‘New tools needed’ to support rollout of active travel networks

The UK’s pandemic-induced love of walking and cycling can become a societal shift only if local authorities are equipped with the means to come up with meaningful incentives to leave our cars at home, Teralytics CEO David Reed and CKDelta managing director Geoff McGrath have said.

They are calling for transport planners, local authorities, multi-disciplinaries and estate managers to introduce and deploy tools that take a data-led approach to transport planning to support the rollout of active travel networks across communities.

“As COVID-19 restrictions are eased in the UK, many of us will likely start to return to travel, if not resume our pre-pandemic mobility behaviours altogether,” said Reed. “The question that is front-of-mind for transport planners and city authorities throughout the country is how to take advantage of this turning point to encourage as many people as possible to embrace walking and cycling as an everyday alternative to driving.

“The UK Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is as relevant today as it was when it was published back in 2017. The strategy sets out to promote active travel and in turn, lower carbon emissions, promote active lifestyles, and boost economic growth by reducing congestion. Despite the ambition, we have not equipped cities and towns with the means to act by driving behavioural change at the population level.

“While people actively reconsider their travel behaviours at – what we hope is the tail-end of the pandemic – how we choose to support and promote the active travel agenda today will influence how people travel for the years to come.”

Teralytics has launched an upgrade to its web-based platform, enabling city authorities and transportation planning bodies to determine the rate of walking and cycling in their area. It also allows them to identify opportunities to introduce active travel infrastructure where it currently does not exist to promote a modal shift away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Together with its UK partner CKDelta, Teralytics believes that a wide societal shift away from the private car and onto bicycles can only happen if we first come to understand how our current mobility infrastructure and services address the actual mobility needs of everyone within society.

Teralytics’ mobility analytics platform can provide insights needed to promote sustainable transportation choices and create ‘resilient’ communities. The platform can be used by regional and national entities to understand the spatial and temporal dimensions of mobility and how these may be changing. The new Active Travel functionality enables the type of insights previously unavailable in transportation, said Reed, taking advantage of advanced machine learning techniques more commonly found in other sectors. The solution is built on privacy-first principles, ensuring the ‘highest standards’ of privacy protection and transparency.

“Meeting ambitious carbon reduction targets and promoting healthy lifestyle choices through considered infrastructure design choices are now at the top of the agenda for our customers – city and regional authorities, as well as transportation consultancy partners we work with to serve them,” said Reed.

“What they need to drive meaningful lasting change in behaviours and encourage a shift away from passenger cars is a current understanding of the actual needs of everyone in their communities. We launched the Active Travel functionality to help them make confident choices, rather than rely on gut feeling and patchy data.”

McGrath said: “The need for unique insight into short-distance journeys and modal splits that can enable transport planners to understand evolving consumer trends and attitudes will be crucial as we plan our recovery from the pandemic. With the UK Government pledging millions in funding to ‘level up’ communities through transport investments such as HS2 and Crossrail, using targeted, operational data can best deliver for the hardest hit communities.

“The integrated system can enable network operators to optimise public and private transport systems at an early stage. By providing granular and unique levels of detail for short-term journeys, planners can better prepare for future changes and provide an integrated end to end multi-modal transport system. As the transport and urban planning sectors continue to face-up to the challenges of shifts in modality and the implications for flagship “levelling-up” projects such as HS2, only new innovations in data modelling can deliver sustainable and robust long-term industry growth.”

“Adopting this technology now is crucial if we are serious about bouncing back sustainably from the pandemic and delivering on public demand for greener transport options.”

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