Tynwald Members will be asked to approve a strategy document at this month’s sitting aimed at enabling more people of all ages and abilities to engage in exercise as part of their daily routine.
The Active Travel Strategy has been established by a cross-departmental group, led by the Department of Infrastructure, in response to a commitment made in the Programme for Government to increase the number of people using active forms of travel on a regular basis.
Active travel is defined as walking or cycling, including the use of electric bikes, as an alternative to motorised transport for the purpose of making everyday journeys.
The strategy explains the reasons behind encouraging people to become more active and how an action plan will ensure identified tasks are delivered.
Its aim is to see more than 20% of people travelling actively to work by the time information for the 2021 Census is gathered - a marked increase from 14% when the 2011 Census took place.
Adding more walking or cycling into people’s every day journeys of purpose will reduce sedentary behaviour, which can help reduce the risk of developing ill-health.
The benefits of active travel are, however, wide-ranging and not simply limited to improving people’s health and wellbeing.
Fewer journeys taken by car could also lead to a reduction in carbon emissions, improved air quality and less congestion.
Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer MHK said:
‘Promoting active travel is something I’m passionate about and this strategy is aimed at giving more choice to those who wish to walk or cycle.’
Kate Lord-Brennan MLC, Member with responsibility for Highway Services, said:
‘If successfully implemented, the community will benefit in a range of ways. It is important, however, that progress is measured and the use of data will be crucial in marking milestones and retaining focus on the overall aims.’
An action plan is in the process of being compiled and will focus on a series of measures designed to promote change with regard to both infrastructure and behaviour.
This will include identifying a network of routes within 2.5 miles of Douglas town centre and how the correct infrastructure could allow more commuters to travel safely either on foot or by bike. The Island’s schools will be part of the initial areas of work to try and encourage more children - and parents where possible - to travel actively to school.
The action plan will also examine ways to stimulate behavioural change and improve education around the health and wellbeing benefits of walking and cycling, as well as creating firm foundations through working in partnership across government and other agencies.
A public consultation exercise was undertaken last year, entitled ‘Encouraging active travel for the Isle of Man’, which has helped inform the direction of the strategy. A total of 379 responses were received and a report on the consultation was published in January 2018.
Funding was granted in this year’s Budget to enable the project to develop, with £3.8 million to be spent over the next four years.