What NICE says

NICE guidance offers:

  • recommendations based on the best available evidence to help you plan, deliver and evaluate successful programmes

  • an objective and authoritative summary of the research and evidence, reviewed by independent experts from a range of backgrounds and disciplines

  • an assessment of the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of public health interventions.

Following all of NICE's recommendations on walking and cycling will help you make the best and most efficient use of resources to improve the health of people in your area. Details of new guidance that NICE is developing are on our website.

Basic principles

A wide-ranging programme of initiatives, involving all local authority departments, will help local communities to walk and cycle more. Initiatives should address the main barriers to walking or cycling as well as offering ways in which people can start walking or cycling. Among the key actions are:

  • ensuring there is a network of paths for walking and cycling between places locally

  • reducing road danger and perception of danger

  • ensuring other policies support walking and cycling

  • using local data, communication and evaluation to develop programmes

  • including practical support, information about options (including public transport links to support longer journeys), routes, cycle parking and individual support

  • focus on key settings

  • recognising the health benefits.

Many professionals will need to be involved in these actions.

Although often discussed together, walking and cycling are different activities and need to be considered separately. Some actions support both walking and cycling.

It is important to pay particular attention to the needs of people whose mobility is impaired, such as people with physical disabilities, frail older people and parents or carers with small children. This will both ensure these groups benefit directly, and achieve a greater increase in walking and cycling across the population as a whole. Programmes to support cycling should include people who use adapted cycles (including tandems, trikes and quads as well as hand-cranked cycles).

Making changes

Walking and cycling networks and infrastructure

  • Ensure the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are considered before those of other road users when developing or maintaining streets and roads.

  • Plan and provide a comprehensive network of routes for walking and cycling to help people get to their destinations safely and directly. These should be built and maintained to a high standard.

  • Ensure new workplaces are linked to walking and cycling networks. Where possible, these links should improve the existing walking and cycling infrastructure by creating new through routes (not just links to the new workplace).

For details see Walking and cycling networks and infrastructure on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Address key barriers to walking and cycling – road safety

Reducing road danger and the perception of road danger is an important first step in encouraging walking and cycling, although it may not be enough on its own.

For details see Preventing unintentional injuries on the road among pedestrians and cyclists on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Develop road safety partnerships and strategies
  • Maintain or establish road safety partnerships.

  • Carry out local child road safety reviews and consultations.

  • Align local child road safety policies.

Address motor vehicle speed
  • Use road design and engineering measures to reduce motor vehicle speed as well as changes to speed limits with signs only.

  • Work with police to educate drivers about and, where necessary, enforce speed limits.

  • Develop measures to reduce speed as part of a broad strategy to prevent injury and the risk of injury.

Introduce engineering measures
  • Consider engineering measures to make routes commonly used by children and young people safer.

Ensure local strategy, policy and planning support walking and cycling

Strategic or policy decisions can sometimes make walking and cycling more difficult, rather than easier. Difficulties may be an unintended consequence, or arise because actions to promote walking and cycling are not fully considered during policy or strategy development.

  • Ensure local, high-level strategic policies and plans (including the core strategy, local plans and health and wellbeing strategy) support and encourage both walking and cycling. Plans should include a commitment to invest sufficient resources.

  • Ensure planning applications for new developments always prioritise the need for people to be physically active as a routine part of their daily life. Ensure local facilities and services are easily accessible on foot and by cycle.

  • Assess in advance what impact (intended and unintended) any proposals are likely to have on physical activity levels.

For details see Ensuring all relevant policies and plans consider walking and cycling on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Local programmes to support walking and cycling – use local data, communication and evaluation

  • Ensure programmes address the behavioural and environmental factors that encourage or discourage walking and cycling.

  • Develop coordinated, cross-sector programmes to promote walking and cycling. Incorporate public health goals to increase the number of people walking and cycling as well as the distance they cover. Ensure programmes comprise an integrated package of measures, rather than isolated small-scale activities, and do not focus only on individual risk factors.

