The West of England Combined Authority has launched a new public-facing campaign to promote the benefits of cycling and walking to boost health and wellbeing as well as helping to build a cleaner, greener future for the West of England.
Residents in the West of England are being invited to ‘find joy in the journey’ by swapping short car journeys for walking or cycling to help reduce congestion and improve air quality in the region.
It comes as the number of people cycling and walking reached record levels during lockdown and new cycling and walking measures have been put in place to build confidence and enable residents to cycle and walk more easily.
The campaign has been planned in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset Council, Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council as well as many partner organisations across the region.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has agreed £13m of investment in measures to enable cycling and walking in the region. £3m will underwrite the cost of short-term measures such as widened pavements and temporary cycle lanes to help people to maintain social distancing while walking and cycling. A further £10m has been agreed for longer-term solutions to encourage active travel in the region. WECA has recently submitted its second bid to government for active travel and has recently adopted the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure plan.
West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles said: “During lockdown many people have taken advantage of quieter roads to walk or cycle more regularly.
“As more people begin to return to school, college and work we have a real opportunity to capture the positive changes we have seen to improve the physical and mental health of residents, improve air quality and ease congestion across the West of England.
“That’s why I’m encouraging more people to find joy in the journey by swapping a short car journey for walking or cycling whether commuting to work, taking the kids to school or popping to the shops. Not only will walking or cycling boost your mood but it will also help us on the road to a greener future for the region.”
Jon Usher, Head of Partnerships at Sustrans said: “Our research shows that even before the Covid pandemic, a majority of residents in the West of England supported measures to improve walking and cycling on high streets and the restriction of traffic outside schools and on residential streets.
“As schools and workplaces reopen in September we need to take this opportunity to make active travel the obvious choice for all ages and abilities.
“It’s great to see the measures that the West of England Combined Authority and councils in the region have already taken and we fully support the vision for the future.”
Business West’s latest business survey shows that COVID-19 has accelerated many business’ plans to encourage employees to walk and cycle more.
Approximately 54% of the 500 businesses surveyed said they are putting in plans to increase the uptake of cycling amongst employees, with a further 34% saying that they are investing in supporting infrastructure to help store bikes securely.
James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber & Initiative at Business West said: “We are strongly helping support this new campaign as we know there is a growing appetite amongst employers across the city region to encourage employees to travel more sustainably and reduce their impact on the environment, particularly as awareness of climate change only grows.
“In short, it makes sense in economic, environmental and health terms to accelerate what has been happening.
“We are pleased to see new investment led by Mayor Bowles and the West of England Combined Authority into cycling and walking together with this campaign to help us lock in long term the benefits this change will bring. In turn this makes this city region a better, healthier place to live and work.”