NICE – Transport and physical activity

Planning applications and new developments

Involve all local communities and experts at all stages of the development to ensure the potential for physical activity is maximised.

Ensure planning applications for new developments always prioritise the need for people (including those whose mobility is impaired) to be physically active as a routine part of their daily life. Ensure local facilities and services are easily accessible on foot, by bicycle and by other modes of transport involving physical activity. Ensure children can participate in physically active play.

Assess in advance what impact (both intended and unintended) the proposals are likely to have on physical activity levels. (For example, will local services be accessible on foot, by bicycle or by people whose mobility is impaired?) Make the results publicly available and accessible. Existing impact assessment tools could be used.

Prioritising physically active travel

Ensure pedestrians, cyclists and users of other modes of transport that involve physical activity are given the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads. (This includes people whose mobility is impaired.) Use one or more of the following methods:

  • re-allocate road space to support physically active modes of transport (as an example, this could be achieved by widening pavements and introducing cycle lanes)​
  • restrict motor vehicle access (for example, by closing or narrowing roads to reduce capacity)​
  • introduce road-user charging schemes​
  • introduce traffic-calming schemes to restrict vehicle speeds (using signage and changes to highway design)​
  • create safe routes to schools (for example, by using traffic-calming measures near schools and by creating or improving walking and cycle routes to schools).

Encouraging physically active travel

A national framework for action

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major public health problem. Changes in the risk factors can be brought about by intervening at the population and individual level. Government has addressed – and continues to address – the risk factors at both levels.

Interventions focused on changing an individual's behaviour are important. But changes at the population level could lead to further substantial benefits.

Population-level changes may be achieved in a number of ways but national or regional policy and legislation are particularly powerful levers. See prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The national framework would be established through policy, led by the Department of Health. It would involve government, government agencies, industry and key, non-governmental organisations working together.

The final decision on whether these policy options are adopted – and how they are prioritised – will be determined by government through normal political processes.

Physically active travel

Travel offers an important opportunity to help people become more physically active. However, inactive modes of transport have increasingly dominated in recent years. In England, schemes to encourage people to opt for more physically active forms of travel (such as walking and cycling) are 'patchy'.

Ensure the physical environment encourages people to be physically active. Implement changes where necessary. This includes prioritising the needs of pedestrians and cyclists over motorists when developing or redeveloping highways.

Apportion part of local transport funding to promote walking, cycling and other forms of travel that involve physical activity. The proportion allocated should be in line with growth targets for the use of these modes of transport.

Ensure cycle tracks created under the Cycle Tracks Act 1984 are part of the definitive map (the legal record of public rights of way).

Local transport plans – young people

Children and young people: key themes

  • Promoting the benefits of physical activity and encouraging participation
  • Ensuring high-level strategic policy planning for children and young people supports the physical activity agenda
  • Consultation with, and the active involvement of, children and young people
  • The planning and provision of spaces, facilities and opportunities
  • The need for a skilled workforce
  • Promoting physically active and sustainable travel.

Ensure local transport and school travel plans continue to be fully aligned with other local authority plans which may impact on children and young people's physical activity. Liaise with local partnerships to achieve this.

Ensure local transport plans continue to be developed in conjunction with local authority departments and other agencies that provide spaces and facilities for children and young people to be physically active.

Ensure local transport plans acknowledge any potential impact on opportunities for children and young people to be physically active. Transport plans should aim to increase the number of children and young people who regularly walk, cycle and use other modes of physically active travel. They should make provision for the additional needs of, or support required by, children, young people and their parents or carers with a disability or impaired mobility.

Continue working with schools to develop, implement and promote school travel plans. This may, for example, include: mapping safe routes to school; organising walk and bike to school days and walking buses; organising cycle and road safety training; and helping children to be 'streetwise'.

Identify any aspect of transport policies which discourages children and young people from using modes of travel involving physical activity (such as walking or cycling). For example, policies that aim to keep traffic moving may make it difficult to cross the road. Consider how these policies can be improved to encourage physically active travel.

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