public transport links so that you can find your way to some of the best things to do in the town, which are also featured.
Kent Connected App – all of our Explore Kent walking and cycling routes are available on the Kent Connected app. As well as an exciting journey planner that empowers you to make smarter travel choices which are healthier for you, kinder to the environment and will save you time and money.
Why not start off small, like walking to the supermarket next time you need a basketful of groceries. Or try walking to a friend’s house who lives in the same town as you. Then try building up your journeys to longer ones, like cycling to walking to work or walking to kids to school along Public Rights of Ways footpaths. We all know the great British weather has a lot to answer for as well when getting outdoors, but if you are prepared with the right shoes and clothing, check the weather then you won’t be caught off guard.
- Cyclescheme an employee benefit that saves you at least 25-39% on a bike or accessories.
Building Your Confidence
Once you have your bike sorted; the next challenge is often one of confidence. Luckily there are several groups that are designed to help you with that, whether it’s women’s only Breeze rides or teaching an adult to ride safely and quickly using the KCC’s cycle training. Also, learn to ride confidently to work, using the beginners guide from Cycling UK, and educate yourself repairing your own bicycle, using the Bicycle Repair Guide from BikeRide.
There are two main problems with trying to actively travel. The first that for those people who want to walk or cycle for short journeys find it hard due to lack of access and safety. The second that others simply have no interest in anything other than driving.
Finding A Way…
The first problem is arguably the harder one to address because it involves a lot of changes. For example to road networks, town layouts, car drivers’ behaviour, facilities in public and private buildings, and possibly the law.
Some people don’t walk their kids to school because they have to cross busy roads or walk down streets with no pavement. Need to go somewhere else straight afterwards, or have to carry musical instruments or sports kit. It’s against the law to cycle on the pavement, meaning a 14-year old who wants to cycle to school is unlikely to. Only a lucky few have a cycle lane from door to door.
Kent isn’t perfect for active travel, but in reality it’s never likely to be. There is significant room for improvement in active travel infrastructure like cycle lanes, pedestrian crossings and signage. People who want to do it will find a way, even if that means fitting it around other things.
Why We Should Try Active Travel
The road network in Kent, especially in and around the towns, was mostly built when there were fewer cars. The number of cars on the road has increased every year since 1950. There are now more cars on the road network than it was designed for. This means more traffic, more congestion at peak times, more gridlock hotspots, and pollution.
The amount of pollution from road transport has actually gone down since 1990. A drive for efficiency in car manufacturers has meant that engines need less fuel for the same journey, and the fuel itself has become cleaner since sulphur was taken out. That said, over one in 20 early deaths in the UK is due to exposure to small particles polluting the air, and a large part of that pollution comes from road transport.
Getting more people walking and cycling will help to tackle all of this. It will need a committed effort from a whole range of people, groups and organisations to get people out of cars and into the habit of walking or cycling for short journeys.