What Is Active Travel?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Active travel is a concept of travel that includes only those forms of transport that require active use of the human body as a transport machine. Examples of the type of travel include walking and cycling, as these burn off energy in comparison to sedentary travel forms like driving or getting the bus. The term active travel can also refer to vacations that involve energetic pursuits such as trekking or cross-country skiiing.

In terms of the more common usage of the term "active travel," it is commuting and other necessary trips that are involved in the focus on walking and cycling, but not when these modes of travel are used for leisure. Active travel is pitted against public transport and cars as common ways to get to places like work, and can attract support from authorities like governmental health agencies. People who already walk or use a bicycle as a primary mode of transport may do so for environmental, health or practical reasons.

It is for these reasons that the proponents of cycling and walking wish to see an increase in the usage of these ways of travel. In addition, active travel is also argued to have beneficial effects on the community, such as increased interaction with neighbors, and a reduction in traffic. Proponents of active travel also cite high levels of obesity as one of the main reasons to choose active travel options over other forms of transport.


Problems facing walking and cycling as a practical option for many people derive from the layout and use of urban and rural areas. Often, these are designed to suit car drivers and people who use buses and trains. Roads without cycle lanes or footpaths, and crowded, high traffic city streets, can make cycling or walking hazardous. Ensuring that cities and countryside authorities provide safe and rapid walking and cycling links to areas of interest are high on the priorities of many advocacy organizations for this way of traveling.

When used in reference to vacations, active travel means something similar, but stretches the definition to include sporting activities, rather than commutes. People who go on these types of vacations look for energetic ways to spend their days off, rather than lounging on a beach and sunbathing. Examples of active vacations include hill walking, cycling through countries to experience the scenery and people at close quarters or lending a hand on a dude ranch.


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Post 3

@indigomoth - I don't know, I think that there are things that people can do to overcome those limitations you mention. Even if they live some distance from work, they can commute by transport some of the way and do the rest on foot or by bike.

The weather doesn't have to be that much of an issue, as long as you wear appropriate clothing. Not always possible, of course, but people tend to overestimate how much it's going to really affect them.

And if enough people want it, towns will change to meet the need. Lots of modern cities are becoming more and more cycle friendly, for example.

Post 2

@pleonasm - The problem is that it's not that simple for everyone. For one thing, most people can't manage to find a job so close they can get there without using transport.

For another, not everyone lives in a place where the weather is friendly to those who choose to walk to where they need to go.

And cycling in particular can be really dangerous in urban areas. You hear all the time about people being mowed down by cars who didn't see them.

I agree that people should try to use active travel when they can, for their health and the health of their communities. But, it isn't always possible and it's not the solution to problems everywhere.

Post 1

I've never heard of this term, although I like it. I think active travel is one of the most important concepts of modern life, or at least, it should be.

I mean, it combats pollution and obesity with one simple move. Not to mention it helps people to save money.

I wish that more people did this. I don't own a car and I try to walk everywhere that I can. I know this isn't possible for everyone, but it just makes so much sense. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

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