  • Draw on data to ensure programmes are based on an understanding of:

    • the local population and the journeys people take

    • the needs of people with impairments

    • factors influencing people's behaviour (for example attitudes, existing habits, what motivates them and their barriers to change).

  • Include communications strategies to publicise the available facilities (such as walking or cycle routes) and to motivate people to use them.

  • Evaluate programmes using tools to consider effectiveness and cost effectiveness. (See, for example, the National Obesity Observatory standard evaluation framework for physical interventions and the World Health Organization's Health economic assessment tool (HEAT) for cycling and walking.)

For details see General principles on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Programme content

Programmes should cover several issues. These include:

  • helping people change their travel behaviour (personalised travel planning)

  • town-wide cycling programmes

  • community-wide walking programmes

  • individual support for walkers

  • action for specific groups (for instance older people).

Personalised travel planning
  • Help those interested in changing their travel behaviour to make small, daily changes by commissioning personalised travel planning programmes.

For details see Personalised travel planning on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Cycle programmes
  • Implement town-wide programmes to promote cycling such as:

    • providing information, including maps and route signing

    • fun rides, recreational and sponsored group rides and school sports promotions

    • cycle hire schemes

    • intensive sessions in particular settings or aimed at particular groups, such as 'Bike to work' weeks, workplace challenges, activities aimed at children and families

    • activities and campaigns to emphasise the benefits of cycling.

For details see Cycling programmes on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Walking programmes
Community wide
  • Develop walking programmes, based on an accepted theoretical framework for behaviour change and taking into account NICE's guidance on Behaviour change (see also the local government briefing on behaviour change). Programmes could include:

    • community-wide events, such as mass participation walking groups, community challenges and 'walkathons'

    • walks led by suitably trained walk leaders (paid or voluntary) and aimed at people who are currently inactive.

  • Ensure programmes offer a variety of routes, paces and distances at different times of the day.

For details see Community-wide walking programmes on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Individual support
  • Ensure additional, 1-to-1 support is offered at regular intervals. It could include:

    • individual, targeted information, including printed material

    • goal-setting, monitoring and feedback.

  • Provide general information including:

    • maps, signs and other details about walking routes

    • how to get to shops, schools and other places on foot

    • details of surface quality and accessibility.

  • Use pedometers only as part of a package that includes support to set realistic goals (whereby the number of steps taken is gradually increased), monitoring and feedback.

For details see Providing individual support on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Older people and mental wellbeing
  • Work with partners to provide walking schemes at a range of intensities suitable for older people with different abilities.

For details see Walking programmes for older people on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Action in specific settings – schools and workplaces

Schools
  • Develop and implement school travel plans that encourage children to walk or cycle all or part of the way to school, such as:

    • addressing issues in the local environment

    • introducing 'walking buses' and 'Bikeability' training

    • setting performance targets for school travel plans

    • developing parents and carers' awareness of the wider benefits of walking and cycling.

For details see Schools on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Workplaces
  • Develop strategies to promote walking and cycling in and around the workplace, such as joint working between local authority transport departments, neighbouring businesses and other partners to improve walking and cycling access to workplace sites

  • Offer support to employers who want to encourage their employees to be more physically active by implementing the NICE guidance by, for instance developing workplace travel plans to address issues such as cycle parking, showers and storage.

For details see Workplaces on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Recognise the health benefits

  • Ensure there is a senior public health position leading on, and responsible for, the health sector's involvement in injury prevention and risk reduction and for promoting both walking and cycling. Include walking and cycling when considering programmes to address specific health conditions or outcomes (such as coronary heart disease or mental wellbeing).

  • Ensure the health sector plays an active role in the partnership (local road safety partnerships.

  • Incorporate information on walking and cycling into all physical activity advice given by health professionals.

For details see NHS on NICE's 'Walking and cycling' pathway.

Examples of good practice

Examples of how NICE's advice on walking and cycling has been put into practice can be found in our shared learning database.

Note that the examples of practice included in this database aim to share learning among NHS and partner organisations, and do not replace the guidance.