Changing how people move around cities can make them less polluted, healthier, and safer. Imperial researchers lead the London arm of the Europe-wide PASTA (Physical Activity Through Sustainable Transport Approaches) project, which aims to find out how this can be made a reality, and just how large the benefits could be.

Through their results, the team have provided evidence for the co-benefits of reducing air pollution by encouraging more active transport. For example, one study found that people who cycled in cities had better self-perceived general health, better mental health, greater vitality, lower self-perceived stress and fewer feelings of loneliness.

Another study showed that swapping the car for walking, cycling and e-biking even just one day a week can reduce personal CO2 emissions by 0.5 tonnes over a year. For the UK, where the average personal CO2 emissions are 1.8 tonnes per year, this is a significant change.

Lead researcher Dr Audrey de Nazelle (Centre for Environmental Policy) said: “For example, as London is trying to grapple with major health problems such as air pollution, social isolation, and obesity, why not tackle them together and get a bigger bang for our buck by promoting walking and cycling?”