Myths about investment in walking and cycling busted by research reports

There are many misconceptions about investment in walking and cycling. New research by Sustrans uncovers the truth behind some common myths, by examining the mounting body of evidence showing the many health, environmental and economic benefits of walking and cycling.

Investment reports

Best foot forward

Best foot forward: Exploring the barriers and enablers to active travel among 50-70 year olds – Centre for Ageing Better – Oct 2021

This report summarises the findings of our work on active travel and, for the first time, sets out the factors that govern active travel behaviours in people aged 50 to 70.

We commissioned a team led by Sustrans to carry out this research project, comprising a review of the existing evidence base as well as primary qualitative research with 50 individuals in this age cohort to fill gaps identified in the evidence. This report summarises the findings of the work and sets out the factors that govern active travel behaviours in people aged 50 to 70 across the UK.

The research finds that these factors are wide-ranging and include things such as infrastructure; confidence; having suitable role models; and enjoyment of the outdoors. These disparate factors must be addressed by adopting a whole-systems approach in order to achieve real change in people’s travel habits. Action is needed from national and local government, service providers and health systems to get people moving.

Better walking and cycling infrastructure crucial to keeping over 50s healthy

Read More: full report 


Compendium of WHO and other UN guidance on health and environment – WHO – Sept 2021

This compendium provides a systematic compilation of published guidance from WHO and other UN organizations on health and environment. Guidance on policies and actions as well as awareness raising and capacity building interventions is presented for all major areas of health and environment. Guidance referring to priority settings for action such as cities and other urban settlements, housing, workplaces and health care facilities is also listed

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Active Travel and Mid-life

Active travel and mid-life – Understanding the barriers and enablers to active travel – Centre for Ageing  Better & Sustrans

Walking and cycling ‘not safe or attractive enough’ for many in their 50s and 60s New report finds that lack of cycle and footpaths, personal safety concerns, and declining health are key barriers to people in their 50s and 60s walking or cycling as a means of travel.

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low carbon freight

The promise of low-carbon freight, the benefits of cargo bikes in London – Ersilia Verlinghieri, Irena Itova, Nicolas Collignon, Rachel Aldred- Possible, Active Travel Academy, KR Foundation – August 2021

Cargo bikes, having become popular in several cities, can provide an alternative to the current damaging freight transport model which is increasingly relying on delivery vans. This report provides a study of the logistics potential of cargo bikes for urban deliveries. Using GPS data, we compare routes taken by Pedal Me cargo bikes in London with routes that vans would have to take to deliver the same parcels.

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CCA review 2021

Cycle City Ambition programme: 2013 to 2018 evaluation Evaluation of the Cycle City Ambition programme between 2013 and 2018. – Lynn Sloman, Sam Dennis, Lisa Hopkinson, Anna Goodman,
Kristine Farla, Beth Hiblin, Jay Turner – For DfT – March 2019

Through the Cycle City Ambition (CCA) Programme, the Department for Transport provided £191 million in capital grants to eight cities between 2013 and 2018. The evaluation of the CCA Programme focussed on 14 schemes in the eight cities comprising between a quarter and two-thirds of the DfT grant. The schemes included ‘cycle superhighways’; ‘mixed strategic cycle routes’ that combine quiet roads, paths through green space, lightly-segregated paths and unsegregated cycle lanes; citycentre schemes; improvements to canal towpaths; and a junction treatment.

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Tfl Freight plan

Freight and servicing action plan Making London’s streets safer, cleaner and more efficient – TfL – March 2019

Cycle freight Research we commissioned in 2017 found that up to 14 per cent of vans could be replaced by cycle freight by 2025 in areas where LGVs contribute to more than 60 per cent of traffic. It also shows that cycle freight can be quieter, achieve more reliable journey times and reduce congestion. The research identifies parcels, post, couriers and retail/wholesale sectors as having a high potential for uptake for cycle freight. Replacing one 7.5 tonne HGV with cycle freight in central London could save 9.8 tonnes of CO2 emissions and at least 7.4kg NOX and 60g PM per year.

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The Birmingham Clean Air Zone will help poorer communities  – Possible – July 2021

The Birmingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ) launched in June 2021. It aims to deter the most polluting vehicles from driving through the most polluted areas of the city. If you drive a non-compliant vehicle within the zone, you have to pay a charge.

Some people have claimed that the Clean Air Zone is a “tax on the poor” so we went off to investigate and found that, in reality, that’s just not true – in fact, the CAZ will benefit people living in poorer communities, while the polluters who pay are mainly from richer communities.

