How we helped Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council get over 20,000 people walking and cycling

The Stockton on Tees travel hub

The HUB has inspired 20,300 people to get more active through everyday walking and cycling

Cyclists on path
female cyclists on pink bicycles

The HUB has been helping over 20,000 people in the most deprived, unhealthy areas to get more physical activity in their daily lives through sustainable travel.

Executive Summary

Stockton Council wanted to promote walking and cycling to encourage local people to achieve their recommended levels of physical activity, in order to address health challenges and inequalities in the area. We worked with partners to deliver a 'one-stop shop' solution providing residents with information on how to travel affordably and sustainably.

The Hub achieved: 

  • 12% increase in cycling to work or study
  • 9% decrease in car commuting

Health challenges in Stockton-on-Tees

The former shipbuilding town of Stockton-on-Tees in the North East has many of the health challenges associated with places of industrial decline and high levels of unemployment. The area suffers from deprivation levels above the England average, and lower life expectancy.

Heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness are the cause of many early deaths, according to the Stockton-on-Tees Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy, while there are a number of unhealthy lifestyles linked to physical inactivity, which leads to preventable disease. There are stark and growing health contrasts in different areas of the town, and like most urban areas there are traffic congestion issues too.         

Partnership working

Our Stockton Active Travel project at The Hub presented an obvious solution for both Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s transport and public health teams to help tackle health and transport issues. 

Richard McGuckin, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's Director of Economic Growth and Development said: 

“We’ve always recognised the benefits of active travel and had a proactive approach. The Sustrans Hub really added to what we do and gave us an opportunity to access core funding together. The health benefits are proven, so why wouldn’t we do this?”

The Hub’s central location and community links meant officers were able to successfully attract the target audience: Of the 579 adults who provided baseline data, over half came from the top 20% most deprived areas. There were several health problems identified with participants, including 22% with high blood pressure, 9% with diabetes and 52% with asthma.

The impact of the HUB has been profound. I’d love to see active travel on prescription in the near future.

- Richard McGuckin, Director of Economic Growth and Development, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Joined up working

The Project began in 2009 in partnership with the council and Public Health (now part of the Council), initially Big Lottery Funded with match-funding from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. For the last five years, £288k has been council funding and £138k Department for Transport grant funding, totalling £426k.

“The public health team wanted to encourage people in the most deprived, unhealthy areas to get more physical activity in their daily lives, and the transport team were looking for ways to reduce congestion, so they worked together with us at The Hub to help achieve this,” says Paul Morrison, our Delivery Coordinator in the North East.

How we helped get more people walking and cycling

The Council was keen to create a long-term legacy of active travel within the community, so we established a thriving volunteer programme at The Hub. This has provided opportunities for those not in employment, education or training, as well as a chance for social interaction.

Separate groups and activities helped us to attract different people to The Hub. For example, when Stockton Council asked us to target people over the age of 50 who had health problems related to lack of exercise, we set up the Silver Cyclists. This popular club which meets at The Hub provides free cycling courses and weekly bike rides for the over 50s.

In another project officers also worked with referred patients with Diabetes Type 2 or high Body Mass Index who needed to increase their physical activity levels over a six week period. Hub officers provided a menu of tailored activities and support designed to suit participant’s physical activity capabilities, interests and needs.

My activity levels have increased greatly as I now have great people to cycle with, so not only is it exercise, but great from a social aspect as well.

- Joanne Liddle, single mum

Measuring results and impact

The Council were very clear that they needed good evidence on which to base decisions and show the impact of the project on the population and local communities. We set up a baseline for the project to measure how much active travel there was at the beginning and end of the project, and monitored health problems during that time too.

The Hub’s results have been striking. Since 2010 the Active Travel Project has:

  • inspired 20,300 people to get more active through everyday walking and cycling
  • organised 400 bike rides and 500 community walks each year
  • supported people to get outside, improving their health, fitness and wellbeing levels
  • over 100 ‘Silver Cyclists’ members who meet weekly

Testimonials

Referred patient:"With your encouragement, I have been able to improve my fitness by walking and cycling more. I have found the provision of cycle routes etc. as a great help in providing me with alternative, interesting paths that have encouraged me to get out and about.  The results of all this are that I have lost a stone and a half in weight and reduced my diabetes count from 65 down to 36.”

Single mum Joanne Liddle lost eight stone in weight and says her health and wellbeing have improved considerably since she changed her transport from the car to a bicycle. “My activity levels have increased greatly as I now have great people to cycle with, so not only is it exercise, but great from a social aspect as well.”

Long-term impact

In 2013 we carried out an online follow-up survey with 42 participants. The results showed that over 85% strongly agreed they were more active and felt fitter, while 78% cycled more as a form of transport. Some 50% said they walk more and 70% feel healthier and 45% lost weight. Mental wellbeing had improved for 64% of respondents.

Respondents reported physical health benefits including becoming more active, feeling fitter and losing weight. They also said the project had helped improve their mood and feel good about themselves as a result of both physical activity and social interaction. The regular exercise means one participant with osteoporosis no longer needs medication.

The impact the Hub has had on the number of people cycling is quite profound, particularly on a leisure scale,” says Richard McGuckin.

“The cycle network throughout the region so you see lots of people cycling, particularly for leisure in Stockton and I’m always hearing about individuals who have improved their health as a result of getting involved with the Hub.

“In times of austerity it’s easy for councils to stop funding active travel, but the health benefits are proven and far outweigh any short-term savings. I’d love to see active travel on prescription in the near future.”

For more information on this project email Kevin McCann, Head of Partnerships in the North of England or call 0161 923 6050.

If you'd like to work with us elsewhere in the UK please contact your local Sustrans team.