The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says cyclists and pedestrians should get priority when new roads are built or when old ones are upgraded. In draft guidelines for planners and local authorities, it suggests reallocating road space, restricting motor vehicle access and introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes.
The Department for Transport told the BBC that it supported such policies, adding that its own guidance "is crystal clear that street design should explicitly consider pedestrians and cyclists first".
NICE says that transport systems and the wider built environment can be improved to encourage greater physical activity.
“Getting people to be more physically active by increasing the amount they walk or cycle has the potential to benefit both the individual and the health system,” said Prof Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE.
“As a society we are facing a looming type 2 diabetes crisis, which is in part caused by people not exercising enough. We need more people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise.
“People can feel less safe when they walk or cycle compared with when they drive. We’ve got to change this. So asking planners to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and those who use public transport when roads are built or upgraded can ensure they are safe, attractive and designed to encourage people to get out from behind their wheel.”
NICE makes a number of recommendations as to how active travel can be prioritised.
It also specifically recommends improving active travel routes to schools and colleges and installing secure cycle parking facilities in public places, on public transport and at public transport stops.
At this point you’re no doubt wondering how they’ve covered this news in the Mail.
Well, the somewhat wordy headline is “Pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers should get priority when new roads are built to help tackle the obesity crisis – not the motorists who paid for them, health watchdog says.”
The newspaper also sees fit to quote Howard Cox of road haulage lobby group FairFuelUK. He managed to deploy the term ‘Lycra army’ in reference to recommendations that mostly focus on pedestrians and bus passengers.
“Yet another stupid out of touch edict,” he frothed. “What planet are these so called experts on? The whole economy depends on road transport. A three-piece suite can't be delivered on a bicycle. Of course roads should be designed to cater for all users, but not by stifling the highest-taxed drivers of cars, vans and trucks in the world, for the sake of the Lycra army.”
Joe Irvin, CEO of Living Streets, said: “For decades our towns and cities have been built to prioritise motor vehicles; resulting in unhealthy air, congested roads and a decline in people walking everyday journeys.
“It’s time that towns and cities were built for everyone – first and foremost for those on foot. Placing key services like schools, GP surgeries and bus stops within walking distance is vital. More people getting out and walking everyday journeys, such as to work or school, will make us a healthier country.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is a courageous move by NICE to challenge sectors outside of healthcare, but one that recognises the need for a society-wide approach to encouraging people to take steps to be more active.”
A public consultation on the draft guidelines will run until February 1.