As a core member, I was recently invited to do an introduction talk at a Salford Social Value meeting. There is a different theme at each meeting, based on one of the aims of the 10% pledge, this time the discussion was all about Green Travel. I thought why not, this is what I chatted through…

I’ll put my hands up now, I am not a transport expert! But to be honest, I don’t think that really matters. I have a strong passion for protecting the local environment and helping look after the staff and community where I work. So as both a local business owner and resident of Salford, I am naturally always keen to learn more about how we can adopt greener ways to travel around our City and beyond.

As part of the 10% Better Campaign, the Salford Social Value Alliance’s aim is to have 2,280 MORE people out of their cars and instead using green methods of transport to work by 2021. So that’s just 2 years left now to reach the target.

Why did we set this target, why is it so important to reach it?

Adopting greener travel in my mind is crucial for both improving the wellbeing of the local environment AND improving the wellbeing of the local people. The health of both the environment and local communities are inevitably interlinked and hindered greatly by current transport methods.

We all know that travelling is one of the greatest contributors to our carbon footprint and emissions. We live in the age of a Climate Emergency and the clock is now literally a ticking timebomb. We all know it’s going to take radical action to reverse the damage we are doing to the environment both locally and globally, and tackling our day to day getting about for work and commuting will be key in this mission.

But just as critical is the wellbeing of ourselves and our local communities.

Business travel in our City has a huge impact on the quality of the air we breathe. Dirty air from road transport can seriously damage our health and contributes to the equivalent of 1,200 deaths a year in Greater Manchester alone. It contributes to a wide range of illnesses and conditions, including lung and health diseases, some cancers, strokes and asthma too.

I was only 19 when I moved to Manchester. I had grown up in Gloucestershire in the countryside. Within 6 months of living here I was diagnosed as asthmatic and put on inhalers, the doctor simply said it was adapting to city life.

Air pollution does affect everyones health, especially those that are most vulnerable in society, children, older people and those already in poor health.

We all have a responsibility to help tackle the problem. But the encouraging news is that Green Travel is a hot topic of conversation and there is plenty of debate, exploration of ideas and reporting on the subject both on a local and national level.

On a local level, I attended both the GM Green Summit in March and more recently a Carbon Literacy Consortium workshop in May, all about ‘Planning for the Green Industrial Revolution’ and at both events Green Travel was high on the agenda.

At the Green Summit it was great to hear a keynote speech from Chris Boardman about the Bee Network, a proposal for Greater Manchester to have 1,000 miles of walking and cycling routes connecting communities across the whole region, making it the UKs largest network of its kind. He did also say that Salford were currently leading the way for improving cycle paths!

And at the Green Industrial Revolution workshop there were plenty of debates, each table was asked to come up with suggestions for radical actions on how to address transport when aiming to decarbonise the region. Ideas put forward included water based transport, car free city centre, taxing frequent flyers within business travel and congestion charges.

I would just like to quickly add both events were held in the best borough in GM, Salford of course!

It’s also been encouraging to hear recently that Salford CVS are getting inhouse bikes for staff to use to go to local meetings, that Salford City Council has adopted a Green Wheels Car Club for staff, and also that the public transport network across the whole of Greater Manchester is to become much more integrated.

At the launch only a couple of weeks ago of the new transport network map, which includes Salford, it was announced that ‘by allowing people to easily and quickly move around the city, we can unlock growth, cut congestion and air pollution and enable residents to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.’ The plans include more trams, a new bike hire scheme, free bus travel for 16-18 years olds and expanded Park and Ride.

On a national level, there are countless reports coming from many Research Centres now covering the topic of Green Travel. We’ve been told that electric cars are the way forward and the government is committed to phasing out petrol and diesel cars by 2040. But critics say the timetable is too slow and that electric cars won’t even solve the transport problem. Recent reports state that dust from car brakes and tyres will still pollute city air and that these particles with road surface wear directly contribute to well over half of particle pollution from road transport.

So, no matter what, the challenge is to lure people out of their cars and either onto public transport, or even better, to cycle or walk where possible.

Before we move back onto our 10% pledge, I would like to tell you a little about Carbon Creative where I work. To encourage our staff to cycle we started a Ride to Work scheme in 2013, and in the last 6 years 12 members of staff have taken part in the scheme and started cycling, not bad for a small company.

This has helped reduce our carbon footprint as a business over the years, but the biggest benefit has been to the health and wellbeing of those staff that have taken part.

Not only have they enjoyed a better commute to work, beating the traffic jams, cycling has also improved both their physical and mental wellbeing. Getting out on a bike can really help reduce the inevitable stress levels that come with busy agency work, it’s why I cycle a lot!

But we have taken it further still, born from the Ride to Work scheme we have regular bike rides outside of work hours. Team Carbon, as we call ourselves, now includes not only staff, but family members, friends and even clients from Salford and beyond! We train when we can and over the years have taken part in big cycling challenges and charity fundraisers. Our most recent was only last weekend, when we did the 3 day Coast to Coast challenge. As a business we supported the trip by giving all staff taking part extra leave for the trip and financing the back up support. It was worth every penny to see the genuine pleasure the staff got out of the trip, the team bonding it encouraged and the support it raised for charity.

But the personal highlight for me was a friend who lives here in Salford who joined us for this adventure. At the start she didn’t believe she could do it. She’s turning 60 this year, she hadn’t ridden a bike in years, was pretty unfit and she had been unwell. But within a few weeks she was enjoying meeting and cycling with the rest of the team, even training by herself, got herself on Strava to monitor her progress, and was getting fitter by the day. She set herself a target of cycling 60 miles in total on the Coast to Coast to mark this years birthday but smashed it, and cycled nearly 80.

Jo said something that will stick in my mind for a very long time and made all the difference. “You guys have changed my life, this is the happiest and healthiest I have felt in years.” And she must have been telling the truth as she has already signed up for our bike ride across Wales next year!

So back to our pledge, as an Alliance committed to getting at least 2,280 people out of their cars within the next 2 years, how can we meet this target? That’s what today is all about!

The meeting went on to include speakers from Transport for GM, University of Salford and Wheels 4 All. There were plenty of table top discussions and brainstorming ideas to take forward and share with colleagues and friends to help us reach the 10% Better target. To find out more please visit the website, or even better, get involved, come to the meetings and make a pledge!