Walking and cycling on everyday journeys promises to become more accessible following the launch of Active Travel.
An event was held at Ballakermeen High School in Douglas today (Monday 8 October), hosted by the Isle of Man Government to mark the appointment of Sustrans.
The respected UK charity has been recruited following the approval by Tynwald of the Island’s first Active Travel Strategy in July.
The strategy’s aim is to increase participation and 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.
With more than 40 years’ experience, Sustrans’ approach is based not only on delivering changes to signage, road layout and infrastructure, but on focussing on health benefits and creating cultural change. This is achieved through engaging with different groups, building relationships and providing solutions in partnership with communities.
Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer MHK said:
‘Providing ways in which people can choose to walk or cycle is at the centre of what we are trying to achieve through Active Travel, and I’m confident Sustrans will help us deliver the aims of the strategy.
‘They will be getting to work immediately by committing two staff members in the Island, and looking at the ways in which schools and businesses can play their part in the process right from the start.’
Rosslyn Colderley, Sustrans England North Director, said: ‘Increasing everyday levels of active travel significantly benefits health and wellbeing, can boost local economies and create more pleasant local environments to live in and travel through.
‘We know from our research that when better walking and cycling routes are provided, alongside community engagement programmes, uptake in cycling and walking increases dramatically.
‘This is why we’re delighted that the Isle of Man Government is investing in more dedicated cycling and walking routes which help to create low traffic neighbourhoods – where riding a bike or walking become the easiest way of travelling for short journeys.’
Kate Lord-Brennan, Member with responsibility for Active Travel, said: ‘Enabling young people to walk and cycle to and from school will help enormously over the long-term, with regard to health benefits and general wellbeing.
‘The importance of maintaining a healthy weight from an early age was highlighted in the Director of Public Health’s annual report earlier this year, and I look forward to Active Travel encouraging people to live healthier lives.’
The launch event featured the presence of leading cyclists Mark Christian, a former Ballakermeen student, Tara Ferguson, who still attends the school, and younger up-and-coming cyclists, and included a ‘Dr Bike’ session held by Paul Morrison from Sustrans, who offered basic maintenance advice aimed at getting students on their bikes quickly.
Minister for Education, Sport and Culture Graham Cregeen MHK said: ‘I’m pleased that trials are set to take place here at Ballakermeen in relation to crossings, better signage and improved bike facilities. In addition, Sustrans will be working with us to reduce traffic issues at drop-off and pick-up times.
‘I am impressed with the focus placed on bike maintenance, and perhaps using the skills of community groups such as Men in Sheds. This is a great idea – I’d like to see youth clubs across the Island getting involved as well, as Active Travel develops.’