In the last four weeks, the communities of Chester and Ellesmere Port challenged themselves to travel smarter.
That meant walking more, cycling and taking public transport to get to work, to meet friends, to go about their daily lives.
We asked individuals and businesses to take up the Challenge and so far more than 400 people have signed up and 89 local businesses are behind them, but this is more than a ‘get fit’ scheme or a short-term nod to a greener neighbourhood.
We want to change people’s views and their actions for the better.
Environmentally-friendly, healthier transport is a mission for all Britain’s councils and it’s long been realised that the positive effects can deliver a lot to the individuals as well as the area.
Traffic causes stress and increases pollution, and the carbon output of a daily commute by car sets back the region’s vision for a greener environment.
With the ever-rising fuel costs, travelling sustainably saves money on petrol and by walking that just that little bit extra to the bus stop or even walking the whole journey gets you fitter at the same time.
Throughout the Challenge participants could see just how much money they saved, calories burnt and the amount of CO2 saved.
The first individuals to sign up for the Workplace Challenge were those who enjoyed a healthier lifestyle, those who already incorporated a walk and cycle into their daily routine.
And they were welcomed onto our leader board to inspire the rest of us with the miles they clocked up week by week.
But this initiative also wanted to target the individuals who usually find it harder to build exercise into their day and for whom the car feels like the only way to travel.
And we’ve seen an array of individuals and businesses show their support.
From Noah’s Ark Day Nursery to Marks & Spencer Money, they’ve all contributed to the 21,000 miles logged – that’s the equivalent of travelling from London to Australia.
It’s been a communal effort, one that has seen a 50/50 split of men and women taking part from schools, accountants, retailers and even the zoo.
We’ve seen journeys as small as half a mile, to one man who has managed to log 900 miles since the Challenge begun three weeks ago but, no matter how far you have travelled it’s the way you travel that counts.
In Chester and Ellesmere Port the ability to travel smarter is helped by its extensive public transport provisions and excellent network of cycle routes. Chester also has a park and ride scheme, so it would seem that finding an alternative to the car was easy.
But it’s a hard habit to break – mostly because we see travelling sustainably as needing to build more time into an often overstretched day, braving the cold or struggling to carry bags.
It’s been proven that cycling and walking provide much cheaper ways of travelling and the dedicated bus lanes in the area reduce the time spent on congested roads, lowering commuters stress levels in turn.
If that wasn’t enough encouragement, the scheme has also been able to incentivise and reward participants with weekly spot prizes for those making the biggest improvement in the way they travel and money off vouchers for every mile logged.
However, the real prize is much bigger if the individual taking part can see a positive impact on their health and their local roads and considers making a more permanent change.
This is not just a four-week Challenge, it’s a lifestyle change.