Friday, June 14, 2024

Walking and cycling takes 680,000 cars off Irish streets every day, research shows

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Those questioned told researchers they would walk and cycle more if they had ­better footpaths, places to stop and rest, traffic-free paths through parks and greenways and cycle lanes that were physically separated from traffic and pedestrians

A study for the National Transport Authority (NTA) shows the impact could be much higher because half of those questioned said they wanted to make more trips on foot while a third wanted to use their bikes more often.

They told researchers they would walk and cycle more if they had ­better footpaths, places to stop and rest, traffic-free paths through parks and greenways and cycle lanes that were physically separated from traffic and pedestrians.

The study was carried out by UK ­active travel charity Sustrans.

It looked at Dublin, Cork, ­Limerick, Waterford and Galway for its latest study and found more than half of adults walked five or more days a week but just 15pc cycled at least once a week.

Trips taken on foot, by bike and by wheeling – using mobility scooters or wheelchairs – instead of cars, prevents around 680,000 car journeys daily.

With most cars still running on petrol or diesel, that saves 160,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of around two million people flying from Dublin to London.

The researchers translated the results into health impacts and say they prevent 5,844 long-term health conditions and save the HSE the equivalent of 1.6 million GP appointments.

Active travel also has positive effects on congestion and air pollution and, translated into economic benefits, the researchers put the financial value of swapping car trips for walking, wheeling and cycling at more than €3bn annually.

The report found a high level of support for prioritising government spending on active travel over investment on roads.

Dublin is the city with the greatest proportion of cyclists, with 25pc of those questioned saying they cycled at least once a week, while 71pc walked or wheeled at least five days a week.

That adds up to 530,000 return walking and cycling trips daily by people who could have used a car.

“If these cars were all in a traffic jam, it would tail back 2,500km, equivalent to over nine times the distance from Dublin to Cork,” the NTA said.

Transport Minister and Green ­Party leader Eamon Ryan welcomed the ­research as backing for his promise to spend €1m a day on active travel while in government.

“With the Government’s continued investment in active travel infrastructure, we can help encourage even more people in our cities to choose to walk, wheel or cycle within their communities,” he said. “This gives us the opportunity to also reimagine our cities as safer, cleaner places that are designed around the needs of people, not just cars.”

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