Active transport generally refers to all human powered modes of transport, including walking and cycling, and all variants such as wheelchair, scooter, skateboard, and rollerblade use. Some resources also consider public transport as a form of active transport. Improving active transport options enables and encourages more people to participate in active transport more often. The benefits of a well designed active transport system are versatile and even affect people not participating in active transport themselves.

If active transport options are accessible and attractive, less trips are done by car, which not only minimises traffic and parking congestion, but also reduces environmental impacts (1).

The health benefits of active transport are manifold. Less cars on the road lead to better air quality, which is important particularly for people with respiratory problems (2). Moreover, physical inactivity is one of the main public health risk in Australia. For many Australians the main problem is to find the time to exercise. Active transport is an easy way to incorporate physical activity into everyday lives (3).

There are also immediate economic benefits linked to active transport. Australia spends over $9 billion yearly subsidising medicines. Investing in preventive measures, such as active transport infrastructure, can increase public health and therewith significantly lower healthcare costs (3). Besides this, walking and cycling are popular recreational activities. An increased number of people participating in these activities directly benefits related industries, such as the recreation, retail, and tourism industries. Moreover, pedestrian environments are a crucial part of the public realm, with a variety of activities, such as waiting, socialising, eating, or shopping occurring in these environments. The more walkable a commercial area is, the more likely people are to spend time, and also money in it (1). A study from the Heart Foundation shows that walking trips of less than 2 km, and cycling trips of less than 5 km are the most cost-effective transport option for individuals (3). A well designed active transport system helps to ensure basic and affordable mobility. This is particularly crucial for economically, socially and physically disadvantaged people who often rely on walking and cycling. A good active transport system can therefore help achieving social and economical equity (1).

Transport systems are highly complex integrated networks of different transport modes and links between these modes. When developing or redesigning a transport system, a variety of factors need to be considered for it to be truly efficient. It is crucial to consider that transport needs are diverse. Different people have different abilities, and different trips require different modes of transport. Generally, the more diverse a transport system is (i.e. the more transport options there are to choose from for a trip), the more efficient it is. Moreover, the quality of the different transport modes and links between these modes significantly impacts how efficient a transport system is. For example, a person’s ability to commute without a car may depend not only on the transport modes available, but also on the quality of walking and cycling conditions, the perceived safety of a train or bus stop, how easy or difficult it is to obtain information about the different transport options, the social acceptability of commuting by bicycle, the ease of paying a fare, etc. (1).

The importance of active transport is reflected in the growing public interest in the topic. Numerous studies and initiatives have been launched to research and promote the benefits of active transport, and active transport has become part of policies and strategies of governments at all levels. To find out more about some of the most important studies and initiatives, please have a look at Clearinghouse for Sport’s website. Greening the Pipeline offers lots of opportunities to facilitate and promote active transport. So, what are our ideas to make this happen?