Better than a diet: public transport enables active and healthy lifestyles

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Cities around the world are facing some of the same critical challenges: reducing air pollution, solving traffic congestion, and ensuring a high quality of life for residents and city-goers. On World Health Day, allow us to illustrate how public transport can play a pivotal role in any city’s strategy to tackle all of these challenges.

We’re not doctors, but… air pollution kills

According to the World Health Organisation, nine out of ten people breathe polluted air, which kills seven million people every year. This number is startling, which is why the debate on how to decarbonise the mobility sector has never been more pressing.

“A sustainable transport system is a healthy transport system. Shifting from private vehicles to public transport, walking and cycling while cutting emissions on both public and private fleet can deliver enormous health benefits to the entire population, and particularly to those most affected, such as children, the elderly and the poor,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “These health benefits will come from less air and noise pollution, more physical activity and less road traffic injuries – providing the appropriate infrastructure and protective measures are in place.”

A sustainable transport system is a healthy transport system.

Cities with efficient, integrated and accessible public transport systems eliminate the need for private car ownership and therefore can significantly reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. In a UITP Policy Brief on health, we argue one step further: that equipping cities with integrated public transport would improve the life expectancy of city inhabitants. Based on the premise that mobility has an impact on the lifestyle of city inhabitants, a city with a more accessible and integrated public transport system will enable people to safely choose walking or cycling as a means of getting around.

In this Policy Brief, we provide four guiding principles on how to integrate mobility-related health impacts in the decision-making process. Read more about the creation of our Mobility Champions CommunityHealth Cluster’ established together with UCLG at the first WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in 2018, bringing together mayors and city leaders from around the world to tackle mobility issues related to health.

Encouraging active lifestyles

Active travel and public transport are complementary and mutually beneficial, support to one being likely to induce an increase in the modal share of the other in many cases. This is the key argument of the UITP Policy Brief, Unlocking the health benefits of mobility.

Most public transport journeys involve a walk to and from the public transport station compared with the much more sedentary experience of travelling by car. However, there needs to be a safe and accessible walking and cycling option in cities which involves careful coordination and planning.

Our Policy Brief, Ensuring optimum accessibility of pedestrian zones, demonstrates how to guarantee the successful implementation of pedestrian zones in cities by carefully planning with all relevant stakeholders—including public transport and combined mobility modes—from the very beginning of the pedestrian zone project. Only when implemented to ensure optimum accessibility will the project successfully improve the quality of life for city-goers.

In light of this, EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK 2019 (16-22 September) has announced its theme of safe walking and cycling (“Walk with us!”)—we are looking forward to seeing this year’s registered MOBILITYACTIONS from towns and cities all over the world meant to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle for residents!

Register a MOBILITYACTION here!

Read more about our many actions taken to tackle health challenges related to mobility!


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