Tuesday, 1 Mar 2022  |  Reading time:  12 mins  | Read online

Weatherproof active travel

This week’s edition of Global Local focuses on how local government can help to make active travel safe and appealing all year round.

Active travel, including walking and cycling, surged in popularity in many places at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as many people looked for a socially distanced way of getting around their neighbourhood that was also environmentally sustainable and physically active.

Local government funding for active travel infrastructure and services significantly increased and is still being made widely available. Temporary initiatives such as pop-up cycleways and low traffic neighbourhoods proved popular with some and raised concerns and controversy for others. As we move out of the pandemic, how can local governments ensure that active travel investment meets the needs of the whole community throughout the year?

How do weather conditions affect active travel? Adverse weather conditions create significant perceived and real barriers to active travel. In icy and snowy conditions, maintenance is required to keep cycle paths passable, including through methods such as sweep-salting. E-bike and e-scooter scheme operators may choose to limit scooter speeds and range in dangerous conditions or withdraw them from streets altogether. Less confident cyclists and pedestrians are much more likely to be put off by bad weather.

How can local government promote year-round participation? While weather does affect usage, concerns such as safety, accessibility, convenience and cost are still most likely to influence whether people use active travel modes. Investments in equitable infrastructure, training, and trial or rental schemes are likely to have the biggest long-term impact. Policies designed to accommodate local weather conditions can and should be part of a wider planning lens, such as Winter City Strategies in British Columbia, Canada, and a biophilic city approach in Singapore.
This week: The current situation in Ukraine is deeply concerning for many people, including for us here at LGIU. Last year, we produced an edition on how local governments can support refugees, which you can click here to read.

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This week's featured briefing

An active outdoor life: how do the Nordic nations maintain their outdoor lifestyle all year?

By James Bonner, LGIU Associate

While governments across the world have sought to accommodate and encourage active travel trends popularised by the pandemic, the fact is that winter and spring can be pretty cold, wet and dreich and that can be a significant barrier preventing people from spending time outdoors. However, there are a number of countries that deal with similarly dark, wet, and cold weather, yet manage to maintain an outdoor life throughout the year.

Based on personal reflections from the author’s time in four Nordic cities, this short briefing takes a ‘street level’ view and provides practical examples of ways cities have been designed for various aspects of everyday mobility to help society retain a year-round outdoor culture.

These places support having fun, for children (rain playgrounds), and adults (cafés, areas for outdoor recreation, and lockers at public transport hubs for sports equipment). Perhaps, there is useful learning from some of the provisions and practices in these places that deal with climatic conditions that are often harsher than experienced in countries such as the UK.

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Can e-scooters save us from ‘carmageddon’?

Electric scooter companies raced to take part in planned UK trials after tests were brought forward due to the pandemic, opening a window for greener transport methods. LGIU's Kat McManus highlights the practical and regulatory issues that e-scooters bring, as well as lessons from other countries that introduced them earlier.
Read this blog here.

Looking ahead: Eight ways local government can encourage active travel

This briefing outlines some of the temporary measures to encourage and support active travel that have been effectively implemented by councils globally, before exploring practical and permanent ways of continuing the trend long term.
Read this briefing here.

Movement and Place tools for integrated planning

Movement and Place theory aspires to create public places that people want to spend time in and to reconceive streets as more than just conduits for moving vehicles. This briefing offers a summary of Movement and Place frameworks and tools from Australia, the UK, and the USA.
Read this briefing here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies from around the globe

Sweden: Arctic municipality runs initiatives encouraging winter cycling

A Swedish municipality where temperatures regularly drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter has run a series of projects to try to make active and sustainable modes of transport more attractive for residents. Luleå Municipality ran an in-depth study featuring 13 residents in winter 2017-2018 to identify specific winter cycling policy needs, perceived and real barriers, and support required. A 2020 project involved three families only using public and active transport for three months. Other municipal initiatives include a learn-to-cycle school for both children and adults and a bicycle library.
Journal of Transport & Health / David Chapman & Agneta Larsson / TheMayor.EU / Plamen Petrov / Luleå Municipality / Luleå Municipality

Global: “Goldilocks temperatures” for bike share schemes identified through analysis of 100 million rides

Demand levels for 40 public bike share schemes in 16 countries were modelled by University of Queensland researchers last year. 27-28 degrees Celsius was judged to be the “sweet spot” for bike share schemes, with usage dropping above or below this temperature. Time of day affected usage most, while rain or snow caused usage to drop variably in different cities but particularly where bike share infrastructure was weak. The researchers modelled climate change impacts, predicting that rising temperatures will cause bike share usage to fluctuate; largely increasing cyclist numbers in colder climates and decreasing numbers in warmer areas.
CyclingTips / Matt de Neef / The Conversation / Richard Bean et al.

Canada: Municipalities help residents stay active in winter

Canadian local governments innovatively ensure residents can stay active safely in winter. The City of Fort St. John promotes a culture of “winter citizenship” by recognising residents who support neighbours by clearing snow in front of their homes – rewarding them with city-branded gloves and scarves. The Village of Wells helps older residents stay active by identifying high-traffic routes to be prioritised for winter snow clearing and summer bench installation. Meanwhile, the City of Calgary recommends winter cycling clothing, equipment and maintenance and advises which paths and bikeways are cleared first after snow.
BC Healthy Communities / City of Calgary

Singapore: Climate not main barrier to tropical cycling, research finds

Singapore has a low cycling rate, representing just 2% of daily commuter trips. While humidity, heat and heavy rain are perceived as tropical cycling barriers, 2019 research suggests the main challenges are the same as in temperate cities, so learning from innovation there is key. Priority areas include improving cycling’s perceived safety, including through education about sharing space with cars and pedestrians, boosting end-of-trip facilities through targeted funding, and ideally creating natural shade at junctions and planting to delineate cycle paths. Educating school children, initiating government-community funding partnerships, and establishing specialised cycle agencies could also be effective.
Policy Design and Practice / Qian Yun Lee & Dorina Pojani

Policy & Resources

In the UK, 78% of disabled people, 76% of women and 74% of people from ethnic minority groups never cycle – however 31%, 36% and 55% of people from these groups respectively would like to start. These resources highlight ways to ensure that all communities benefit from active travel investment.

Guide: Cycling for everyone: A guide for inclusive cycling in cities and towns (Sustrans & ARUP, UK)

This guide makes recommendations for local governments globally to make cycling more inclusive, including creating bike strategies to reduce inequities, improving road safety, removing barriers on existing routes, and offering free cycle training.

Case study: On the Go: How women travel around our city (Sydney, Australia)

This case study highlights how a range of women use transport to make complex trips. It makes five policy recommendations to encourage more women to walk and cycle.

Programme: Active Travel Hubs (Paths for All, Scotland)

Hubs across Scotland promote active travel by offering route planning advice, try-out sessions and repair services. Many offer short guided 'Health Walks' to help people become more active and some are funded through the local authority ‘Smarter Choices, Smarter Places’ fund.

Policy: Let’s Bike Oakland (Oakland, California, USA)

This 2019 plan has cycling equity as its central focus and sets out clear steps to increase cycling participation. Informed by input from 3,500+ residents, the plan includes a comprehensive overview of current and recommended strategies, infrastructure, initiatives and partnerships.

More from Global Local

January 2022 Global Local think tank review

Think tanks around the globe are looking at issues of community wellbeing, the health of democracy, use of AI and more. Get an overview of the latest thinking and research on local government.
Read the briefing here.

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we're celebrating International Women's Day with a special edition. In two weeks, we'll be looking at heating homes and the energy crisis.

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