The European Commission estimates that poor air quality accounts for 420,000 premature deaths and that the transportation sector accounts for close to 40% of European greenhouse gas emissions.
Research concludes that reduction in car use can improve air pollution by decreasing emissions of Nitrogen Oxides, Volatile Organic Compounds and particulate matter, as well as exposure to these emissions.
The number of trips of the average urban inhabitant per year has grown steadily in recent years – but we are actually moving (our bodies) less. Every day, millions of trips are made by car or other motorised private vehicles as well as with public transport, while only a small percentage of trips are made by active transport modes, such as walking and cycling. Many people even talk about our sedentary lifestyles as an epidemic because the resulting negative impacts on our health and quality of life has reached unprecedented levels.
A sedentary lifestyle is a primary risk factor of non–communicable diseases (NCD) in Western Countries. According to a survey (the Special Eurobarometer 412 “Sport and physical activity”. European Commission) conducted in 2013 in the 28 Member States of the EU, 44% of Europeans did not meet the 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Moreover, one in eight European citizens (13%) say they did not walk for ten minutes at a time on any day during the previous week. This lack of physical activity can cause major health problems for individuals and great economic costs for society as a whole (For more information see the Global health risks. Geneva, World Health Organisation, 2009).
These negative trends can be reversed: A new urban mobility culture is blooming. Most cities aspire to create more people-friendly places to encourage walking and cycling by establishing new services to cater for pedestrians (i.e. wayfinding, real time multimodal information, shared and multi-modal mobility solutions) and by designing suitable infrastructure to make walking and cycling safer and more comfortable.
Moving around by foot and on a bicycle is becoming easier, safer and more enjoyable. Besides that, increasing the share of walking and cycling and reducing car traffic leads to a higher quality of life in cities and is an important contribution to reduce GHG-emissions and primary energy consumption.
The EU funded SWITCH project wants to contribute to this positive change by helping planning and transport practitioners to conduct professionally organised campaigns with the aim to get people to “switch” short urban car journeys to walking and cycling. These “active modes” are not only inherently good for the environment and people’s health; in most cases, they also produce synergies with public transport, whose operators are therefore mostly supportive of such campaigns.
Switching from using cars to walking and cycling for short urban trips provides many benefits to both the individual and society. To help make the case to Switch more here are some useful facts on the benefits to health, travel and the economy:
ECF calculate that the internal and external benefits of cycling, combined with the turnover of related industries, creates an annual economic benefit to the European Union in excess of € 200bn. This equates to more than € 400 for every person that lives in the EU.
The biggest single economic benefit by far is health, with over € 110 bn annually. More....
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality and causes 6% of all deaths. Physical activity is a vital part of maintaining health but few of us are able to maintain the currently World Health Organisation recommended level of activity of 150 minutes per week. People who are most likely to meet these recommendations do so because much of their daily activity comes from active travel.
Walking and cycling regularly is healthy, strengthens the immune system and prevents illnesses. Walking is the most natural type of human movement and can be easily integrated in daily routines. Cycling, though it requires equipment, is also relatively easy to take up for most people. In contrast to sports or exercise, active travel requires less time and motivation and provides both convenience as a mode of transport and exercise that is affordable and accessible. Whether it’s a short outdoor trip, shopping around the corner, a longer look around the city or the daily trip to work – every step or wheel turn counts and strengthens both the physical and psychological well-being.
Health and a desire to increase activity levels can therefore be a significant factor in influencing people’s choice to Switch from car use. Health practitioners promoting physical activity can help to promote active travel as part of their recommendations to patients. Some reasons why walking and cycling is good for health:
Causes the release of happiness hormones
Improves the health of hearts
Reduces stress and fatigue
Strengthens the muscular system
Strengthens the immune system
Lowers high blood pressure
Reduces ravenous appetite
Relieves joint and back pain
Minimizes the risk of several types of cancer
Helps against fear and depressions
Lower the risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease
Trains the sense of balance
Improves digestion and metabolism
With regular average physical activity, a woman wins 1,5 healthy life years and a man 1,4 years. More...