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Research for Active Travel

The CCC’s annual assessment of UK progress in reducing emissions and biennial assessment of progress in adapting to climate change – Climate Change Committee – June 2021

This double report – Progress in reducing emissions and Progress in adapting to climate change provides a comprehensive overview of the UK Government’s progress to date on reducing emissions and adapting to climate change. Together, the assessment offers more than 200 policy recommendations covering every part of Government.

Read More – Progress in reducing emissions 2021 Report to Parliament

Read More – Progress in adapating to climate change  2021 Report to Parliament

Read More – Joint recommendations  2021 Report to Parliament

Allabord Ippr

All aboard: A plan for fairly decarbonising how people travel – Institute for Public Policy Research -Stephen Frost, Becca Massey-Chase Luke Murphy – June 2021

Within this report we outline a vision for a transport system that is fair to all, works to improve people’s health and wellbeing and provides a better environment for nature.

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Quietway Route 2 cycle tour led ride

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: what is the evidence from the mini-Holland interventions? – Rachealdred.org – Sept 2020

Summary: we are sharing a pre-print of analysis specifically looking at LTNs within Outer London’s mini-Holland schemes. Although the ‘LTN area’ sample size is small (most intervention areas weren’t LTNs) and uncertainty about effect sizes is large, we find consistent evidence about their direction. LTNs have reduced residents’ car ownership and/or use, and the already demonstrated increase in active travel from mini-Holland schemes is higher in LTNs.

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Full Paper


Cycling for Everyone  a guide for inclusive cycling in cities and towns – Sustrans, Arup – July 2020

We’ve teamed up with ARUP to create a guide to support people in local government and the transport sector to make cycling a more inclusive activity for everyone.  With the right political will, investment and knowledge cycling can help people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, abilities and genders.

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Full report


Does ridesharing really reduce urban congestion? – Intelligent Transport – April 2021

A study conducted by researchers in Singapore as well as the US claims ridesharing is contributing to urban congestion, rather than alleviating it.

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Original report

Age Friendly Tyburn

How to create a successful age friendly neighbourhood – Sustrans – March 2021

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, our Age-friendly Tyburn project has helped to transform this part of Birmingham. And older people can now safely walk, wheel, cycle and access public transport more easily. Today we’ve launched a report filled with evidence and recommendations to help local authorities replicate this project across the UK.

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Full report

the case for CAZ

The Case for Clean Air Zones – The Green Alliance – March 2021

Green Alliance report on the case for Clean Air Zones, demonstrating how clean air zones implemented alongside other local transport improvements can meet air pollution and climate targets and improve community wellbeing.

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Travel adaptations during COVID-19 and where next? – CREDS – March 2021

Institute for Transport Studies briefing note on how people’s travel patterns have adapted over time and why, calling for realignment of investment and policy towards more sustainable means.

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Introductory Guide to the 20 Minute Neighbourhood – TCPA – March 2021

Introductory guidance on the 20-minute neighbourhood including sets of principles with case studies.

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The Conversation

Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities – The Conversation – March 2021

Globally, only one in 50 new cars were fully electric in 2020, and one in 14 in the UK. Sounds impressive, but even if all new cars were electric now, it would still take 15-20 years to replace the world’s fossil fuel car fleet.

One way to reduce transport emissions relatively quickly, and potentially globally, is to swap cars for cycling, e-biking and walking – active travel, as it’s called.

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Journal for T&H

Family income matters! Tracking of habitual car use for school journeys and associations with overweight/obesity in UK youth – Journal of Transport & Health –
Volume 20, March 2021, 100979

Car use for school journeys in early childhood is positively associated with car use for school journeys in later childhood and adolescence. Children living in the highest income households have the lowest rates of overweight/obesity, and there is an income gradient to habitual car use for school journeys. Habitual car use for school journeys through childhood and into adolescence is not positively associated with overweight/obesity in adolescence.

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ITF reversing car dependency

Reversing Car Dependency: Summary and Conclusions – International Transport Forum –  March 2021

Managing the growth of urban traffic is vital for improving the liveability of our cities. This report examines
how governments can encourage citizens to use alternatives to private cars in order to reduce
car-dependency, regardless of how they are powered or who drives them. I

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School Streets evaluation – Transport for London-  March 2021

The research found that support for School Streets was high at schools with and without School Streets. Both School Streets and the coronavirus pandemic encouraged fewer car journeys to school and more walking and cycling. Also, parents/carers from schools with School Streets reported higher satisfaction with the environment outside the school, greater ease and safety of active travel, and reduced concern about air quality compared to parents/carers from control schools.

