Posted: Wed 31st May 2023

Majority in Wales support road space reallocation for walking and cycling, says survey

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

A majority of people in Wales are in favour of reallocating local road space to promote walking and cycling, according to a recent survey by Public Health Wales.

The Time to Talk Public Health panel survey found that 75 per cent of Welsh people are in favour of enhancing walking spaces, while 68 per cent expressed support for improved cycling routes.

As a means to promote healthier living, the findings could be instrumental in driving a more active lifestyle among the Welsh population.

Active travel, defined as physical activity used as transport to destinations like schools, workplaces or shops, is seemingly finding favour with the public.

An encouraging 64 percent of participants expressed interest in increasing their active travel, which includes cycling and walking.

Dr Paul Pilkington, a leading Public Health Consultant at Public Health Wales, highlighted the far-reaching benefits of active travel.

He said, “Individually it boosts physical and mental health. Collectively, it reduces the demand on our health service of treating many preventable illnesses, and contributes to reductions in traffic congestion, cleaner air, and fewer road traffic collisions.”

Safety concerns were identified as a barrier by 30 per cent of those surveyed, and 27 per cent mentioned a lack of facilities as reason against active travel.

In response to such concerns, the Welsh Government has introduced 20mph speed limits across Wales, supporting safer active travel.

Progress has been made across Wales in recent years to promote active travel.

Notable schemes include the traffic-free route being developed between Llandudno and Betws-y-Coed by Conwy County Borough Council and the repurposing of a disused railway line to create a traffic-free path connecting Carmarthen and Llandeilo, known as the Tywi Valley Path.

In addition, Cardiff Council has converted some road space into cycle lanes.

Yet, despite these efforts, Public Health Wales recognises more work is required.

The Active Travel Wales Act, passed in 2013, set the ambitious goal of promoting active travel, but its full potential is yet to be achieved.

A large majority of people in Wales see the benefits of active travel, citing improved physical health (73 per cent), mental health and well-being (60 per cent), and savings on fuel costs (40 per cent) as reasons for choosing this mode of transport.

Josh James, Public Affairs Manager for Living Streets Cymru, commented on the survey’s results, stating, “The news that a vast majority of people support improvements for walking, wheeling and cycling should give bodies across Wales the green light to start reclaiming spaces for people, not vehicles.”

Active travel can contribute significantly to meeting the four UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMOs) physical activity guidelines, which recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Unfortunately, awareness of these guidelines is still relatively low.

While 32 per cent of survey respondents knew about the recommendation, a further 40 per cent had a vague idea and 65 per cent hadn’t heard of the recommendation for muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.

Dr Catherine Sharp, Public Health Researcher leading the Panel on behalf of Public Health Wales, shared that this is the first national data to be collected in Wales on the awareness levels of the CMOs’ physical activity guidelines since their update in 2019.

“This information shows how the Time to Talk Public Health panel can provide important and timely insight on public health issues to inform action,” she said.

The findings of the survey are based on responses from 1,051 panel members, all Welsh residents aged 16 and above.

They were asked their views on a range of health-related topics, such as physical activity, active travel, menopause, climate change, and shingles. The survey was conducted in April 2023.

These findings could provide valuable insight for policy makers, urban planners, and health advocates alike as Wales continues its drive towards healthier, more sustainable modes of travel.

As support for active travel grows, the nation looks set to embrace the challenge of promoting healthier lifestyles while also working towards environmental sustainability.

Flintshire Active Travel Maps can be found here: https://www.flintshire.gov.uk/en/Resident/Streetscene/Active-Travel-Existing-Route-Map.aspx

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