Polis Released Position Paper on Active Travel and Health


A shift to active mobility and public transport combined with improved land use can yield immediate health benefits, much greater than those achievable by focusing only on improving air quality and the local environment through greater fuel and vehicle efficiencies. More walking and cycling, for all trip purposes – to work, education, shopping, social and leisure trips – can generate important economic benefits through large public health gains (which are not offset by accident costs) in addition to reduced pollution and congestion. Physical activity deficiency is one of the leading risk factors for ill-health in the 53 Member States in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region.

While there are a number of European policies acknowledging the link between transport and health, there is a need for more initiatives, including by EU institutions, to actively promote the health benefits of active travel. This paper calls upon European institutions and other European actors to take action, to ensure that the promotion of health benefits of active travel are maximised in all relevant European policies and programmes.

Summary of Recommendations

1. References in European policy documents to improving health through active travel should form the basis of shared objectives, policies, work programmes and investment to increase levels of walking and cycling.

2. A leader for the work on active travel and health should be clearly identified in the European Commission.

3. Stakeholders from the health, environment and transport sectors should be consulted to explore the opportunity of further European initiatives on this topic.

4. Initiatives on the internalisation of external costs in transport should aim at ensuring that all health costs are taken into account, including physical inactivity.

5. The economic dimension of active mobility, and the long-term savings it can generate in healthcare costs and environmental benefits, should be taken systematically into consideration when appraising transport and urban development plans and policies.

6. Institutions at the European level may wish consider funding activities to securing the benefits of active travel in Europe.


Polis and its member cities and regions in Europe stress the urgency of emphasizing the link between transport and health in certain EU policy areas, and firmly believe that there is a need for more initiatives, including by EU institutions, to actively promote the health benefits of active travel. The paper summarizes the roundtable discussion on Transport & Health that took place during the Polis conference, 29-30 November 2011.

Read the full paper here.