13 March 2014

SAFE ROADS FOR WALKING AND CYCLING ARE KEY TO BOOSTING THE NATION’S HEALTH, SAYS RoSPA


The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has unveiled new guidance for road safety and public health professionals to help them promote opportunities for walking and cycling.   

The report, titled Road Safety and Public Health, was funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), and sets out the need for a joined-up approach between public health and transport professionals. By doing so, road safety activities can have a positive impact on issues ranging from heart disease, mental health and air pollution, as well as preventing injuries.   

The report reveals that the greatest impact can be achieved when public health and road safety teams tackle shared agendas, such as working together to reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic or introducing road layouts that encourage safe walking and cycling. The key findings, and related case studies, include:     

Healthy transport is the wider issue that links road safety and public health: road safety fits best with public health when both are seen together under “healthy transport”. Joint working between road safety and public health teams on this wider issue can enable the link to be made e.g. The Travel Choice and Access Team in Leicestershire worked with public health professionals to improve the county’s cycling and walking networks, boosting travel advice in the process, and introducing more cycle parking and adult cycle training. 

Shared agendas between road safety and public health teams need to be identified: the same issues underpin poor health as well as safety. For example, greater volumes of traffic lead to an increase in air pollution and have a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life e.g. At Willow Bridge, in Cambridgeshire, a walking and cycling bridge connecting two communities was built over the River Great Ouse, reducing car journeys. It was created as part of the UK-wide Connect2 project which Sustrans won in a national public vote run by the Big Lottery Fund. By connecting the areas with a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, a number of car journeys were prevented. 

Identify the benefits that public health and road safety activities can have on each other: many road safety and public health activities can have a much wider impact than their main aim. This can be identified when planning and evaluating activities to make sure that the wider impact is positive e.g. A cycle training initiative called Women on Wheels was set up in Birmingham to encourage women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to take up cycling. This had a wider impact beyond increasing physical activity by building social contact, improving confidence and overcoming cultural barriers that had stopped some from taking up cycling before.   

The report also examines how information and data can be shared to support joint working, and how road safety and public health issues can be brought together in documents written to improve health in local areas, such as Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, which each local authority will have.   

Duncan Vernon, road safety manager at RoSPA and author of the report, said: “Transport has a big impact on health, and so it is important that we understand how road safety activities fit into this. Many actions to improve road safety will also have a positive effect on other areas of health and we need to make sure that we’re getting this right.   

“Integrated or co-ordinated efforts that involve road safety professionals, highways departments and public health teams are essential, especially where the joint working is supported by local strategies that make these links clear and use the best information and data. This will help to make transport both safer and healthier.”   

Other case studies from across England feature in the report and were compiled following an appeal issued by RoSPA last year for examples of successful joint-working. These include a Healthy Streets programme in Lancashire and 20mph limits in Manchester.   

The launch of Road Safety and Public Health follows last year’s publication of RoSPA’s online handbook, Delivering accident prevention at a local level in the new public health system, which was supported by Public Health England. 

The full Road Safety and Public Health report can be downloaded at www.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/rospa-road-safety-and-public-health.pdf.

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