Active transport is human-powered transport such as walking or cycling but also can include e-bikes, eScooters and cargo bikes. It encourages people to actively engage in physical movement while commuting or travelling short distances and represents a transformative way to travel that prioritises wellbeing, connectivity and a net zero future.
In a recent podcast, Jules Flynn, Zoomo’s Chief Operating Officer, and Shanti Ditter, WSP's National Technical Director, discussed how active transport will shape the future of how we move.
Shanti says there are many benefits to moving away from cars to move people, including health, safety and carbon reduction.
"The thing to consider is if we create environments where the modes of movement are different, you create an environment that is inherently safer for people. It can't happen automatically, but changing the speed environments in which motor vehicles travel and how we use the kerb space can help with this.
"Health is another big benefit as active transport is getting people moving, there are little to no carbon emissions and it changes how places are designed.
"I was part of South Australia's first walking strategy and to implement it requires transport, health, planning, and recreation agencies to all work together. Walking is a transportation mode but is also one of the most accessible forms of exercise. So, enabling people to incorporate walking into how they get places has many benefits."
As part of Wellbeing SA's Walking Strategy, the main priorities are planning walkable neighbourhoods, towns and cities, building connected, safe and pleasant walking environments and creating a walking culture.
"The choice of transport is often determined by how our cities are designed so there are many things to consider when designing for how we move people and goods,” adds Shanti. “The action plan for the walking strategy outlines changes in policy for local and state government planning requirements and identifying opportunities for infrastructure in already existing communities.
“Education for cultural change is probably the most difficult challenge. One of the things identified in the strategy action plan is partnering with others to improve community literacy on the benefits of walking.
“However, introducing more modes of transport means more competition on the kerb, footpath and streets. Our kerb space is social real estate and I think we need to educate and talk about how space can be shared and the benefits it brings to the community. We need to converse with the people who use this space and decide whether the kerb is used for parking or something else.”
Changing how we move goods in the last mile
It's not just moving people that active transport can benefit. The last mile that brings product directly to customers, adds pressure to our cities and places resulting in pollution, congestion, and negative impacts on health and wellbeing. For freight operators, the last mile is the most complex in terms of cost and efficiency, accounting for 53% of the delivery cost.
Zoomo provides light electric vehicles as part of their mission to transition from internal combustion engine modes to sustainable modes for last mile logistics and urban transportation.
Jules explains that the logistics of how goods are delivered is also a key consideration in how we design public spaces, particularly the kerb.
"There is a huge amount at stake in logistics and how we execute those movements. We're seeing signs pointing to enduring consumer preference for delivery for goods and services which competes with people using personal transportation or public transport depending on how these deliveries are happening.
"Moving the final part of the delivery from a heavy van to e-bikes, cargo bikes or lighter electric vehicles allows for less congestion, takes up less kerb space but also allows for the general safety and accessibility of active transport by having logistics in these modes."
Delivering by active transport depends on the city’s density, urban form, the operating environment, size and type of delivery, operator willingness and proximity to customers. But where these ingredients come together, the last mile freight task is ripe for disruption to create better outcomes for cities and improved efficiencies for businesses.
"It also broadens the concept of these non-car modes within our cities,” adds Jules. “If someone has their groceries show up at their door on the back of an e-bike, they might start thinking they could do their shopping that way too. It's hugely important in terms of multiplying the benefits across all the considerations.
Changing attitudes around active transport
Shifting the public perception of active transport whether it be for moving goods or people is a significant attitude change to what Australia has done before.
Jules says encouraging enterprises to transition towards micromobility for delivery is a challenge that needs to be met with a combination of public policy, government investment and business incentives.
"From a policy side, France has a program where they subsidise a cargo bike for small business logistics, and I think we could do similar things here. From an investment side, the biggest question businesses and individuals ask about is safety. Governments can foster the development of safe active transport infrastructure. From a business side, in many cases, it can be justified on economic grounds, but it also has the other benefits of reducing a business's carbon footprint.
Shanti agrees that governments have a role to play in changing attitudes around transport, but there is hesitancy, particularly regarding costs.
She says, "I think trialling and testing is important to get policy and decision makers onboard to show it is a great way to do things as every place will have their own unique challenges to implementation.
"Changing the narrative about our places is going to be the big challenge. You start with asking what sort of place we want to create and then the question of transport comes from that. What we're seeing is people want environments where they have high accessibility to services and facilities and to get that in Australia, we need to look at densification and how to create more liveable cities.
"Covid provided an example of people getting to know their neighbourhoods and people's behaviour changing. We saw neighbourhood cafes and shops thriving while the ones in the CBD struggled. We have seen research come out stating that people are spending at least 27 percent of their work week at home and they're more likely to be in the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
"There is an interplay of things here that's happening both in cities as well as in the regions where environments are being forced to change based on how people's behaviour has changed. It is far harder to change an environment than to change people's behaviour, so I think focusing on giving people opportunities for behavioural change is the first step.”
Find out more about how WSP is using its Future Ready trends and methodology to change how we move.
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