During the first 100 days of Franklin D Roosevelt’s presidency in 1934, fifteen new pieces of legislation were passed through congress.
To tackle two of the top four most important issues facing the new occupant of 10 Downing Street – the economy and the NHS – Living Streets is calling for just one piece of legislation: An Active Travel Bill for England.
Physical inactivity is the second biggest threat to public health after smoking. The estimated cost to the NHS of elevated body mass index (BMI) is predicted to rise to £27 billion by the time of the general election. Making our towns and city centres safe and walking friendly, makes a walk to work or the shops a more attractive option than the expense and stress of driving the car.
Of course the habits of a sedentary lifestyle are often formed in childhood. Only 48% of children now walk to school, while one in three leave primary school overweight or obese. A national action plan for sustainable school travel to tackle inconsiderate parking, speeding traffic and other barriers to walking to school, would not only keep our children healthier today, but reduce their risk of chronic conditions in the future. Importantly, councils need to be given the transport freedoms and powers to promote active travel and make walking more attractive.
Also, consider that 23% of vehicles on the road at peak times are on the school run, then it’s clear that low cost interventions like this keep our children healthy, but also reduce carbon emissions, pollution levels and the negative economic impact of traffic congestion.
Increasing a public presence on our streets not only makes them safer, but also makes them more economically viable. People on foot linger for longer and spend more; in fact investment in the public realm can boost high street trading by up to 40%. In fact in 2011, walkers spent £147 more per month in London town centres than those travelling by car.
In short, if we make it safer and easier for people walk, we all move more, we spend more, we live better, we keep well and the NHS spends less. All easily achievable in 100 days.