Yorkshire cycling website


NICE physical activity recommendations

29th January 2019

Manchester cycle lane
Manchester cycle lane

Earlier this month, NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, published recommendations on encouraging physical activity in the general population. One of their ideas is to reallocate road space and priority from motor vehicles to active travel, which would be revolutionary.

NICE physical activity recommendations: Quality Statement 1

Among its recommendations, NICE says that local authorities and healthcare commissioners should have physical activity champions to make sure plans and policies are implemented (Quality Statement 1). The people taking on the role should be 'enthusiastic and passionate about promoting physical activity'.

NICE physical activity recommendations: Quality Statement 2

The recommendations also state that local authorities should develop and maintain connected travel routes that prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and people who use public transport (Quality Statement 2). It says users of these modes of transport 'should be given the highest priority over motorised transport (cars, motobikes and mopeds, for example)'.

If implemented, that recommendation will be revolutionary.

The first step is for government and local authorities to recognise the current factual situation - that motorised vehicles are given, or take, priority in almost every situation. The response of the Department for Transport to the recommendations is a case of failing to understand that point. '[It] is crystal clear that street design should explicitly consider pedestrians and cyclists first.'

This is not an outright lie but, I suggest, deliberately misleading. The designer of a street scheme is asked to consider users in a particular order when doing the designing - it is how he or she is supposed to order his or her thinking. That is not the same thing as giving road users priority in that order.

NICE's explanation of Quality Statement 2 asks for 'safe, convenient, inclusive access for pedestrians, cyclists, and people who use public transport' to travel routes, 'and that it is maximised and prioritised over motorised transport...This may include reallocating road space to support walking and cycling, restricting motor vehicle access, introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes, and making it as easy as possible for people with limited mobility to move around their local area.'

NICE physical activity recommendations: Quality Statement 5

Quality Statement 5 concerns early years and schools, and NICE recommends that active travel to early years settings and schools should be increased annually. Local authorities should ensure that there are suitable travel plans in place. Safe routes should be mapped, and activities like walk and bike to school should be organised.

NICE is consulting on the recommendations until 1st February 2019.

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