3. Active transport

//3. Active transport

3. Active transport

Recommendation: Promote active transport and the measures needed to encourage and enable this for everyone

As a main source of CO2 emissions and air pollution in Europe, motorised transport has a strong impact on climate change, and exerts pressure on green and urban space. Across all European countries, lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to live in areas with higher than average air pollution levels, and are more often exposed to traffic-related air pollutants, contributing to health inequalities. Motorised transport is also associated with sedentary lifestyles and growing levels of overweight and obesity. The INHERIT Five-country Survey reinforces that for many people across the EU, personal car use continues to be the principal means of transportation for the most recurring tasks, such as commuting to work, or shopping.[1] This is despite the fact that many of these activities take place within a small radius[2], providing opportunities to substitute motorised transport with more environmentally friendly and healthy modes of transport, such as cycling or walking (active transport). But social norms, habits, and the design of urban spaces continue to prioritise motorised vehicles. Reactions to the INHERIT Future Scenarios reflect that many people like the idea of more walkable and cycle-able areas, for which ensuring good quality and affordable public transport is also crucial.[3]

Voices from INHERIT

I liked the higher number of cycling and walking paths. They consider people of different ages and individual cars use is restricted, which means that the government supports active mobility […]

Czech Republic, 63, High Income

I want to have more comfortable and safer cycling routes. I love to ride a bike, but I try to ride only Sunday when there is not much traffic, because I’m afraid. People are driving like crazy with their cars, buses, and there are no trails properly regulated.

Macedonia, 63, High Income

[…] in the cities there should be corridors, parks, more green spaces in the cities and in rural areas new woods. […]

Spain, 20, Middle Income

I like the idea of more efficient public transport. I think if we had more efficient public transport it would give more people incentive to use public transport instead of having cars and that is like more of a, to me it is more of a realistic way of getting people to stop using cars so much.

UK, 19, Low Income

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

National and sub-national   EU level
  • Provide financial incentives to schools and businesses to encourage children/parents and employees to walk or cycle to school/work.
  • Provide economic incentives at an individual level for walking/cycling, for instance by providing funds for buying bikes to low-income families.
  • Support the introduction of innovative sustainable mobility services (e.g. bike-sharing schemes).
  • Disincentivise the use of private cars (e.g. ban the practice of company cars; tax conventionally fuelled cars in cities).
  • Ensure that public transport is affordable for all.
  • Make long-term cross-sector commitments to creating an enabling environment: invest in urban infrastructures that make it easy and safe for people to engage in active transport (e.g. separate cycling and walking lanes, facilitating active transport to schools and work). (Malvik Path)
  • Develop bicycle highways for fast and safe cycling for longer distances.
  • Ensure public transport is more interconnected, that low-income neighbourhoods are well-connected via public transport and that public transport is accessible for all.

Transport behaviour is not only determined by price and convenience, but also by social norms and individual preferences and capabilities. As such:

  • Start early in life: habits such as cycling or walking learnt at early age are usually continued later in life.
  • Provide free training on cycling, in a fun way, in school settings or for specific population groups (women, elderly, immigrants).

An INHERIT study involving socio-economically disadvantaged individuals (Lifestyle e-coaching) demonstrates that apps are effective in encouraging more physical activity, at least in the short-term, particularly amongst people with sedentary lifestyles. This dispels two myths: that only the well-off can engage with lifestyle apps, and that more active people gain most from apps to motivate physical activity. Bearing this in mind:

  • Provide incentives to companies and health insurance providers to develop games and applications that are fun to use and promote physical activity, including active transport (e.g. through providing rewards, motivational features, user community), to ensure they are accessible across socio-economic groups and allow for long-term evaluations. (Urban cyclers)
  • Encourage pertinent sectors in EU member states, across levels, to design transport-related policies that deliver ‘triple-wins’ and work together across sectors (transport, urban planning, social inclusion, education, environment, and health) to deliver these. Encourage cities for example to implement Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans and support in particular measures to disincentivise car-use in cities and support walking and cycling (e.g. encourage the relevant governments to adopt the Pan European Master Plan for Cycling Promotion). This can be done through the European Semester cycle and its Country Specific Recommendations, through EU Structural and Investment Funds, or tailor-made support from the EU Structural Reform Support Service.
  • Apply legislation, for instance on low/zero-emission zones, and the EU Court of Auditors recommendations on poor performance implementing the EU Air Quality Directive.
  • Use EU investment and funding programmes to prioritise and support sustainable mobility initiatives and green job creation such as bicycle production/repair and footpath creation – but gradually withdraw EU funding from car production, road construction and maintenance of combustion engines, bearing in mind the social equity dimensions. The recent decision by the European Investment Bank not to invest in initiatives involving fossil fuels is a step in the right direction. Ensure the EU Fund for Strategic Investments also supports such initiatives. Implementation of measures outlined in the 2018 Commission Action Plan on Sustainable Finance could also help to finance this.


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies

Urban Cyclers

Aims to promote regular cycling, through a combination of cycling maps, route planner, turn-by-turn navigation, smart gamification features and financial rewards. Suggests that investing in technological devices can encourage active transport. Ideally, it should be paired with changes in infrastructure.

Malvik Path

Transformation of an old railway into a path along the coast in Norway, for recreational use. Increasingly used, particularly by people in lower socio-economic groups. Assessed as economically beneficial, after only a year of use.

Lifestyle e-coaching

Aims to increase levels of physical activity amongst more disadvantaged populations through an app. Positive results, at least in the short term, and particularly amongst people with low-levels of physical activity.

Tool: INHERIT Promising practice database

The SWITCH Project

Application that uses personalised travel planning approaches to encourage people to switch car trips to active modes.


Over 100 promising practices from across Europe, including on “moving”.

Additional Reading from INHERIT

Policy Roundtable (EU)

EU-level INHERIT Policy Roundtable report (2019) How can latest research findings contribute to addressing inter-connected societal challenges? EuroHealthNet: Brussels.

Report: Baseline review

Staatsen, B., van der Vliet, N., Kruize, H., et al. (2017) INHERIT: Exploring triple-win solutions for living, moving and consuming that encourage behavioural change, protect the environment, promote health and health equity. Chapter 6

Article: Lifestyle e-coaching

Spelt, H., Tsiampalis, T., Karnaki, P., et al. (2019) Lifestyle e-coaching for physical activity level improvement: short-term and long-term effectivity in low. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 16(22), 4427.

2020-01-17T11:40:33+01:00November 26, 2019|Keys areas|Comments Off on 3. Active transport