This June people across Northern Ireland are encouraged to leave their car at home and take part in the Active Travel Challenge in a bid to be more sustainable, save money and to boost physical and mental health.
From a trip to the shop to the commute to work, the Active Travel Challenge encourages the public to switch up their usual routine and try walking, cycling or taking public transport as a cleaner, greener way to travel.
The joint initiative is free to sign up to and runs for the entire month of June. Participants log their ‘active travel’ journeys on the online platform for a chance to win a range prizes, including vouchers, travel tickets, gym passes and rewards with national and regional retailers.
Led by Sustrans in partnership with Translink, the Department for Infrastructure, Public Health Agency (PHA), Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, and Belfast City Council, the popular annual challenge is open to individuals and organisations of any size across Northern Ireland to take part and help create habits for a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable lifestyle. The Challenge is also a great way to stimulate a little friendly competition between organisations and indeed amongst teams and colleagues throughout June.
Commenting on this year’s challenge, Chris Conway, Group CEO at Translink, said: “Active travel is an easy and accessible way to make small changes which make a big difference in creating a cleaner, greener environment. We’re hoping that even more people will get on board as part of this year’s challenge and start enjoying the many benefits of a less stressful and more cost-effective way to travel.”
In 2022, the Active Travel Challenge saw almost 9,000kg of CO2 saved by people opting to travel by walking, cycling, taking public transport and even skateboarding instead of using the car.
Sustrans Director Caroline Bloomfield added: “Each year we hear from people who have enjoyed a renewed love of walking, cycling and other active travel methods, thanks to the challenge. With so many benefits to health, household budgets, wellbeing and the climate, we would encourage everyone to have a go and see what steps they can take to build active travel into their routine.”
Colin Woods, Department for Infrastructure Transport and Road Asset Management Deputy Secretary, said:“The Active Travel Challenge encourages us all to think differently about how we travel and how we can contribute towards a low-carbon future by choosing greener travel options. I am pleased that the department is working in partnership with other agencies to support this initiative. Together we can make a real difference. I would encourage everyone to take part, leave the car at home this June and consider walking, cycling or using public transport for everyday journeys if you can.”
Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency said: “We know that keeping physically active can improve our physical and mental health and wellbeing and quality of life, with as little as 30 minutes of moderate level physical activity most days of the week shown to help reduce anxiety, help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, while also improving our quality of sleep.
“The Active Travel Challenge is a fun and interactive way to get moving more and highlights how incorporating physical activity into our daily lives, such as walking the kids to school or cycling to work, can have a positive impact on our health. The PHA would encourage as many people as possible across Northern Ireland to take up the challenge this June and encourage family, friends and work colleagues to take part too.”
John Walsh, Chief Executive at Belfast City Council added: “As we move towards the spring and summer months, the Active Travel Challenge comes at the perfect time to get outside and move more in the great outdoors. As well as the health benefits of walking or cycling, choosing active travel over car journeys is one way that everyone can make a positive contribution towards reducing their carbon footprint. Through schemes including Belfast Bikes and our Active Travel Hub in Cathedral Gardens, we will continue to prioritise promoting active travel to residents and visitors, as well as our own staff, and the Active Travel Challenge is a fantastic opportunity to do just that.”
BHSCT Alistair Campbell Director, Performance, Planning and Informatics Directorate said, ‘The Active Travel challenge is an ideal opportunity to make positive changes to the way we travel to and within our work and in turn can positively impact our physical and mental health & well-being. Evidence suggests that choosing active travel options improves our health and reduces our risk of developing chronic conditions such as Stroke or Diabetes. Additionally, the Active Travel Challenge offers us an opportunity to engage with our own environment and protect its future.’
To find out more and get involved in this year’s Active Travel Challenge go to atc.getmeactive.org.uk/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep up to date with all the latest ATC action on social media using #GetMeActiveNI