Lighting and active travel

Lighting and active travel

Active travel (walking, cycling, and increasingly including scooting) has a range of health, environmental and economic benefits. It can make us more physically active which is good for many things including our hearts, cardiovascular system, risk of developing cancer, and mental health. By improving our health it can also save money for our health services. If people are walking, cycling and scooting, they are not using motorised vehicles. This helps reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. By reducing the number of motorised vehicles on the road, active travel can also help reduce the thousands injured and killed on our roads every year. And don’t forget that active travel is fun! 😃

Encouraging people to walk, cycle and scoot should be a priority for all of us. A major factor that can discourage people from walking and cycling, and make walkers and cyclists less safe, is the built environment. Unfortunately our urban infrastructure is designed for cars and not people on foot or pedal bikes. I want to understand exactly how the built environment influences our willingness to walk or cycle, and our safety when we do walk or cycle. We can then start to make changes to our towns and cities to make them more friendly places for the active traveller.

I currently focus on a specific aspect of urban infrastructure and its influence on active travel - road lighting. We increasingly live in a 24-hour society and to maximise the number of people walking and cycling we need to make active travel viable at all times of the day, including when it is dark. My previous research has shown how the number of people choosing to walk or cycle drops significantly when it turns dark, even after accounting for the time of day and time of year. Road lighting may help overcome this negative impact of darkness and encourage more active travelling. Lighting can help people see hazards and make them feel safer, for example. Lighting may also reduce the likelihood of a pedestrian or cyclist being hit by a vehicle, this is an area I am actively researching.

Jim Uttley
Lecturer in Behaviour in the Built Environment

My research interests include behaviour in the built environment, active travel, and lighting.