One of the things we learnt from the results of the Get Set Leeds Survey is that people find their environment doesn’t always make it easy to be active.
There are many factors that make up our environment but one of them specifically mentioned was ‘safer roads’. In fact many countries now ban cars from entering parts of their city centres, in a bid to not only make the air cleaner but their streets more pedestrian friendly. And this has a positive impact on people’s health, if they now walk or cycle instead.
Madrid in November 2018 created a low emissions zone that covered 500 hectares. It banned vehicles from the area and redesigned many of the city’s busiest streets so people then had to walk rather than drive. The centre of Hamburg also became a car free zone in October this year, to help reduce exhaust emissions, calm traffic and increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists. It only allows buses, taxis and delivery vans access. By 2035 they plan to have a series of connected green spaces that will cover 40% of the city, made up of parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and cemeteries.
Elsewhere in the world, Oslo in Norway has made its city practically car free, by removing parking, making streets pedestrian-only and raising the congestion charge. The streets are now bustling with pedestrians, parking spots are transformed into reclaimed public spaces and bike-sharing has tripled in the last three years.
The vision for Leeds is for it to be a city where you don’t need a car and for it to be carbon neutral by 2030. As well as improving air quality and reducing road casualties it’s hoped that building exercise into our daily routines will also be an effective way to improve residents’ health. Whilst there will be an increased use of buses and trains it’s anticipated that many people will opt to walk and cycle more.
Cycling has become very popular in recent years, especially in Leeds and the surrounding areas since it hosted the Tour de Yorkshire Grand Depart 2014. If you haven’t cycled for a long time you might want consider an electric bike. You can even trial an e-bike for free in Leeds.
Whilst not as physically exerting as a traditional bike, by pedalling you are being physically active, getting your heart rate up and burning calories. It might be a good way for someone that hasn’t been active for a while to get started. The scheme is proving very popular, so if this is something you would like to do, visit www.leeds.gov.uk/ebiketrials. If you would like to know more about what Leeds is doing to make Leeds a city where you don’t need a car by 2030, visit https://leedstransportstrategy.commonplace.is/