Assembly urged to invest in a sustainable transport future

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans Northern Ireland is calling on the Northern Ireland Assembly to re-direct money earmarked for road-building to get more people walking and cycling, in an effort to curb the province's rising levels of obesity, congestion and social inequality.

In its submission to the Regional Development Committee Inquiry into Sustainable Transport on Thursday, March 18, 2010, the charity is proposing a range of measures to get people travelling in ways that are good for their health and the environment.

This includes proposals for a 10 year project to work with all schools across the

province to get children more active by walking and cycling. By providing a combination of skills training, school travel plans, bike activities and safe routes it is possible to increase levels of active travel amongst children. Previous projects have doubled the numbers of children walking and cycling to and from school. The project would cost around £30m, or under £100 per child over a 10 year period.

Currently some 65% of journeys made in Northern Ireland are under 5 miles and Sustrans believes that the time is right to give people the means to make their short journeys, without using a car. To do this it recommends:

  • Encouraging people to change their travel behaviour by supporting people to travel more sustainably and giving every child and young person the knowledge, skills and confidence to establish the habit of travel by foot and bike early in life.

  • Creating safe, attractive walking and cycling conditions by investing in walking and cycling networks in rural and urban areas and redesigning streets to reduce traffic speeds in built up areas to 20mph or less.

  • Increasing public transport usage by improving, integrating services and reducing fares by introducing a national travel card and providing more demand-responsive transport services to people living in rural and urban areas so that they can choose to travel sustainably.

  • Ensuring that planning policy and practice reduce the need to travel by granting planning permission only where high-quality sustainable transport and restricted parking already exist.

  • Reforming taxation and increase spending on sustainable travel by Investing only in schemes and initiatives that reduce high carbon travel and by introducing work and retail place parking levies with revenues invested in improving environments for walking, cycling and public transport.

Steven Patterson, Director of Sustrans in Northern Ireland : "We are pleased to be contributing to the Assembly's thinking on transport issues. In Northern Ireland 65 per cent of all journeys are less than five miles, a distance easily done by bike, yet

commitment by Government to making this an attractive and safe option is very low.

"Half of households in certain areas of Belfast don't have access to a car and so redefining the way people move around is crucial as the NI Assembly aims to deliver a prosperous, healthy, safe, inclusive Northern Ireland. Local journeys are the key to this and we believe that the Assembly should invest in doubling the number of short journeys made by foot, bike and public transport to four out of five by 2020.

"This inquiry gives us a golden opportunity to completely overhaul the transport system in Northern Ireland and bring in solutions that will save the tax payer money. by cutting the £500m cost of physical inactivity and obesity and reducing congestion levels predicted to cost £250m per year."