We need our cars and people carriers and vans to do our jobs and make our daily lives work. But if we can cut down on the number of car journeys we make, swap some of our journeys to active travel, or use public transport, we start virtuous circles that benefit our health, our environment and the climate. As well as making streets safer, the benefits of more walking and cycling locally include improved mental and physical health, and reduction in air pollution.
According to government data, transport makes up half of Central Bedfordshire’s annual carbon emissions. And whilst our total carbon emissions have gone down by 20% since 2005, our transport emissions have gone UP by 6% in the same time period. (Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (2020) UK local authority and regional carbon dioxide emissions national statistics: 2005 to 2018.
Every time we choose to leave the car at home, we make a difference to this.
Some car journeys have to be made, but in our small towns and villages, so many of the short trips that we currently drive could be made by walking or cycling. It makes economic sense too! Choosing to walk or cycle to work, or as part of a longer commute, will save fuel, maintenance and parking costs. For some households, in combination with increased home-working, it may enable a reduction in the number of vehicles owned, with resulting financial gains.
We do not exist in a vacuum. We need to travel to nearby towns and villages to take the kids to school, for work, and even pop to the shop in the next village because we just prefer to shop there. We have some truly beautiful countryside and it is great to get out into it. But there are barriers to active travel choices, and to public transport use, which make the car so much easier, and sometimes the only option.
ACCG are engaging with this by talking across our communities and giving a platform to ideas for making active travel choices easier. “Our Active Travel Charter”, which we have circulated to local councils and passed onto CBC, outlines suggestions for actions and investments which we think would encourage more residents to leave the car at home. This is Our Big Vision:
In 5 years, our towns and villages will be quieter and less polluted. But they will also be full of life. More people from all walks of life will be socialising, dining out, and even playing in our streets. We will be walking and cycling for local trips, and only driving when we really need to. And all of us will be happier for it.