Getting ourselves from A to B can often have a negative impact on the planet. We all know that we should fly less, reduce our car use and use public transport wherever possible. The trouble is that most of these actions involve sacrificing something, and that doesn’t sound like much fun to anybody.

It can be hard to visualise actually enjoying and benefitting from reducing your personal transport emissions when you are being made to feel guilty. However, if we did all walk or cycle a bit more, we would be healthier and better off, the planet would benefit, and we’d probably be a whole lot happier as a result.
With this in mind I’d like to recommend some websites and ideas that aim to make cycling and walking both more accessible and more desirable (and do it pretty well in my opinion).

The first website is all about walking. Walkit.com is like a journey planner for walking. You input your starting point and destination and the site will generate a route for you, complete with map and instructions.

You can see how far the journey is, how long it should take for fast, medium and slow walkers, how many calories you’ll burn and the carbon emissions you will save when compared with making the same journey using another form of transport. Best of all you can choose between direct, less busy or less polluted routes. The latter will avoid main roads and go through parks and along rivers, giving you a more pleasant and healthier option for your journey.

Walkit currently covers a variety of UK cities and there are plans to launch it in many more over the coming months. Check it out; you’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily you could get to your destination without spending a penny and both doing something healthy and benefiting the planet in the process.

Moving on to cycling (and I’m afraid this is specifically London based – apologies to any non-Londoners), transport for London has recently launched the new cycling section of its website and it’s packed full of useful information for cyclists of any proficiency.

You can access information on cycle routes (including green routes), cycle training, equipment, safety and when you can take your bike on public transport.

It’s a great resource and one that will expand as new routes are added. If you are the kind of person who likes the idea of cycling more but lacks the confidence to bite the bullet and do it, then you will find loads of tips to get you excited about getting on your bike. More experienced cyclists will benefit from the cycle journey planner and alternative routes that are available.

Sticking with cycling (and also with London again – sorry!), I wanted to draw attention to a couple of future developments that have got me really excited. The first is the 12 ‘cycling superhighways’, planned for completion by 2012. These will be dedicated cycle ways from the outer boroughs into the centre of London. The new routes will by clearly marked with continuous cycle lanes at junctions to help keep cyclists safe. I’m sure that these routes will make a lot of people feel much more confident about cycling in London.

The second is the Cycle Hire scheme planned for launch in May next year. This is similar to the Vélib scheme in Paris and will allow people to pick up a bike from a docking station and return it to another docking station at their destination. This will be really useful to both commuters and tourists. Initially there will be around 6,000 bikes in Central London and I suspect that this number will increase quickly as the scheme grows in popularity.

So there you have it. Just a few helping hands to make walking and cycling seem like more desirable options. Leading a healthier and more sustainable life is about increasing your quality of life, rather than simply sacrificing the things you need, want and enjoy.

About the Author:
Rosie Bristow is part of the PASSION for the PLANET team.
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