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Washed Up: Come on council, help us keep fit after lockdown

The latest Washed Up column by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, July 21, 2020

One of the positive things to emerge during the Covid-19 lockdown was the huge number of people who took up physical activity, be it walking, running or cycling.

As the nation slowly returns to normal working hours and conditions, it would be such a shame if our collective love affair with physical activity dwindled again.

Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins. Picture: Chris Davey
Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins. Picture: Chris Davey

However, the antidote to a slump back to a torpor-like state is coming from an unexpected source. An initiative to help people introduce more physical activity into their everyday lives is gathering momentum across the UK, although it is yet to be taken up by local authorities in West Norfolk.

Park Active is the brainwave of the British Parking Association and it draws on the willingness of people to get walking and cycling during the lockdown period.

In effect, the scheme is a rebrand of local authority out-of-town car parks, but the idea is to get people viewing their journey into town for work or leisure purposes slightly differently.

Utilising park and ride facilities or redundant ground a few miles outside an urban centre, Park Active would provide a place for people to park their vehicles safely.

From there, the final part of the journey would either take place on foot or on bicycle, along signposted and safe walking and cycling routes.

This would have multiple benefits for the traveller, such as: more physical activity, less time spent sitting in traffic, cheaper parking.

It would also benefit the local environment with less town centre congestion, fewer traffic fumes in built-up areas, less vehicles on the streets, making it nicer for pedestrians.

There are other benefits too. The routes into town from the ParkActive site could take in back streets, opening up areas of the town that are usually forgotten. Businesses, such as coffee carts and cycle hire companies could set up at the car park.

The other good news is that the Government really backs the idea of active travel and is willing to put money into supporting schemes.

This could mean better parking facilities at the Park Active site, it could mean improved cycle ways and walking routes.

It is very early days but 10 local authorities across England are already on board and set to run pilot schemes.

Wouldn’t is be great if our own borough council took the initiative and turned one of the very few positives to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic into something that was of benefit to our health and well-being as well as our local town centre environment.

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