NICE advises local authorities about walking and cycling

From April this year councils in England will be taking on the new role of improving the public health of their communities, and NICE (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has been developing a range of public health briefings to help them with this.

This latest set aims to improve the health of local populations by increasing physical activity through walking and cycling, and through changing unhealthy behaviours.

Nice has raised an article announcing the new briefing.

The briefing itself is also available online. It’s more interesting than it sounds. For example its key recommendations (endorsed by the Department for Transport) are that authorities should:

  • ensure there is a network of paths for walking and cycling between places locally
  • reduce road danger and perception of danger
  • ensure other policies support walking and cycling
  • use local data, communication and evaluation to develop programmes
  • include practical support, information about options (including public transport links to support longer journeys), routes, cycle parking and individual support
  • focus on key settings
  • recognise the health benefits.

It even goes as far as saying “Ensure the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are considered before those of other road users when developing or maintaining streets and roads.”

It also provides the following attributed facts and figures:

  • Department for Transport figures for Great Britain show that more than half (56%) of car journeys are less than 5 miles, and 20% of all trips in 2009 covered less than 1 mile. Transport for London’s analysis of cycling potential estimates that on an average day around 4.3 million trips in London are ‘potentially cyclable’.
  • Bicycles are used for around 2% of journeys in Britain – compared with about 26% in the Netherlands, 19% in Denmark and 5% in France. Cycling as a share of all trips in Freiburg rose from 15% in 1982 to 27% in 2007.
  • The number of cyclists in different local authority areas varies across England. In 10% of areas (32) at least 15% of adults cycle at least once per week. In 30 local authorities (9%), this figure is 5% or less.
  • There is far less variation in walking than in cycling. The proportion of adults who walk at least once a month ranges from 84 to 96%.
  • Walking is reported to be the most common – and cycling the 4th most common – recreational and sporting activity undertaken by adults in Britain. Walking (for any purpose) accounted for between 37 and 45% of the time that women of all ages spent doing moderate or vigorous physical activity, and between 26 and 42% of the time devoted to such activities by men of all ages. The majority (85.8%) of adults claim they can ride a bicycle (around 92.9% of men and 79% of women). However, the average time spent travelling on foot or by bicycle in Britain decreased from 12.9 minutes per day in 1995–97 to 11 minutes per day in 2007.
  • Based on self-reporting, 61% of men and 71% of women in England aged 16 and over did not meet the national recommended levels of physical activity, although there are variations with age, gender and ethnicity. 63% of girls and 72% of boys aged between 2 and 15 report being physically active for 60 minutes or more on 7 days a week (girls’ activity declines after the age of 10). However, objective data suggest this self-reported data is an overestimate. According to a survey based on accelerometry, only 6% of men and 4% of women achieved at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity on at least 5 days. Only 2.5% (5.1% of boys and 0.4% of girls) did more than 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.