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What is active travel?

What is active travel

Active travel means getting about in a way that makes you physically active, like walking or cycling. It usually means short journeys, like walking to the shops or local school, cycling to work or to see friends and family, or cycling to the train station. Many journeys people make using cars are under 5 miles, so there’s real potential to swap the car for walking and cycling.

Encouraging more active travel has become a really important priority for cities as it brings lots of benefits – in terms of improved public health and air quality, increased road safety, better street life, and reduced carbon emissions.

Covid and active travel

There’s been recent attention on promoting active travel during the COVID-19 lockdown and now as part of COVID-19 recovery plans. During lockdown many people turned to active travel, especially walking and cycling for local exercise and shopping. Now as we come out of lockdown and public transport is limited to essential journeys only, active travel is seen as a better way to keep people moving in a way that can improve public health, and avoid gridlock, poorer air pollution and rising carbon emissions.

To do this, in May 20020, the UK Government launched an emergency travel fund to promote active travel as part of its COVID recovery plans.

What’s happening in Leeds?

Leeds City Council has had a long standing ambition to promote active travel. During the lockdown it started to use a platform called Common Place to gather ideas on active travel improvements across the city. The platform is still open for further input, so feel free to add further comments. The Create Streets social enterprise also created a similar map and the results of this informed the wider council led consultation.

Leeds, like many local authorities across the UK, is applying to the Government’s Emergency Travel Fund for a whole range of initiatives to support its Connecting Leeds COVID-19 Transport Response. These include:

  • School Streets Programme - closing selected roads around schools to create safe places, especially important so schools can operated social distancing
  • Pavement Widening – to allow people to practice safe social distancing near shops and neighbourhood centres
  • Cycle lanes – using trial infrastructure such as orca wands to quickly establish protected cycle lanes
  • Active Travel neighbourhoods – closing and filtering residential streets to create safer home zones and m ore opportunities for walking and cycling

Lower speed limits are also a key part of creating safer roads that will promote active travel. Leeds has a programme to roll out 20mph speed limits across the city, and has done so recently on many city centre streets.

The Leeds Emergency Active Travel Group is working with Leeds City Council to inform and support implementations as part of the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund. The aim is to learn, amplify and maximise this opportunity to make active travel an everyday reality for as many people as possible.

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