Cycling and walking deserve the highest priority in transport policy and practice. Use of these modes is not only carbon-neutral but reduces traffic congestion; air and noise pollution; danger and injury; and promotes personal health, particularly when tied into the routine of daily life. One might expect that these considerations would be reflected in transport policy and that far more resources at national and local government levels would have been directed to promoting their use and improving the quality and safety of the environment for them.
My research has in fact highlighted the negative effects on cycling and walking of transport and planning policies of the past few decades. These are mainly due to the decline in the quality of the outdoor environment and the increase in danger from traffic volume and speed, vehicle acceleration, and poor enforcement of traffic laws. This has meant that non-motorised road users are now more vulnerable than they were a generation ago and have to exercise more vigilance to reduce the risk of their involvement in what are euphemistically termed ‘accidents’. To this can be added the declining attractions of cycling and walking that have come in the wake of low-density developments, other land use and locational decisions and geographical dispersal increasing distances to preferred destinations for work, shopping, recreation and education beyond those acceptable for pedestrian and cycle travel.
Central issues covered in my research have included the relevance to climate change of the changes in the use of the non-motorised modes, children’s autonomy and development, rising levels of obesity, and the obstacles standing in the way of promoting these modes in order to achieve public-policy objectives in the spheres of transport, personal and community health, and the environment. My work has often highlighted the neglected links between these objectives.
A good example has been my research on cycling and health. To some extent the severe imbalance in the resources allocated to treating illness compared with those provided for preventative public health has been improved by the promotion of diet and exercise, but my research has revealed substantial and insufficiently recognised health and other benefits from the promotion of cycling, not just as a leisure activity but as a primary means of transport in daily life.