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Community Funding Walking

London School Streets Air Quality Monitoring Study – AQC for Greater London Authority-  March 2021

Closing roads around schools at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced air pollution by 23% in London.
Pollution sensors installed at 18 primary schools across Brent, Enfield and Lambeth found the School Streets scheme is successfully reducing nitrogen dioxide levels.

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How transport offers a route to better health – Nadya Mihaylova- The Health Foundation – February 2021

This long read examines the challenges of shifting towards a transport system that better supports health. It sets out how transport affects health, the difficulties in moving towards greater use of public transport and the effects of COVID-19 on travel patterns.

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Information about walkers and cyclists

Equity in new active travel infrastructure: a spatial analysis of London’s new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods Rachel Aldred, Ersilia Verlinghieri, Megan Sharkey, Irena Itova, and Anna Goodman – Pre-print of article currently (February 2021) under peer review

  • Article examines equity of new Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) implementation in London, UK, March-September 2020.
  • Across London, people in deprived areas were much more likely to live in a new LTN than people in less deprived areas.
  • Across London, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people were slightly more likely to live in a new LTN than White people.
  • Individual districts varied widely: more deprived or BAME people were more likely to live in an LTN in some districts, less likely in others.
  • At the micro-level, LTN residents were demographically similar to neighbours in immediately adjacent areas.

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What kills most on the roads? – PACTS – November 2020

This analysis by PACTS, of road deaths in Great Britain in 2019, shows the danger associated
with different modes of transport and the total deaths involved with travel by each mode.
This gives a different picture. It shows that, by distance travelled, vans and light goods
vehicles, followed by HGVs, have the highest rate of deaths of other road users.

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pave trhe way

Pave the Way – Transport for All – January 2021

This report presents the findings from our six months of indepth research into the impacts of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on disabled people. It starts with an introduction to the topic, followed by a chapter on the methods we used and then chapters discussing our findings. We finish by presenting our recommendations and solutions

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Quietway Route 2 cycle tour led ride

A guide to the evidence around low traffic neighbourhoods – Sustrans – January 2021

Understanding the evidence on the impact of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) on cities and communities is an important part of their successful delivery. This page provides a handy reference list of existing research on low-traffic neighbourhoods to meet the evidence needs of any practitioners implementing them.

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economic benefits of cycle tourism

Economic Benefits of Cycle Tourism – Cycling UK June 2020

“Cycle tourism makes a significant contribution to the UK
economy, with particular benefits for small businesses in
rural areas. Places that have taken steps to attract cyclists
by developing great routes and facilities have seen the
benefits first-hand.”

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future of transport

Future of transport – user study DfT Nov 2020

The primary aim of this study was to identify consumer characteristics, motivations and barriers associated with the uptake of different new and emerging transport technologies in the UK.


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Role of healthy transport in providing a healthy future for young people

The Role of Transport in Providing a Healthy Future For Young People – October 2019

Transport decision-making and active travel have a fundamental role in supporting the long-term health of young people. – Sustrans and Centre for Transport and Society


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Wider determinets

Public Health England Wider determinants tool – December 2020

Updates to PHE Wider determinants tool includes an update of these 2 indicators: percentage of adults walking for travel at least 3 days a week; percentage of adults cycling for travel at least 3 days a week. Data is searchable by disability, ethnicity, socioeconominc class, age and gender.


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Schools Streets evidence review

School Streets Literature Review – August 2020

A review of the evidence around school streets (timed road closures in front of schools) finds that school streets create space for active travel without causing issues to traffic flow – Edinburgh Napier University, Sustrans, Road Safety Trust


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Fit for Life

Fit for Life

Sustrans report on the 2009 – 2013 Connect 2 programme evaluating when and how walking and cycling infrastructure can have an impact on people’s physical activity.


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Living Streets school run

Swap the school run for a school walk

A Living Streets report, with evidence for and recommendations, on how to get more children walking to school


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Cycling and walking investment strategy: active travel investment models

This paper summarises the structure and underlying evidence and assumptions of three Active Travel Investment Models, for cycling, walking and walking to school, which have been created by Transport for Quality of Life and the Arup Aecom consortium for the Department for Transport.

