Fuel costs present big opportunity to clean the air and commit to active and sustainable travel
Today is Clean Air Day, which, among other things, ‘showcases that a cleaner air future is both possible and desirable’ and ‘helps increase levels of air pollution-busting behaviours’. The appetite to change those behaviours is growing, and it would be a scandal if we missed a golden opportunity to feed it.
It’s no news to anyone that astronomical rises in the cost of energy and fuel are hitting people hard. The average cost of filling a family car has risen above £100 for the first time ever. The cost of living crisis is well documented; people are struggling to pay for even the basics such as food and medication.
The situation has compelled Edmund King, President of the AA, the motoring association, to urge drivers to “cut out shorter car journeys if they are able to do so, and walk or cycle to save money”.
“It’s not always as easy as it should be,” says Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, “but, with 45% of our urban journeys being under two miles, it can be easier than we think to leave the car at home and walk, cycle or wheel to school or to the local shops.”
And there is increasing appetite for it in Britain, particularly among younger people. In a recent YouGov survey of 18–24 year-olds, 43% who expected their transport costs to rise were actively considering changing their method of travel.
The benefits of eschewing the car are greater than simply the cost of petrol – and the cost and hassle of parking. Our BetterPoints app users tell us it also reduces their stress levels, improves their health, and – surprisingly, perhaps – often even saves them time:
I initially thought of cycling a few times here and there, but after doing it once I realised just how much quicker it was, but also how much better I felt arriving for work having already had some exercise, and how much more energy I had.
I started walking … and I honestly feel so much better knowing I’m staying fit and also saving money instead of catching two buses, which take me an hour to get home – which is double the amount of time it takes me to walk.
Every day I used to travel by car, whether to college or to a friend’s house, and even shopping. But now I walk and cycle. This helps me save a lot of money and keeps me very active too.
But more needs to be done to help people take the plunge. It needs to be easier, safer, and more attractive, for example, for them to walk, wheel and cycle to work and to the shops; people need genuine encouragement and support to use alternatives to the car, from every touchpoint: employers, local government, communities.
As so many of us work, employers are in a particularly good position to support a shift in transport behaviour. In that YouGov poll, 37% of respondents who said they do not currently cycle to work said they were more likely to do so if their workplace offered improved facilities, such as bike storage and lockers. More than a third also said they would be more likely to cycle to work if their employer offered financial help to buy a bike, and 29% if they offered a cycle-to-work scheme.
“Rarely has there been a better time to ditch the car – not just for financial reasons, but for better health and a sustainable planet”, says Richard Kirk, CEO of BetterPoints. “I would urge business leaders to put their money where their mouth is by encouraging and motivating employees to adopt active travel modes.”
So, there is our golden opportunity. The advice in the marketplace and from BetterPoints is to change the way we travel, and the appetite to do so is growing.
Let’s not squander it.
BetterPoints behaviour change programmes get people more physically active and travelling more sustainably. Ask us for a demo today.