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nice guidance coverUpdated guidance published by the UK's top authority on improving health and social care calls on local authorities to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport over private cars.  Recommended measures include re-allocating road space by widening pavements and installing cycle lanes, closing roads and reducing vehicle speeds.

The fact that the Cycle Enfield and Quieter Neighbourhood programmes are designed to do just that is no coincidence.  Over the last few years Government at both national and local levels has  been becoming increasingly aware of the importance of active travel for physical and mental health, of the obstacles in the way of active travel and of the negative impact of excessive use of private cars. Which is why both the previous and the current Mayor of London have made funds available for councils to start to implement such policies and why the London Borough of Enfield - with cross-party support - developed its bid for "Mini-Holland" money.

So Enfield Council has not - as some people claim - embarked on an irrational scheme of no benefit to the wider community.  It is literally following doctors' orders.

Comprehensive evidence base

The updated version of NICE guideline NG90 - Physical Activity and the Environment - was published on 22nd March by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (formerly the National Institute for Clinical Excellence).

The detailed guidance on the NICE website is supported by a comprehensive evidence base and supplemented by a set of tools and resources for use by local authorities. Setting the scene, the guidance points out that

"In 2015/16, more than a quarter of adults in England were classified as inactive (fewer than 30 minutes physical activity a week). Increasing physical activity can prevent over 20 serious health conditions, including cancers, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity."

The guidance quotes an estimate of the cost of physical inactivity to wider society in the UK as around £7.4 billion a year:

Key facts and figures

Physical activity can help people to prevent and manage over 20 chronic health conditions (Start active, stay active Department of Health). The benefits of physical activity vary across ages and include improvements to physical and mental development and functioning. (Start active, stay active: infographics on physical activityDepartment of Health).

Physical inactivity costs the NHS in the UK around £1 billion per year (Making the case for public health interventions The King's Fund; The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006-07 NHS costs Scarborough et al. 2011). lncluding costs to wider society, this rises to around £7.4 billion a year (Everybody active, every day: an evidence based approach to physical activity Public Health England).


Give active travel the highest priority

NICE call on local authorities to aim to make it as easy as possible for people to walk, cycle or use other forms of active travel rather than making short journeys by car to travel between home and railway stations, workplaces, schools and colleges, shops and leisure facilities. Part of the guidance on active travel is shown below.

Extract from the section on Active Travel from NICE guideline NG90

 Ensure pedestrians, cyclists and users of other modes of transport that involve physical activity are given the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads. (This includes people with limited mobility.) Use one or more of the following methods:


As well as making recommendations about roads and travel modes, the NICE guidance covers::

  • enhancing the accessibility, quality and appeal to users of local open spaces to increase their use
  • designing buildings in such as way as to encourage use of stairs rather than lifts
  • provide accessible walking and cycling routes between buildings on campus sites (eg universities or hospitals)
  • encouraging physical activity at schools.

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