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'Anti-motorist' Cambridge busway is improving commuters' health, study finds

World's longest guided busway is encouraging cycling - and those with the poorest health are benefitting the most...

A study has found that a hated guided busway in Cambridge is leading to improved health for commuters, with more people cycling to work in the four years it has been in place.    

A team of researchers from Cambridge University used the busway as a 'living laboratory', for a study into its long-term health effects on regular users.

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway connects Cambridge, Huntingdon and St Ives. It is the longest guided busway in the world.

Their study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, followed 469 commuters, assessing changes in their activity before and after the busway opened in 2011.

The commuters who were least active at the start of the study were found to have the greatest positive changes, leading to hopes that similar schemes could improve population health on a wider scale.

Lead researcher Dr Jenna Panter said: "These findings provide new evidence to support changes to our transport systems as part of a public health strategy to support a more active way of life.

"People might naturally think of cycle lanes as part of these changes – but this research suggests that we need to look at the wider infrastructure as well."

Dr David Ogilvie, who led the study, said: "Although redesigning our towns and cities in this way may seem an obvious thing to do, the health benefits of doing this have rarely been tested in practice.

“Ours is one of the few studies to have done this, and it shows an effect of the busway even after taking account of a range of other factors that influence how people travel to work."

In September its user numbers hit 12.5 million, following a steady month-on-month increase.

Nigel Brigham, east of England director at Sustrans, welcomed the study.

He told Cambridge News: "This new research demonstrates once again that when quality cycling and walking routes are built, more people will use them", he said.

"Crucially it has shown that the benefits are felt across society, with the largest effect on physical activity seen in commuters who were least active before the busway opened."    

Transport chiefs claim they are now holding back the tide of cars in Cambridge - but campaigners say the schemes are "anti-motorist", despite an overall increase in traffic while city.

The volume of traffic coming into the city is 15 per cent less than a decade ago and there has been a massive 88 per cent increase in cyclists.

Bob Menzies, director of strategy and development at Cambridgeshire County Council, has told the News the increase in cars is being controlled amid a massive increase in cycling and passengers using the guided busway.

More than 200,000 motor vehicles entered the city limits every day last year – an increase of five per cent after two decades of no increases.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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