Data breakthrough for active travel policy sector

A breakthrough tool that provides unique analysis of localised data on public behaviours and attitudes towards walking and cycling, has launched this week at the Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index Summit in Manchester.

The Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index Data Tool will provide expert insight to policy makers in local and national government, campaigners, researchers and the general public.

The walking and cycling charity has been capturing data since 2014, which it releases every two years as the Walking and Cycling Index (formerly Bike Life). This includes an independent representative survey of adult residents, covering travel attitudes and behaviours.

Now, thanks to a partnership with software design agency B Team, data from 2019 and 2021 can be easily compared, segmented and analysed, through a new Index Data Tool for use in research, policy and planning.

Tim Burns, Head of Policy at Sustrans, said: “The Sustrans Index Data Tool will provide vital data to policy makers across the UK and Ireland, to inform developments in walking and cycling to spark economic and social opportunities that boost public health and our net zero hopes.

“At a time when it’s more important than ever to make the case for alternative and sustainable forms of transport, the Sustrans Index Data Tool will clarify for everyone that opportunity to walk, wheel and cycle remains highly in-demand across the UK.”

The Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index collects data on public behaviours and attitudes towards walking and cycling, which is used to underpin transport strategy and plans, support investment and to define and measure impacts and outcomes.

Up until now, Sustrans has only published summaries of the data. This tool will help policy makers understand trends, compare places and importantly shine a light on what disadvantaged communities think, including women, disabled people and people of colour.

Index data has been used by the UK Government, Transport Scotland, the Republic of Ireland Government, transport and town planners, cycling advisors, placemaking project managers and sustainability and carbon reduction leads from City and Borough councils.

Through the Sustrans Index Data Tool, multiple demographic filters can be applied, allowing data to be segmented and compared by age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic group, socio-economic group, city and member authorities.

Index data has been of national interest across the years, revealing the demand for active travel infrastructure in cities and communities.

The Data Tool will be a crucial resource for the transport and placemaking sectors, as well as local authorities and government, following active travel funding cuts in England by the Department for Transport.

It would be welcome to many, in the light of a recent National Audit Office report criticising the active travel sector on evaluation of outcomes and impact – on which the Data Tool can provide localised insight.

Index data is continually updated, and regularly broadened in scope, as a source for policy making. Later this year Sustrans will be adding to the Data Tool, including city data such as cycle infrastructure and whether people live within walking distance of everyday services.

The Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index (2021) revealed:

  • That just 56% of disabled people and 55% of residents on low incomes feel welcome when walking and wheeling in their neighbourhood, with only 52% of people believing it’s safe for children to walk in their local area.
  • The astonishing £36.5 billion value of active travel to the UK economy in 2021, extrapolated from specific economic benefits within the Index cities.
  • The Index found people on low incomes want greater investment in walking (58%) and cycling (50%), than in driving (36%). 

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