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Cycling and walking evidence review – October 2019

A list of cycling and walking investments between 2004 – 2019 and their impacts in terms of outputs and outcomes

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High streets

Healthy High Streets – PHE – January 2018

Healthy High Streets: good place making in an urban setting
Information for local decision makers examining how high streets are used as an asset to improve the overall health of local communities

Full Report 

Practice resource summary


Bike Life Report

Inspired by the Copenhagen Bicycle Account, Bike Life is the biggest assessment of cycling in cities and urban areas across the UK and Ireland.

Each city report looks at infrastructure, travel behaviour, the impact of cycling, and new initiatives.

Since first reports produced in 2015, Bike Life has informed policy decisions, justified investment and enabled cities to develop more ambitious action plans for cycling.

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Sport England Active Travel

Active Travel & Physical Activity – Evidence Review

Sports England’ evidence review finds that active travel infrastructure effectively increases walking, cycling and physical activity.

Read More – summary

Read More – full report

sport england

Active Travel & Physical Activity – Evidence from the people and places survey

Sports England’ evidence review finds:

• Increased active travel was not concentrated among the already active. The trend runs the other way (although it is not always statistically significant).
• In other words, people who were less active (in terms of active travel, and physical activity) tended to be more likely to increase their active travel than the already active. that active travel infrastructure effectively increases walking, cycling and physical activity.

Read more

sport england

Variation in active travel and the scope to increase participation:
an analysis of Active People Survey and National Travel Survey data

This report was commissioned by Sport England from Westminster University. It examines potential and scope for getting more people travelling actively (walking and cycling). It does this using two datasets: Active People Survey (2011/12-2015/16) and the National Travel Survey (2002-17). Both have strengths and limitations. APS1 has a large sample size which allows us to look at local authority level, particularly useful for cycling which has strong variation by local authority (but not at regional level). However, its focus is on physical activity rather than travel behaviour. NTS does ask detailed questions about travel behaviour, and the kinds of trips people make, unlike APS including children. However, NTS has a smaller sample size, so only regional (not local authority) breakdowns are possible.

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working together to promote active travel

Working together to promote active travel -2016

A briefing for local authorities from Public Health England

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Economic benefits

Walking & Cycling: The Economic Benefits

Report from Transport for London

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The pedestrian pound

The Pedestrian Pound, Living Streets :

The business case for better streets and places

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Intrim Analysis

Cycle City Ambition : Typical cost of interventions

A summary of typical costs of cycling interventions, based on phase 1 of the Cycle City Ambition programme.

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Investment inputs, outputs and outcomes

Cycling and walking infrastructure strategy

Report on the impacts of previous long-term investment in cycling and walking and lessons learned (includes interactive map)

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LSFT Evaluation

LSTF evaluation: strategic employment sites and business parks

Evaluation of case study projects from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund focusing on commuting patterns to business parks.

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Local Sustainable Transport Fund final meta analysis

Local sustainable transport fund: Final meta-analysis

Evaluation of 12 large projects from Local Sustainable Transport Fund, combining evidence and secondary data to assess the scheme’s impact.

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LSTFE Executive report

LSTF evaluation: carbon impacts and congestion relief

Evaluation of case study programmes from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, focusing on congestion relief and carbon impacts.

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Town Centre Sustainable Transport

LSTF evaluation: impact of sustainable transport measures on town centres

Evaluation of case study projects from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, focusing on the impacts on town centres.

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Published Project Report

Sustainable Travel Towns: evaluation of the longer-term impacts

Evaluation of longer term impacts of the Sustainable Travel Towns scheme, which involved a £10 million investment in ‘smarter choice’ programmes.

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Visitor travel case study

LSTF evaluation: visitor travel and sustainable transport

Evaluation of case study projects from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, focusing on the impacts on visitor travel and bike tourism.

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Cycle city ambition report

Cycle City Ambition: baseline and interim report

Initial findings from the evaluation of the Cycle City Ambition, a programme providing funding to 8 cities.

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Synthesis of Evidence

Impact of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund: synthesis of evidence

Overview of evaluation findings presenting the Local Sustainable Transport Fund’s effects on transport use, the economy, carbon emissions and road safety.

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Sustainable travel report

Impact of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund: summary report

Evaluation findings from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, England’s biggest-ever competitive fund for sustainable transport.

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Research report

The effects of Smarter Choice programmes in the Sustainable Travel Towns

Full independent report to evaluate results from the ‘Sustainable Travel Towns’ which implemented ‘Smarter Choice’ measures.

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To support expenditure on cycling and walking infrastructure