Active sustainable travel

Active travel refers to walking, cycling or using some other form of physical activity for all or part of a journey, instead of using motorised transport. This description can be extended to active and sustainable travel, encompassing all types of journeys which can be undertaken by active means and/or in combination with public transport.

Active and sustainable travel is good for population health and for the environment. Public health leaders and politicians have highlighted the importance of greater investment in sustainable, integrated transport to promote active travel, to create safe, attractive communities, to mitigate further effects of climate change and to reduce air pollution. 

Yet many transport related trends are still moving in the wrong direction – car usage is increasing, levels of cycling remain very low, levels of walking and bus use are falling, road traffic and vehicular emissions continue to increase. There is evidence that motorised transport increases inequalities as negative impacts, such as traffic casualties and air pollution, disproportionately affect vulnerable groups such as children and people living in poverty.

On the other hand investment in active travel has been increasing in Scotland, albeit not yet to the level required to achieve a real shift in walking and cycling levels. In Glasgow, there is evidence that investment in safe infrastructure is increasing levels of active travel, the Next Bike hire scheme has been successful and is expanding and there is a new cycling strategy for the city which promises increased investment and the creation of an integrated cycling network over time. 

However, much more needs to be done to encourage more people to walk in the city and a greater focus is needed on public transport.

Our active and sustainable travel research

We have undertaken a lot of research into this topic and our outputs include research reports, event reports, consultation responses and links to blog posts:

What we’ve learned so far - summarises what we have learnt to date from our programme of research on active travel which began in 2007. 

Walking - summarises the importance of walking to health and provides links to relevant reports, briefing papers, seminar presentations and walking data on Understanding Glasgow.

Cycling - looks at the importance of cycling to health and provides links to relevant reports, briefing papers, seminar presentations and cycling data on Understanding Glasgow.

Health impacts of the M74 motorway extension - discusses the recent M74 study

Journal articles

Building a bridge, transport infrastructure and population characteristics: explaining active travel into Glasgow McCartney G, Whyte B, Livingston M and Crawford F. Transport Policy 2012;21(C):119-125

Editorial – Promotion of cycling and health 
Mutrie N and Crawford F. British Medical Journal 2010;341:c5405

Promoting walking to school: Results of a quasi-experimental trial
McKee R, Mutrie N, Crawford F and Green B. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2007;61:818-823 doi:10.1136/jech.2006.048181


European Mobility Week: How does the GCPH team get to work? (Sept 2015)

Some reflections on active travel in Glasgow (March 2017)

Learning from other places - active travel (Sept 2015)

Walking and cycling - they’re worth the risk! (August 2015)

The M74 - a transport connection or public health blockage? (August 2011)

Trends in different modes of travel, vehicle availability, children’s travel to school, cycling and walking trends, and road casualties can be found in the transport domain of the Understanding Glasgow website. 

For further information on this strand of our work, contact Bruce Whyte, Public Health Programme Manager.