Healthy mobility and road safety
Active travel is beneficial in terms of health outcomes; walking and cycling also have a higher risk of road traffic injury than travelling by car. If we wish to encourage shifts from car travel to active travel, it is useful to understand the overall benefits.
In this research activity we used National Travel Survey data to estimate the number of casualties if some motorised journeys were replaced by active travel methods.
We estimated that if 50% of such journeys were switched to active modes there would be an increase in pedestrian casualties of 2% and an increase in cycling casualties of 14%. The latter of these estimates relies on the ‘safety in numbers’ effect; this makes it important that local authorities who have both active travel and casualty reduction targets consider additional measures to protect vulnerable road users when encouraging modals shift.
This research has developed capability within TRL to support local authorities in their planning and decision making.
Active Travel Solutions
Recent developments in power-assisted active travel solutions have the potential to encourage mode shift away from cars and provide health benefits for users. We wanted to understand the legal, safety and other issues associated with using these modes. We also wanted to evaluate their health impacts, because current tools for appraisal of transport interventions do not take account of the different health impacts of assisted active travel.
This project produced a wide-ranging state-of-the-art report with proposals for further work on legal and regulatory aspects, and user experiences. The report will support practitioners with making the case for interventions that will encourage take up and wider use of innovative active travel.
Published Project Report: PPR877
Mental Health and Transport
Mental health has received increased attention in the last few years, and has been at the centre of recent policies. However, despite this progress the extent to which mental health difficulties can impact day to day life and necessary tasks such as travel has received insufficient attention. Research relating to the impact of physical impairments on travel, and the policies developed to address these issues, have become widespread. However the impact that mental health difficulties can have on both driver behaviour and travel, or that transport systems can have on mental health is still scarcely documented.
We set out to gain a better understanding of the relationships between mental health and transport by engaging with members of the general public and exploring their own experiences. We wanted to understand the factors that influence travel mode choice and examine how these vary between groups of people with differing levels of mental health difficulties.
We conducted choice experiments which highlighted a number of differences in the factors that influence travel mode. Findings from the qualitative engagement explored the ways in which participants’ mental health could influence their own driving behaviour. Throughout the focus group participants discussed the impact of future vehicles, particularly automated technologies, on mental health. Unlike current cars that were often found to provide increased control and remove the uncertainty that other modes of transport provided, automated vehicles were a cause for concern.
The findings from our work are filling a gap in the literature and demonstrating the extent to which mental health can influence travel behaviour within the general public and the various ways in which transport systems can impact the mental health of the general population. Our research highlights the extent to which more work is required to improve the current transport systems to make them more accessible, support those with mental health difficulties and minimise the negative impacts that they can have on mental health.
The 2017 TRL Symposium was on the topic of mental health and transport.