Healthy travel is good for wildlife

This blog is part of our healthy travel choices series. Previously, we looked at road safety and giving children more freedom. Here, we are focusing on how healthy travel helps wildlife. This is very timely given the Restore Nature Now march on 22 June in London and elsewhere around the country. This is an opportunity to show how much we care about the deteriorating state of our wildlife both here and abroad.

Having healthy travel options increases people’s choice in how they get around. It stops them being forced to travel in a particular way, such as buying a car when they cannot afford to. Currently, buses are too unreliable and infrequent for many people to use them, while walking, cycling and wheeling are often considered too dangerous.

Better public transport and active travel infrastructure could lead to:

  1. Less noise – good for mating birds whose calls can be drowned out by traffic noise
  2. Cleaner air – less pollution impacting sensitive wildlife habitats
  3. Less water pollution – affecting our rivers and seas
  4. A reduction in car journeys – less roadkill.
  5. Less roadbuilding – less severance of wildlife habitats

All of these would be good for people and wildlife!

How healthy travel choices help wildlife

1. Less noise pollution

It has long been known that noise impacts many types of animal, including amphibians, arthropods, birds, fish, mammals, molluscs, and reptiles. Most commonly for birds, on which road noise probably has the biggest impact, it drowns out their birdsong. This undermines their ability to mark their territory, sound alarms and to mate.

Now it has been discovered that noise pollution can even harm birds before they’ve hatched.

2. Cleaner air

Air pollution, and specifically nitrogen, can damage many wild plants and fungi. 90% of land in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in England and Wales had excessive levels of nitrogen in 2014. SACs are amongst our most precious wildlife sites and have international importance. Yet even with the advent of electric cars, they are still being exposed to damaging levels of air pollution.

3. Less water pollution

Currently most of the pollution on our roads containing heavy metals, microplastics (from tyre and road wear) and other nasties get washed off our roads straight into the surrounding watercourses. It’s estimated that at least 63,000 tonnes of microplastics a year, from road and tyre wear, is ending up in our rivers and seas. Currently National Highways does not have a licence to pollute and very little pollution is captured. So far this has escaped the scrutiny that the water companies have faced with their sewage discharges. This will get worse with rising traffic levels unless the next Government can turn things around.

4. Less roadkill

An estimated 88 animals are hit by vehicles in the UK every single day. That’s equivalent to 32,000 animals a year. However, these numbers are based on insurance claims, 61% of which are made following a collision with a deer. Therefore the actual number of collisions with wildlife (hedgehogs, badgers, birds, etc) is likely to be very much higher. This doesn’t include the impact on insects, vital for species such as bats.

5. Less severance

Less road building will mean less severance for wildlife, allowing them to move more freely in order to forage for food and to mate.

How you can help

  1. We will be in court in October for a hearing on our challenge to the £1.5billion A66 mega-road scheme. This road scheme damages the North Pennines National Landscape (the new name for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and threatens two internationally important wildlife areas, the River Eden Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the North Pennine Moors SAC and Special Protection Area (SPA). It harms precious peat bogs, and wildlife habitats for red squirrels. Plus, if that wasn’t bad enough, it would see 18,000 trees chopped down! Please support our case.

2. Ask your MP and local councillors what they are doing to enable more healthy travel choices. With election fever in full swing now is a good time to highlight how important this issue is for you.

3. Report any observations of roadkill to The Road Lab (formally Project Splatter), which is a citizen science project aiming to map and quantify wildlife killed by vehicles in the UK.



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