Reported by Ryan Hamnett, MRC-funded CSaP Policy Intern (September - December 2016)
The replacement of driving with active forms of travel, such as walking and cycling, has the capacity to greatly reduce cases of obesity and diabetes in the UK and thus provide myriad health and economic benefits, says Dr David Ogilvie of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at a recent CSaP event.
The discussion, held at Trinity Hall in Cambridge on 18 November as part of a broader Policy Leaders Fellow event on the Future of Cities, brought together academics with some of the most senior policy professionals in the UK, including attendees representing Whitehall and the European Commission.
“Cities are not only their infrastructure, but also the people within them”
Dr Ogilvie’s presentation focused primarily on the benefits that cycling in urban areas could bring to the UK population, which he explained extend far beyond air pollution reductions alone which low carbon cars might equally provide. If physical inactivity were removed as a risk factor for many of the most common conditions currently afflicting the population, then the UK would benefit hugely in terms of years of life gained.
The research presented by Dr Ogilvie highlighted the benefit that the provision of new cycling-friendly infrastructure could provide in terms of increasing the propensity for people to cycle. In particular, government schemes such as ‘Cycling demonstration towns’, Connect2 and the Cambridgeshire guided busway have all resulted in increased cycling, such as by removing barriers to local amenities or providing a safe cycling space.
A discussion followed the presentation which included topics such as cycling in rural areas, noting that one reason for the success of the Cambridgeshire guided busway was due to linking rural areas which previously lacked significant infrastructure, and how technology could assist, for example in the form of fitness apps. The discussion also touched on broader themes such as how to encourage the population to think about their health in later life and ultimately the role government should play in leading versus following public opinion to bring about the best quality of life for its citizens.
(Banner image: Markus Meier via Flickr)