Tees Valley drivers ditch the car for greener commuting challenge
Commuters in the Tees Valley rose to the eco-challenge this September when asked to leave their cars at home in favour of greener ways to travel to work.
Every commuter challenge participant who would normally drive to work alone – the most environmentally harmful way to travel – ditched their car and walked, cycled, car shared or caught the bus or train to work for at least one day during the week, saving 1.42 tonnes of CO2 in the process, reducing the distance driven on the Tees Valley road network by 6,417 miles.
Normally, participants who would drive alone (single occupancy drivers) would have produced around 2 tonnes of CO2. During the challenge week, this reduced to just 0.56 tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere.
In total, 614 workers from Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar & Cleveland signed up to the Let’s Go Tees Valley Commuter Challenge and pledged to ‘green up their commute’ for one week.
Prior to the challenge, which ran from the 16th to 22nd of September, 42% of participants said they would usually drive to work alone. The remaining 58% would usually walk, cycle, catch public transport or car share to work.
During the seven-day challenge, all of the drivers taking part made a change to cleaner transport on at least one day of the week.
The challenge has been cited as a ‘resounding success’ by the organisers, Let’s Go Tees Valley, whose aim is to encourage people to reduce their car use and travel by other modes of transport, in a bid to help combat road congestion and improve air quality.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:
“I’d like to congratulate everyone who took part in the commuter challenge. We’re investing millions of pounds into improving public transport in the Tees Valley, including cash for a new “Uber-style” on-demand bus transport, improving cycle and walking routes and our train stations to make getting around without a car easier than ever.”
Alex Kay, Transport Planning Officer at Darlington Borough Council, who spearheads the commuter challenge for Let’s Go Tees Valley, said:
“We know that the morning and evening rush hours are the worst time to travel by car, due to the sheer volume of traffic clogging up the road network and creating higher levels of air pollution in the atmosphere.”
“By giving people the information they need to make cleaner, healthier choices about how they travel, combined with the incentive to try something new, we’re seeing real and lasting changes in people’s habits. Even one or two greener journeys a week can make a difference to our environment and our own health. We’re now looking to scale this up so even more people can benefit from this initiative.”
Workers from a total of 44 companies from around the Tees Valley took part in the challenge, including all five local authorities, many schools, colleges and hospitals, and several major employers in the area, such as Cummins, HC One and Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies.
Eleanor Clements, Head of Environmental, Health & Safety at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies told us:
“We were delighted to take part in the challenge. We did so to raise awareness with our staff of ways to get to work that are less harmful to the environment, are better for mental health and save money as well. We pride ourselves on being an environmentally-aware employer and we strive to continually improve. We’re looking forward to working with Let’s Go Tees Valley again in the future.”
During the challenge, the numbers of people walking and car sharing to work doubled, while those cycling rose by 38%. Bus and train use also saw rises, from 11% to 14%, and from 4% to 5%, respectively.
Gary Quinn travelled by bus from Saltburn to his job at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, and has saved money on the way.
“I started using the buses as I didn’t enjoy driving in the rush-hour, and parking at work was sometimes tricky despite having a car-park permit. The annual bus ticket offers a huge saving over running a car”, Gary explained.
He went on, “I have a 10-minute walk at both ends of the bus journey which helps my fitness levels as I work indoors.”
Commuters were encouraged to keep going throughout the week with daily rewards and a grand prize draw at the end of the week, and participants took to social media to show their support for the scheme.
Sara Wray from Darlington, chose to cycle the two-mile journey to work, instead of driving.
“First time biking to work. I’ve got jelly legs but I did it! And I got to work a few mins quicker than when I drive”, Sara shared on Facebook on the first day of the challenge.
Following the challenge, Sara has vowed to keep up her new healthy habits, which has extended to the school run so the whole family benefits.
“The reasons for taking my bike are because I can’t quite walk the commute whilst making sure everyone gets to school/work on time but on the bike it is do-able. So my kids have been able to take their bikes too, they have been really pleased about that.”, Sara commented.
Sara is not the only person for whom the challenge has affected the whole family. Richard Storey, also from Darlington, switched from dropping his 12-year-old daughter off at the school gates and then driving to work, to ‘park and stride’, where he parks the car equidistant between school and work, and both he and his daughter complete their journeys on foot.
“The change saved around 5km and 10 minutes each trip and allowed us to both increase our step count”, stated Richard. “I’m pleased to say it’s something we’ve kept up and I think it shows that making small changes to travel habits can make big differences that are much more likely to be sustained.”
One train commuter, Lisa Jeffries from Marske, said that the 11-mile journey by rail to Middlesbrough gave her the chance to relax and read instead of arriving at work stressed from sitting in traffic.
“Now I get fresh air and exercise walking to and from the station and I’m able to chill with a good book on the train. Walking the half mile to the station and then to my work also means I’m managing the 8,400 steps just on my commute walk!”, Lisa enthused.
The Let’s Go Tees Valley project forms part of the Tees Valley Combined Authority’s portfolio of measures to help sustainable economic growth and encourage greener ways of living and travelling in the Tees Valley.
Let’s Go Tees Valley provides information and advice on travel by bus, train, walking, cycling and car share, in partnership with the five local authorities that form the Tees Valley. Further information about their programme can be found at www.letsgoteesvalley.co.uk