Ambitious walking and cycling plans for St Helens and the region could make people more likely to leave their cars at home, new research suggests.
Polling carried out across the Liverpool City Region found 75 per cent of people asked would be encouraged to travel more by bike or on foot if there were more "safe, well-lit and well maintained footways and cycle routes".
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Researchers from the city region's transport partnership spoke with people about their cycling and walking habits and asked how they thought local infrastructure should be improved, ahead of work beginning on new and improved cycle and footpaths.
The survey found that while people do already travel by cycle or on foot, that they can be put off by a lack of safe and properly linked routes.
More than three-quarters of respondents (76 per cent) said they owned or had access to a bike, but only 35 per cent felt safe cycling on roads. And although more than 70 per cent of those surveyed said they walked most days for at least 20 minutes, only a quarter felt very safe walking at night.
Two-thirds of all journeys in the city region are less than five kilometres but half of those are made by car.
Encouraging more of these journeys to be taken either by bike or on foot would help to improve public health and have a positive impact on air quality by reducing congestion, as well as helping to boost the local economy by increasing footfall at key retail and leisure sites, the Combined Authority said as the research was published.
Regional mayor Steve Rotheram last year announced the first tranche of funding for a 600km network of new and upgraded walking and cycling routes, including in St Helens.
The initial £8.3m will create safe and improved links between residential areas, employment, education and training and leisure and retail sites.
Work is ongoing with designers to explore how the new infrastructure will look and operate, with more detailed proposals due later this year.
Mr Rotheram said: “This new research shows that we’re on the right track when it comes to travelling by foot or bike, with the vast majority of people saying that they want to see the kind of network we’re working to build.
"But it also reveals the challenges we have to work to resolve in order to get people to leave their cars at home – we need these new footpaths and cycle ways to be well-lit, safe and properly linked to the rest of the local transport network.
"Getting the views and input of the people of the Liverpool City Region has been really valuable, because it’s only working together that we’ll create a walking and cycling network which will help improve people’s health, the quality of their air and boost the regional economy.”