It’s the fourth year that sustainable transport charity Sustrans has run its Change Your World campaign – which challenges people to leave the car at home and instead take on their daily journeys by bike, foot, or bus.
We spoke to coordinator Monica Ogden to find out more about the campaign – and the long-term hopes that lie behind it.
Starting from the notion that 40% of journeys are already made on foot, by bike, or by bus, this year’s campaign sets a challenge: to see how many times round the earth the collective journeys of those taking part will go.
And with an emphasis on spreading the word through Facebook and Twitter, Monica told us that the drive has been something of a success – with enough sustainable journeys pledged to complete well over three laps of the globe, which has a roughly 25,000 mile circumference at the Equator.
“It’s a gentle way of changing people’s travel behaviour,” Monica told us.
“Instead of grabbing the car keys, we want to get them trying something different – and then carry on doing it more often.
“The big message is just to show that if we all make small changes it can make a big difference collectively.”
And according to Monica, it isn’t just fit young people getting the message.
“We try to make it a positive and uplifting campaign; it’s accessible to everybody and we get quite a mix of ages – with people up to 65,” she said.
There’s a pretty good mix of people pledging to bus it, walk or go by bike. And cycling is something that Monica says is only set to gather momentum, as it ticks all the boxes for city transport.
“In London the growth figures have been enormous,” she continues. “A lot of people are thinking about the cost of a gallon of petrol – and then there’s the health benefits of cycling.”
“Going forward, we can see far more cyclists – and a greater range of people cycling as well. We are seeing it becoming more mainstream and there are already far more women cycling and there will be a wider age range.”
Looking for a new England?
However, Sustrans is realistic about the limitations of the campaign.
Monica concedes that its easiest to convert people to leaving the car at home if they live in a town. She points out that those who live in rural areas may struggle due to a lack of infrastructure, such as having a regular bus service.
“Sometimes people in rural areas would love to do it, but there are barriers,” Monica said.
“The short, local journeys are the easiest to change – and sometimes it’s even a question of thinking ahead to cut the journey out altogether.”
A final feature of the campaign is getting the people taking part to lobby on behalf of improved infrastructure – encouraging them to send an email to their MP to ask for more action on public transport, cycling and walking facilities.
“We are getting people to make more noise about it,” Monica added.
Of course, Sustrans is the charity behind the National Cycle Network – the 6,500 mile system which now handles half a million cycling trips each day, along with a similar number of walking journeys. Simon listed a few of our favourite stretches of the network in June’s family cycling post.
But it’s one thing to have infrastructure in place, and another to get people using it.
“We know you can build cycle paths, but then you need someone to tell people about it by giving them information – that’s the key,” Monica said.
The group’s TravelSmart initiative tries to provide exactly this – by providing individual information for those in certain postcode areas about how they can make the most of their opportunities to walk, cycle or use public transport.
“Change Your World is an entrance point to that spirit,” Monica added.