Profound implications for public health

Dr Davis, one of the UK’s leading experts in the field of transport and health spoke at Labour Cycle’s inaugural event in Manchester this month.

Dr Davis outlined the incontrovertible evidence that active travel, particularly cycling, has a profound impact on health outcomes at a population-wide level.

From reductions in cardiovascular and diabetic diseases so dramatic they would be labelled a ‘Wonder-drug’ if sold by big pharma, to the imperative of removing kinetic energy from our roads and thinking about system-level approaches to danger reduction, the talk was eye-opening.

Drawing on decades of research, statements from the Chief Medical Officer and clear NICE recommendations –  the core question remaining was why have local and national politicians been so slow to take action?

Dr Davis shared how ‘pluralistic ignorance’ was a driver of political cowardice despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the need to change our spatial and road network planning.

Dr Davis shared his own work on nudging politicians using simple briefing papers.

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Dr Adrian DavisDr Adrian Davis  Is one of the UK’s leading experts in the interdisciplinary field of transport and health. His work is focused on the importance of health within transport planning.  Landmark publications include: the British Medical Association’s first policy statement on Road Transport and Health (1997) and the Transport Paper to the Acheson Inquiry into Inequalities in Health (1998) for the then new Labour Government. Adrian was the lead author for Public Health Englands’ 2016 Briefing for Local Authorities Working together for active travel.


UK roads exclude and discriminate


Dr Aldred’s incisive talk at the inaugural Labour Cycles conference in Manchester exploded common myths around who uses bikes for everyday transport in the UK. Backed with recent, substantive data, the messages for progressive political leaders were clear:

  • If you think cycling is a middle-class activity –  you are wrong and likely to be making poor planning decisions. Car ownership has the highest correlation to increased wealth.
  • Present gender and age inequalities in UK participation in active travel are a function of the roads and how we build them not specific to a mode of transport.
  • Dutch women cycle more than Dutch men and cycle more as they get older! Over 35% of all journeys are completed by bike for women aged 60+.
  • Poor cycling infrastructure particularly impacts specific groups:
    • Indirect cycling routes impact the elderly and women.  The term ‘distance decay’ describes decreases in the willingness to walk and cycle based on increased distances.
    • Poorly-lit backstreet routes put off women and the young. Both groups feel more vulnerable on routes are overseen by fewer people.
    • ‘Hassle-barriers’ discriminate against parents and the disabled by making routes impassable to adapted bike and cargo-bikes.
  • Women feel especially vulnerable in hostile road environments – protected infrastructure and reduced traffic is a must for this group.

Dr Aldred’s talk highlighted how in all biased systems humans rationalize away inequalities rather than realize they are a function of the system.

Dr Aldred’s full slides are available below:

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rachel-profile-532-200x200Dr Rachel Aldred is a Senior Lecturer in Transport, University of Westminster, Rachel’s research includes the Near Miss Project, the Cycling Cultures project, the Modelling on the Move project, and most recently a project on adults’ views on cycling with or by children. Rachel is passionate about improving everyday cycling for all ages and abilities.