Wales gets new walking and cycling strategy while Sustrans targets commuters

Sustrans launches bi-lingual Active Travel toolkit aimed at boosting Welsh cycle commuting

by Tony Farrelly   February 23, 2009  

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Wales gets a new walking and cycling strategy this morning and to coincide with it Sustrans launches a bilingual Active Travel workplace toolkit aimed at helping Welsh employers to improve their health and productivity by walking or cycling to work.

The two events were combined at a launch this morning at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff where the Minister for the Environment and Sustainability Jane Davidson AM and Minister for Transport Ieuan Wyn Jones AM announced the new strategy and chatted to Millennium Centre staff about their daily commutes.

It follows the charity’s support of staff travel plans at the Wales Millennium Centre, which has seen novice cyclists take part in cycle training, team up with more experienced cycling colleagues on their journey to work and buy their own bike in a tax free scheme. Its new pool bike scheme will also be launched today.

Leonie Wallace Head of Visitor Services, who runs the Wales Millennium Centre’s bike user group, said: “It has been fantastic to draw on Sustrans’ expertise on how to encourage people to get to work in an active way.

“Many of our new cyclists would never have considered using a bike to get to work before so it’s great that they are giving it a go and seeing the benefits.

“People have had various motivations - whether it’s fitness, the cost of driving or simply not wanting to get stuck in rush hour traffic.

“Personally, I find it great fun being on a bike and I feel really energised when I arrive at work. The health benefits of cycling to work become so apparent very quickly and it’s easy to get around Cardiff because it’s flat and has plenty of cycle tracks.”

Commenting on the launch of the Welsh Government’s Walking and Cycling stragety, Welsh Transport Minister, Wyn Jones said: “More walking and biking in Wales is a win-win situation on all fronts. It will ease congestion, lower emissions and address growing obesity levels. If levels of activity increase we will have a healthier nation. Surveys show that 57% of adults in Wales are either overweight or obese. We can transform this through making changes to our daily lives.”

Ms Davidson said: “The truth is too many of us still opt to take the car when we could walk or cycle. The car is still king in Wales, with the majority of journeys being less than five miles long. This plan aims to change that. We want to enhance and link up cycle routes on an all-Wales basis and support communities to make a difference. Importantly, we want to change people’s behaviour and attitudes.

“More walking and cycling will mean a healthier Wales, but also be good for the environment. Making more trips by bike or on foot will mean fewer cars on the road, lower carbon emissions and will contribute to our fight against climate change.”

The Sustrans’ toolkit includes evidence of the need for active travel. Currently only 36% of men and 22% of women in Wales get the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. Employers benefit from reduced absenteeism and increased productivity of an active workforce. During 2007, 172 million working days were lost to the British economy due to sickness absence, at a cost of £20 billion to business and the public sector.

The toolkit - which can be ordered or downloaded at www.activetravelcymru.org.uk/toolkit - also shows how other organisations have encouraged staff to travel actively to work including Denbighshire County Council, Singleton Hospital, Cardiff Council, Wales Centre for Health and Flintshire Council.