More than 12,000 premature deaths and close to £10bn would be saved over 10 years if England and Scotland reached their walking and cycling goals, a transport charity claims.
Charity Sustrans has released what it called a ‘first of its kind’ model to measure air quality benefits from cutting vehicle emissions by shifting to walking or cycling, and the changes in personal exposure to air pollution.
It claims meeting targets in England’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to double journeys by bike and increase walking by 300 stages per person would prevent more than 8,300 premature deaths from air pollution and would result in £5.67bn in benefits to the public purse over 10 years.
Realising the target of 10% of everyday journeys by bike set out in Scotland’s Cycling Action Plan would avoid nearly 4,000 premature deaths over a decade and accrue £3.64bn of savings, the charity said.
Sustrans CEO Xavier Brice said: ‘The new findings reiterate that walking and cycling has a huge role to play in tackling the air quality crisis that causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year. If we are to make a major modal shift, we need to provide a network of direct protected cycle routes on roads in addition to quieter routes across the UK.
‘We’re urging governments at all levels to include funding for walking and cycling infrastructure in their Clean Air Plans and the UK Government to prioritise investment in active travel as part of wider urgent action to make air safe again.’
Sustrans said the model, developed in partnership with environmental consultancy Eunomia, aims to support local authorities in making the case for investment in walking and cycling and estimates the contribution of active travel in reducing air pollution and the subsequent benefits to public health.