Understanding Walking and Cycling: Summary of Key Findings and Recommendations

Lancaster University
Publication date: 
September 2011

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It is widely recognized that there is a need to increase levels of active and sustainable travel in British urban areas. The Understanding Walking and Cycling (UWAC) project, funded by the EPSRC, has examined the factors influencing everyday travel decisions and proposes a series of policy measures to increase levels of walking and cycling for short trips in urban areas. A wide range of both quantitative and qualitative data were collected in four English towns (Leeds, Leicester, Worcester, Lancaster), including a questionnaire survey, analysis of the built environment, interviews and ethnographies. Key findings of the research are that whilst attitudes to walking and cycling are mostly positive or neutral, many people who would like to engage in more active travel fail to do so due to a combination of factors. These can be summarised as:

  • Concerns about the physical environment, especially with regard to safety when walking or cycling;
  • The difficulty of fitting walking and cycling into complex household routines (especially with young children);
  • The perception that walking and cycling are in some ways abnormal things to do so.

It is suggested that policies to increase levels of walking and cycling should focus not only on improving infrastructure (for instance through fully segregated cycle routes), but also must tackle broader social, economic, cultural and legal factors that currently inhibit walking and cycling. Together, such changes can create an environment in which driving for short trips in urban areas is seen as abnormal and walking or cycling seem the obvious choices.