Yes – Edmund King OBE – President, AA

However people travel, local authorities should provide the safest possible routes for all. It shouldn’t be a question of prioritising one group ahead of another.
Good education, good road design and good vehicles all have an important role to play in ensuring our road network is accessible and safe for all. In particular, we have long campaigned about cycle safety, and the need for drivers to pay attention to vulnerable road users. For example, as part of our ‘Think Bikes’ campaign, we distributed millions of small line drawing stickers designed to encourage drivers to do a double take for those on two wheels. There are undoubtedly environmental and health benefits associated with more journeys being completed on foot or by bike and, especially for shorter journeys, councils should look at improvements to walking and cycle routes as well as public transport. However, three quarters of the nation’s freight is transported by road, as are the vast majority of local deliveries. Many vital community services also rely on a good road network. Care workers visiting the elderly in their homes require a car to get to their visits and the price of goods requiring home delivery could increase if vehicle access is significantly restricted. We need to find the right balance between when people can use a vehicle and when they can leave it at home. It would be a step too far that could backfire should road-user charging be introduced on any newly-built road.

No – Professor Gillian Leng – Dep Chief Executive, NICE

Encouraging people to be more physically active through more walking or cycling, has the potential to benefit both the individual and the health system. We have rising levels of obesity linked with Type 2 diabetes and one in six deaths in this country is probably related to people not being active enough. As a society we need to change our lifestyle to take more exercise. Our advice to change the priority when building new or upgrading existing roads is based on the best evidence. It shows that prioritising routes for cyclists and pedestrians, and public transport, will make an impact on individual choice, allowing people to be more active. Those changes will be good for the wider environment because there will be less traffic pollution, which in itself is a major cause of ill health. The NICE quality standard does not say to remove cars from the road, but it does say more space should be dedicated to those not in cars than there is presently. There is a lot we need to do. Things are not going to change overnight. People will say “but we rely on the car” and we do, but just because we do now, doesn’t mean we have to keep planning for that in the future. If we keep doing what we have always done, we will always do what we always did. So, asking planners to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and those who use public transport when roads are built or upgraded can ensure they are safe, attractive and designed to encourage people to get out from behind their wheel.