The old adage ‘we are what we eat’ could be appropriately amended to ‘we are how we travel’. The latest Travel Survey for Northern Ireland is revealing of the continued dominance of car use - 82% responded to say they travelled to work by car/van, with 80% driving on their own. This is not good news for our health, the environment or for tackling congestion and air pollution.
Getting active to save money
So how do we get more people to travel actively or take public transport? The survey found that when respondents were asked what would encourage them to use public transport, the most popular answer was “Cheaper fares” (28%).
People always want value for money and public transport must remain competitive to attract customers.
Translink’s '#smartmovers' campaign promotes the fact that the average commuter can save money as there are no fuel, car parking or car maintenance costs to use public transport. The campaign also highlights that the average person who takes the bus or train daily could walk the equivalent of 11 marathons in one year.
The most damning aspect of the survey is the fact that less than two-thirds of people walk at least 20 minutes a week.
Although some people imagine they are making savings by driving daily, without the recommended amount of exercise each day this can lead to health problems.
With the cost of the obesity and diabetes epidemic on our overburdened NHS contiuing to grow, switching your commute to incorporate physical exercise such as walking and cycling can help improve health and fitness.
How we're helping
There certainly could be more incentives for people to use public transport and travel actively.
At Sustrans we are working to encourage multi-modal journeys such as cycling to the train station or Park & Ride sites.
For example, Translink could offer discounts to cyclists especially as car parking at transport hubs is often at capacity. We also need to invest in behaviour change campaigns to highlight the benefits of walking and cycling for everyday journeys such as commuting.