Dunstable Hub replaces 49,963 car journeys with walking and cycling

The Travel Choices Hub in Dunstable was a key component in the delivery of Central Bedfordshire’s aspirations

Since 2013, there have been over 17,000 visits – equivalent to almost half of Dunstable’s population

52% of participants report being more physically active

The Travel Choices Hub in Dunstable has generated £1.7 million for the economy and reduced car journeys by a third. 

Executive summary 

The Travel Choices Hub, Dunstable, was funded by Central Bedfordshire District Council through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund at a cost of £75,000 a year.

We worked with partners to offer a range of innovative advice and activity sessions and more than 17,000 residents visited the Hub.

The project is delivering a range of successful outcomes including:

  • A projected total economic benefit of £1.7 million over 10 years.
  • A 35% drop in car use.
  • Double the number of cyclists using National Cycle Route 6 to access education or employment.
  • Overall usage of National Cycle Route 6 up by 6% since 2013.
  • 52% of participants report being more physically active.
  • Awareness of the cycle route increased from 89% to 93%.
  • More than six out of 10 Hub visitors (65%) said they intend to walk more in the future and more than half (54%) intend to cycle more in the future.

Challenges

Rapid population growth and a high proportion of short journeys being made by car in Dunstable have compounded traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. On the A5 and A505 roads traffic volumes exceed 25,000 vehicle movements a day.

Dunstable also has several areas of high unemployment and social exclusion where transport acts as a barrier to access employment and training. 

The council was looking to tackle these challenges by working in partnership to:

  • relieve congestion and facilitate growth
  • improve access to employment
  • promote sustainable and active travel
  • engage the community

The Dunstable Hub project objectives

The Sustainable Communities Portofolio Holder at Central Bedfordshire Council, Councillor Ken Matthews, was looking for ways to resolve the chronic congestion problems blighting local towns and preventing them from achieving their full economic potential. 

Sustainable transport was central to the council's vision for a globally connected, green, prosperous and ambitious place to benefit all, and deliver sustainable economic growth.

Sustrans was selected to deliver five clear objectives:

  1. Reduce the percentage of people citing a lack of access to transport as a barrier to accessing education, training and employment.
  2. Increase the number of residents in target neighbourhoods walking and/or cycling more.
  3. Increase the number of people using sustainable transport for journeys to work or college.
  4. Increase awareness among the residents of Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard of the benefits of active travel.
  5. Increase awareness of National Cycle Route 6.

Why Sustrans

The original contract for the Travel Choices Hub in Dunstable was commissioned competitively by Central Bedfordshire Council at the start of Tranche 2 of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

We had a well-established working relationship with Central Bedfordshire Council and demonstrated good knowledge of the local transport challenges and opportunities. We were also able to demonstrate an excellent understanding of the landscape in Dunstable and Houghton Regis having worked in the area previously.

This local community was a key target for engagement, and therefore our experience and expertise made us a natural partner to Central Bedfordshire Council.

Local resident engagement

Working with a range of partners including public transport operators, the public health team and Job Centre Plus, we offered open access to a one-stop shop, the Travel Choices Hub, Dunstable. We took an holistic approach and combined infrastructure work with behaviour change projects while the Travel Choices Hub was open. We also had our network development team supporting infrastructure works. 

Community outreach was an important part of our strategy for engaging with the community and we promoted the Hub in a number of local festivals, fetes and fun days. Schools were an important gateway into the wider community and we linked our schools work (Bike It Plus) and community engagement through the Hub. 

We arranged a number of innovative advice and activity sessions, including guided walks and rides, bus clinics, bike maintenance sessions, cycle training and a bike hire scheme, which were all well received by residents. 

Measuring our long-term impact

In order to monitor our progress against our key performance indicators we conducted a 'Route User Intercept Survey' on National Cycle Route 6. This was followed up with a 'direct beneficiary survey'.

The Travel Choices Hub is helping people to access educational and employment opportunities. On average 20% of respondents were using the cycle route to access work or education. The number of those who said they could have used a car but chose not to was up from 23% in 2013 to 50% in 2017. 

Using the Department for Transport’s WebTAG framework, this project is delivering economic benefits of £1.7 million over a 10-year period. More than half of this is achieved through amenity (55.7%), a third through improved health (32.1%) and other factors such as decongestion (8.2%).

More than one in three (35%) respondents said they use the car less since visiting the Travel Choices Hub. Four out of10 reported an increase in walking and nearly a third (31%) cycling. This equates to 49,963 car trips being replaced with more sustainable forms of transport. It’s also saved 20,53kgs in carbon emissions since the project began in 2013.

Overall usage of National Cycle Route 6 increased by 6% from 2013. This is made up of an increase in cycling trips of 17% (up to 41,532) and walking trips by 5% (348,534).

The transformation looks sustainable - 52% of participants report being more physically active and more than six out of ten (65%) said they intend to walk more in the future. More than half (54%) intend to cycle more in the future. Awareness of the cycle route increased from 89% to 93%.

Having the bike has saved me both time and money. My friends were very impressed with it too, one even likened it to a Mustang.

- Bareq Abdulhadi, Student at Central Bedfordshire College

What our beneficiaries said

When Iraqi student Bareq Abdulhadi came to Central Bedfordshire College to study English Language he had one problem - transport. A visit to the Travel Choices Hub, however, provided the solution. Bareq discovered that through 'Wheels to Wor'k he could hire a bike for a £50 deposit. It took just a quick call and some straightforward paperwork to put Bareq on the road. 

Now Bareq is returning to Iraq for a short period but he is hoping to return to the UK to study in Liverpool. He said:"I hope there’ll be a similar scheme in Liverpool - I’m really keen to get another bike and continue cycling."

For more information on this project email Matt Barber, Head of Partnerships in the Midlands and East of England or call 01733 319981

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