DfT to focus on active travel as “natural first choice” for daily activities

The DfT has announced a shift towards public transport and active travel as the “natural first choice” for daily activities.

Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge is the latest document to be published by the DfT late last week, describing how the Government intends to work with others to develop a transport decarbonisation plan.

This is to reduce transport emissions and ensure the challenge to reach net-zero transport emissions by 2050 is met. The document also reviews existing climate policies in transport as well as existing forecasts of future transport emissions from each mode of transport, plus as a whole.

“Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities,” stated transport secretary Grant Shapps in the foreword. “We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.”

The document goes on to list “Accelerating modal shift to public and active transport” as the first of six strategic priorities for the plan, which seeks to deliver a net-zero emissions transport system.

To achieve that, the DfT has said it aims to:
– Help make public transport and active travel the natural first choice for daily activities
– Support fewer car trips through a coherent, convenient and cost-effective public network; and explore how we might use cars differently in future
– Encourage cycling and walking for short journeys
– Explore how to best support the behaviour change required

Shapps said the shift in emphasis away from driving, where possible, could improve people’s health, create better places to live and travel in, and also promote clean economic growth.

Sustrans’ chief executive Xavier Brice said: “The ambition set out in ‘Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge’ is what this country needs to be able to move better and live better.

“The necessary travel restrictions in the current COVID-19 emergency are highlighting that how we move is a fundamental part of how we live. The foreword of this report points to an achievable future where how we move around results in healthier places and happier lives for everyone.”

“We will need to work hard to get there. The report pulls no punches on its current assessment of where we are. Transport is the biggest source of carbon emissions, and private cars cause the lion’s share. Electric vehicles aren’t the solution.

“It is fantastic to see the Transport Secretary say that ‘public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities’. The Government is now recognising that it is time to stop forcing individuals and communities into car-dependent living and undo the social isolation, poor health and inequity it has contributed to.

“We’ve got a long way to go, as the report’s projections of future cycling and walking levels based on current committed funding show.

“The future of Government spending plans is of course now uncertain but our future resilience as a society depends on the investment needed to deliver on this challenge. The need is greater than ever for long-term funding of better infrastructure for walking and cycling.

“It will help make active travel the easiest choice for everyday short trips. And deliver a convenient, cleaner public transport network serving all our communities.”

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