Protect cycling and walking during Covid-19 pandemic, appeal researchers

More than 30 public health and transport researchers have signed their name on a letter calling for the Government to protect the right of those not showing symptoms of coronavirus, to walk and cycle safely from risk of infection and traffic injury.

The letter requests the Government to ensure parks and other green spaces are kept or made open, with management if needed to make certain of safe behaviour, and implement emergency infrastructure to make cycling and walking safer for those travelling to work and the shops.

The researchers – which include Dr Rachel Aldred, Director of the Active Travel Academy and who has previously contributed to CI.N – are also calling on the Government to publish evidence-based guidance for people walking and cycling on reducing risk, including ensuring social distancing.

“As public health and transport researchers we fully support individuals, communities, and governments taking rapid and effective action against the growing pandemic of Covid-19,” the letter reads. “We recognise the importance of social distancing, with particular need to protect the most vulnerable.

“During this, however, all of our existing social and health risks do not simply go away. As the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Witty has said we need to consider how decisions taken by the Government to combat Covid-19 might harm health in other ways.”

The letter also refers to the potential health risks of confinement, particularly in overcrowded accommodation with little or no private green space, and during times of anxiety.

A recent report for Public Health England revealed that walking contributes between 26-42% of the total physical activity across all age groups of the population, and is accessible to a vast proportion of ages and gender.

Social distancing, which those of us in the UK are now being told to practice, makes many sports and gym based exercise impossible. However, walking and cycling can be compatible with social distancing as long as people are responsible, such as staying 2-3 metres apart from one another.

The letter also states that for those people who are shopping or still need to commute, walking and cycling should be supported. A wide variation across Europe in policies towards walking and cycling (some actively encouraging and others effectively banning it, or closing green space), has prompted the call on the UK Government to protect people’s right to walk and cycle safely.

 

 

Hayley Everett

Multimedia Reporter

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