Get active and travel under your own steam

Why travelling on foot or by bike could be the way to go

Not sure what active travel is but interested in finding out more? Discover more from the experts at Energy Saving Trust. 

If you want to live more sustainably, and get fit and save cash too, it’s worth thinking about adding more ‘active travel’ to your daily life. 

Active travel really just means getting around under your own steam, whether that’s walking, cycling or wheeling (if you use a wheelchair). 

Because it doesn’t require any fossil fuels, it helps to reduce your carbon footprint. And it comes with so many benefits, including some you might not have thought of. It could help you de-stress, make more friends and support your local community – all great reasons to think about leaving the car at home.

Health, happiness and helping the planet – why active travel is the way forward 

  • You could save money
    Petrol and diesel cars are expensive to buy and run. And when you’re filling up with fuel for lots of short journeys, the costs can really spiral. Comfortable trainers or a basic bike won’t cost much by comparison, and they’ll pay for themselves in no time
  • You could get fitter and feel good 
    Regular walking can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%. Plus, walking and cycling can help you lose weight and manage stress. Fresh air, seeing the seasons change and enjoying the local community of other walkers and cyclists could give you a boost no car ride can
  • You’ll help do your bit to look after the planet
    Switching away from fossil-fuelled travel cuts congestion, carbon dioxide (CO2)  emissions and other pollutants, all of which are a danger to public health and ecosystems. By walking, cycling or wheeling, you’ll be contributing to cleaner air, land and rivers – now and for the future
  • You could help make your neighbourhood safer
    More cycling and walking has been linked to lower levels of crime. When you’re out and about, it helps other people feel safer in their local spaces – which encourages them to walk and cycle more too, creating a virtuous cycle
  •  …and you could get there faster than you think
    Yes, driving is much speedier than walking or cycling. But when you factor in finding a parking spot and getting to exactly where you need to be, it may not really be that much quicker for local journeys. On average, you can walk a mile in 15-20 minutes or cycle this in five. It could take longer to find your car keys…!

First steps – why it could benefit you to get more walking into your weekly routine

Walking is one of the greenest ways to get around, and it won’t cost you - or the planet - anything. If you walk or wheel just one mile to the shops and back every week, you’ll save £11 on fuel and 29kg of CO2 a year, according to Energy Saving Trust. Plus, carrying shopping bags could help you build strength and keep your muscles, bones and joints strong – no need to head to the gym for a similar workout.

Get on your bike? It’s time to celebrate cycling

With plenty of dedicated cycle lanes across the UK and the National Cycle Network, there could be no limit to how far your bike can take you.

There are lots of benefits to getting around by bike. It can help you build muscle and is linked to improved heart and lung capacity. You could get around your town or city faster, as you could skip the queues and filter through traffic. And with the UK Government allocating £2 billion to improving cycling and walking routes, biking is set to only get better.

  • Look for local community groups offering safety-checked, reconditioned cycles – by buying second-hand, you could reduce your carbon footprint even more
  • Alternatively, your employer might offer a Cycle to Work scheme, which could make the cost of a new bike more manageable
  • Bike beginner? Cycling UK has plenty of tips and advice to get you started as well as guidance and videos on how to look after a bicycle so it can last for longer
  • If you live in Scotland, you might be able to get help with the cost of repairing your old bike

More power to your pedal – could an ebike be good for you?

If cycling might prove a physical challenge for you, you could consider an ebike – a way to help more people ditch fossil-fuelled travel.

With an electric motor and battery, they can help you ride further and get up those hills. So they could be a great help for anyone who finds conventional cycling physically challenging. And ecargo bikes are increasingly popular, with many people using them to help carry heavy goods. Ebikes emit 742 times less CO2 per mile than the average petrol or diesel car – a considerable saving.

Learn more about riding an ebike or ecargo bike including their health benefits as well as charges, battery life and running costs.

Every mile makes a difference – here’s why they count

Many trips just aren’t possible with active travel, of course.

Friends and family often live hundreds of miles away; a work commute by bicycle could be impractical; and taking small children everywhere can be impossible.

But whatever you can do to walk, wheel or cycle more, you’ll be contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable future. Here’s how it all adds up, according to Energy Saving Trust:

  • Commuting by walking or cycling just once a week could save around 29kg of CO2 a year
  • Every mile you travel without your petrol or diesel car saves enough CO2 to fill 10 balloons
  • Reducing your car use by a quarter could save up to £202 in fuel costs and 510kg of CO2 a year
  • Doing at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week lowers your risk of developing depression by 30%; cardiovascular disease by 35%; and type 2 diabetes by 40%1
  • Cycling for 100 miles on an ebike can cost as little as 55p in electricity, if you charge it at home
  • By walking, wheeling or cycling, you’ll be reducing congestion and pollution, making local spaces quieter, healthier and more pleasant places to be

Information and estimates provided by Energy Saving Trust correct as at 11 August 2022. Movements in the price of gas and electricity since this date may have an impact on the size of Energy Saving Trust’s estimated savings.

If you decide to access any of the third-party websites, you do so entirely at your own risk.

You may also be interested in

Is it time to switch to an electric car?

Get ready to embrace electric cars

Interested in embracing electric cars? Here’s Energy Saving Trust’s guide to going electric.

Choose an electric car and you’ll be helping to end reliance on fossil fuels. With no running emissions, you’ll be contributing to cleaner air and healthier towns and cities. 

Charge! Powering up your electric car in public

How to power up on the go

Planning to get from A to B can be a challenge for electric vehicle (EV) owners. If you’re on the go with your battery running low, you’ll need to recharge – and that can mean finding convenient public chargepoints, allowing time to power up and being able to easily pay.

To help you plan for smoother journeys, here’s a guide with expert help from Energy Saving Trust.