Better cycling is a public health issue

We’ve written to the Directors of Public Health in Richmond. We think – and Public Health England agrees – that providing for cycling in our borough is a very important service that we expect our local Public Health representatives to support.

To the Director of Public Health, Richmond upon Thames

Dear Ms Bryden and Ms Raleigh,

It will not have escaped your notice that Public Health England have published a paper  “working together to promote active travel”.

As local cycle campaigners we clearly have an interest in the subject and have been frustrated that some councillors do not seem to be aware of the health implications of failing to prioritise walking and cycling. When we pointed out, for example, that even the Department of Transport advises that 20mph limits make people feel safer when cycling, the response was that they wouldn’t allow transport decisions to be made on health grounds unless their health experts made such a case.

Now Public Heath England has specifically called for Local Authorities to “support 20mph speed limits in residential areas” (p22), we hope that you will make it clear to councillors that public health considerations make it imperative that the council takes effective action, if only because “Evidence suggests that switching active travel for short motor vehicle trips could save £17bn in NHS costs over a 20-year period, with benefits being accrued within 2 years for some conditions.” (p11).

Some of the recommendations on p 22, e.g. the idea of a movement hierarchy,  may be uncomfortable to some Richmond councillors and would be dismissed when coming from an interest group.  We hope that you can make it clear that they represent informed scientific judgement.

As local cycling campaigners we have been trying to promote active travel in Richmond and we would be very happy to cooperate with you to achieve the Public Health England objectives.


Paul Luton

Cycling UK

Richmond Cycling Campaign.


What the paper says …

Key tasks – policies:

  • active travel should be enshrined in transport policies
  • ensure that safe, convenient, inclusive access for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users is maximised and is prioritised over private car use in the movement hierarchy
  • focus on converting short car trips to active travel and public transport
  • ensure that policies and budgets demonstrate how maximising active travel can benefit health, the economy and the environment
  • encourage new developments (and retrofits) to maximise opportunities for active travel with appropriate infrastructure (eg cycle lanes, cycle parking)
  • ensure that travel plans for new developments (including schools) prioritise and support active travel over car transport as part of designing safe and attractive neighbourhoods

Key tasks – implementation:

  • consider how to minimise car parking as a way both to support local economies (eg local high streets) and to promote sustainable modes of transport
  • ensure that new developments don’t adversely affect capacity and safety of surrounding cycling networks
  • support 20mph speed limits in residential areas, and promote road safety in urban and rural settlements to complement school policies on safe and active travel
  • promote local ‘street play’ initiatives
  • ensure monitoring and evaluating the use of travel plans