Walking and Active Travel is a popular way for people to get around and is often part of journeys to school, work or shops. It can help tackle congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions in towns and cities. NIHR research has shown that Active Travel can have many positive impacts on health and wellbeing including improved cardiovascular and respiratory health, increased strength and endurance, healthy weight loss and reduced anxiety and depression.
In this study we aimed to understand what might encourage people living in market towns to make more frequent, longer and faster walking and cycling journeys. We also explored the perceived barriers to these modes of travel and ways of addressing them.
Family Adventures: Making Memories Through Active Travel
We used a mixed methods approach (focus groups, go-along journeys and an online mapping platform) to understand the factors supporting or hindering modal shift amongst people in two different market towns. This was the first time that this type of qualitative research had been conducted in a market town setting.
Results from the focus groups and mapping platform revealed that walking was the most likely mode of travel for within-town trips. People were also more likely to choose this mode of travel if they lived close to their destination, for convenience, to avoid traffic congestion or if it was a pleasant route.
The online mapping tool allowed people to record their own favourite routes and share them with others. It also helped inform the development of a series of improvements by Leeds City Council that will include a number of ‘Active Travel Hubs’. These are designed to be safe, easy and convenient places for people to start their journeys.