Health professionals and scientists believe there’s a clear link between the provision of high quality public transport and healthier lifestyles.

Moderate walking can protect against a range of diseases. Health professionals acknowledge that people who use public transport benefit from a healthier lifestyle; it’s easy to achieve your recommended 30 minutes of daily activity just by walking to the bus stop or train station.

Dr Adrian Davis, an independent consultant on health and transport, argues that “efforts to increase public transport accessibility and usage may not only decrease road congestion and air pollution but may have the added health benefit of increasing the proportion of adults who obtain 30 minutes of daily physical activity.”

Cambridge’s busway: Encouraging active lifestyles

Cambridge busway and adjacent traffic-free cycling and walking path

A recent study by the University of Cambridge supports Dr Davies’ view. The independent study found that the Cambridge’s guided busway has increased the number of journeys made by bike and is helping commuters lead healthier lives.

Cambridge’s busway opened in 2011. It has a dedicated track for buses separate from general traffic and a traffic-free path for pedestrians and cyclists beside it.

The university’s study followed 469 commuters and examined changes in activity patterns before and after the busway opened. The study found people living close to the busway who used the cycleway were more likely to increase the time they spent commuting by bike than those living further away. Commuters said they found the guided bus service convenient and accessible and appreciated the new traffic-free path.

The researchers also discovered that commuters who were the least active before the busway opened were now leading more active lives. The researchers believe this demonstrates sustainable transport infrastructure can help shift activity patterns in the population at large, rather than just encouraging people who are already active to do a little more.

MetroBus guided busway

MetroBus is a form of high capacity rapid public transport that will launch in the Bristol area in early 2017. Services, using a combination of segregated busways and bus lanes, will be fast and frequent. One main aim of MetroBus is to encourage healthier lifestyles and new walking and cycling infrastructure will be provided across its 50km network.

MetroBus is expected to have similar health benefits as the Cambridge busway. Over half of Bristol’s population are obese or overweight, and only one in three people take regular exercise; a recent report into the city’s health recently revealed in South Bristol 81% of people do not take regular exercise.

Importantly, the three MetroBus routes will serve South Bristol, including communities in Ashton Vale, Bedminster, Bishopsworth, Withywood, Hengrove and Filwood.

Improving cycling and walking

LSTF Cycling Bristol 2014 128 - CHRIS BAHN

The South Bristol Link which forms part of the MetroBus network will also have new cycling and walking paths along its 4.5km length. The paths will link to Festival Way, the Malago Greenway cycleways and Ashton Court, a country park and mansion with 850 acres of woodland and grassland.

South Bristol residents will also be able to take advantage of a traffic-free path that, like Cambridge’s busway, follows the MetroBus busway. The path follows the busway from Long Ashton Park and Ride to Spike Island and will also connect Festival Way, the Harbourside and other traffic-free routes into Bristol city centre.

By providing fast and frequent public transport MetroBus will help tackle the Bristol’s congestion and car dependency. As the Cambridge busway has demonstrated, an equally important benefit is that MetroBus will encourage healthier lifestyles across its 50km network, helping more people to achieve their recommended 30 minutes of daily activity.

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