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  • Writer's pictureHICO

Active Travel: Enhancing Place Making: The Multiple Benefits of Cycling and Walking

Updated: Apr 16

Our previous blog on active travel touched upon the need for quality and consistent engagement with communities from the outset when planning and designing active travel schemes. But taking a step back, what is the case for change and why encourage and promote active travel in the first place? At HICO, we suggest, active travel sits within a wider concept of ‘place-making’ and this too should be co-designed with those who live, work and travel in that space.

Photo by Ellen Kerbey on Unsplash

In spatial planning and community development, the concept of "place-making" refers to the intentional design and activation of public spaces to foster social interaction, cultural expression, and a sense of belonging. 

We believe that central to successful place making are active modes of transport such as cycling and walking. These not only promote physical health and environmental sustainability but can also contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of communities. Below, we explore seven benefits of cycling and walking to place making and how these activities can transform places into more liveable, inclusive, and resilient spaces. 

  • Vibrant streetscapes and pedestrian-friendly environments can attract visitors, stimulate economic activity, and support local businesses. Cyclists and pedestrians are more likely to use shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants located along walkable routes, contributing to the community spirit and economic resilience of neighbourhoods and local commercial activity.

  • Human-Scale design: investing in cycling and walking infrastructure encourages place design that prioritises the needs and safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Narrower streets, wider pavements, designated bike lanes, and traffic calming measures create human-scale environments that promote accessibility and inclusivity for all.

  • Cycling and walking can serve as catalysts for place-making initiatives, transforming underutilised spaces into public realms that reflect the identity and character of a community. Pop-up parks, street markets, art installations, and cultural events change public spaces, making them places of creativity, full of social interaction.

  • Reduced traffic congestion: prioritising cycling and walking infrastructure, places can reduce traffic congestion, improve traffic flow, and minimise car use. Dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, and mixed-use developments encourage alternative modes of transportation, leading to smoother traffic patterns for all road users.

  • Environmental benefits: cycling and walking are inherently low or zero carbon modes of transportation. By promoting active transport options, places can reduce air pollution, mitigate climate change impacts, and create healthier and more sustainable environments for current and future generations.

  • Improved physical wellbeing: cycling and walking offer accessible and enjoyable ways for individuals to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, promoting heart health, muscle strength, and overall wellbeing. Through encouraging active transport options, places can combat sedentary lifestyles and reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

  • Enhanced mental wellbeing: engaging in cycling and walking can have mental health benefits, with regular users reporting reduced stress, anxiety, and depression and improved mood. The opportunity to connect with nature, explore new surroundings, and interact with others in shared public spaces can foster a sense of connectedness and belonging, enhancing overall quality of life. 

At HICO we understand that place-making provides a way to present active travel as an integral part of spatial planning, contributing to great places for people to live and work. If you would like to discuss how to re-profile your active travel scheme in this way, why don’t you get in touch?

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