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The Greenest Wheels in Town 05.04.07

Sustrans at Eden’s Sexy Green Car Show

At the Sexy Green Car Show at the Eden project, Europe’s leading car manufacturers are showing off their latest green machines. Sustrans is also there showing what a true green machine looks like.

Everywhere you look in the press and media you see stories about the growing obesity problem in the UK, alongside pages on dieting, fitness, and low fat food adverts. The reality however is that we are doing less walking and cycling than we ever had, in fact between 1985 and 2003 the distance average distance walked per year fell from 244 miles to 192 miles a drop of 21%, and cycled 34 miles compared to 44 a drop of 23%. Ironically gym membership is at an all time high.

Without a doubt the development of out of town shopping centres, and edge of town supermarkets alongside the slow death of town has changed the way we live, business parks and moving offices to green field sites has also changed the way we some of us commute.

According to figures from the Department of Transport (2003), 68% of all car trips are less than 5 miles, 22% were under a mile. Car ownership is now roughly 27 million in the UK, about 1.1 per household. The number of households without cars has fallen from 30% in 1990 to 26% today, while households with two or more cars have risen to 29%. Most of this change however happened in the 1990, present trends are flattening out. The National Travel Survey is now showing that the distance travelled per person is actually falling slightly.

39% of households have one or more bicycles, but only 2% of all journeys are taken by bike. The facts however are increasingly in favour of the two wheels over four for urban dwellers.

In 22 minutes of gentle cycling will take you 4 miles- and burn just over 100 calories. In central London it would take on average 40 minutes to travel the same distance in a car. From personal experience I can say that it took me 20 minutes to get from Stoke Newington to the Financial Times on Southwark Bridge by bike and 45-55 minutes by British Rail to Liverpool Street and walking. This is probably why Transport for London have recorded a 100% increase in cycle traffic, and the London Cycle Network (LCN+) is investing heavily in building new cycle friendly routes, with the aim of converting 900 kilometres of the most important routes in the capital by 2009/10.

Cycling is not just for urban commuters, with safe routes it is prefect for the school run the average school trip is just over 3 miles, but cycling that distance takes less than half an hour. Indeed according to Sustrans 33% of kids would love to cycle to school, only 2% do. Sustrans’s Safe Routes to School and Bike It campaigns are actively encouraging kids to take to the pedals.

You don’t have to be training for the Tour de France to enjoy cycling in the countryside, nor take your life in your hands by dodging supermarket lorries. Sustrans have estimated that half of us people live with one mile of the National Cycling Network. Developed by Sustrans, in association with local authorities and the Department of Transport, over the past decade the NCN has now grown to over 10,000 miles of safe cycle paths or quiet roads, maintained by 2,000 volunteer Rangers.

You can’t blame the British weather, when I lived in Amsterdam where 28% of the population’s journeys are by bike the weather is colder and wetter than most of the UK, we had fetching bright red ponchos for the rain and Gin for the cold -Once we had arrived at our destination of course).

Peter Shield

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Related links

Sustrans Website

Safe Routes to School

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