||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (April 2009)|
Active travel is an approach to travel and transport that focuses on physical activity (walking and cycling) as opposed to motorised and carbon-dependent means. In the United Kingdom, for example, over 50% of car journeys are under 5 km. Motor car journeys can therefore be easily replaced with more active forms of travel. This practice offers multiple benefits of increasing health and levels of physical fitness and reducing rates of obesity, whilst reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and consequent Carbon emissions.
Health and environmental benefits
Serious health and environmental problems especially global climate change due to fossil fuel usage, and the continued increase in obesity are impacting the world. A shift towards active travel is one approach to tackling these challenges.
A House of Commons of the United Kingdom Health Committee report into Obesity in 2004 recommended promoting and facilitating cycling and walking as key components of an integrated anti-obesity strategy, suggesting "...physical activity incorporated into the fabric of everyday life." 
Studies have shown that the recent global increase in levels of obesity can be attributed to the decrease in physical activity by children and adults. This is also as a result of an increase in more sedentary forms of leisure (TV, video games) and to low levels of walking and cycling.
Correlational studies have shown that across socio-economic groupings in the UK caloric intake does not vary significantly, whereas activity levels and BMI do, and are closely correlated to each other. 
In response to this, a recent movement has emerged led by Public Health and environmental campaigners to advocate for stronger policies and practices that promote active travel, and make cycling and walking safer and more attractive. The intention being that these modes could in many instances replace car usage for everyday journeys to school, shops, public services etc. To facilitate this would require local planning and highway authorities to invest in ensuring safe routes are available to these destinations (danger from other road traffic is frequently cited as the primary reason for not cycling.) In many areas the current focus of development for cycle provision is on isolated leisure trails, resulting in highly fragmented cycle routes and pavements/sidewalks, which do not link effectively to everyday destinations.
Call to action
In 2008, the UK Association of Directors of Public Health, with Sustrans, CTC, The Ramblers and other agencies, launched a Call to Action on Active Travel. This sets out a number of clear goals for local planning and highway authorities. If achieved, these goals could mark an effective response to the steadily increasing problem of obesity, and also help reduce carbon emissions. However, the process for monitoring progress towards these goals (beyond anecdotal good-news stories) and holding councils to account for their performance, is weak, and threatens to undermine progress towards the goals:
- A 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limit to be made the norm in residential areas
- A coherent high quality network of cycle routes that link everyday destinations
- Improved driver training and better-enforced traffic laws
- Ambitious official targets to be set for increases in walking and cycling
In 2012 Polis, a network of European cities and regions, published a position paper that calls upon European institutions and other European actors to take action, to ensure that the promotion of health benefits of active travel are maximised in all relevant European policies and programmes. Recommendation are based on references in European policy documents to improving health through active travel which should form the basis of shared objectives, policies, work programmes and investment to increase levels of walking and cycling.
Specific recommendations include:
- Clearly identifying a leader for the work on active travel and health in the European Commission.
- Consulting stakeholders from the health, environment and transport sectors to explore the opportunity of European initiatives.
- Internalisation of external costs in transport aimed at ensuring that all health costs are taken into account, including physical inactivity.
- Taking the economic dimension of active mobility, and the long-term savings it can generate in healthcare costs and environmental benefits, systematically into consideration when appraising transport and urban development plans and policies.
- Institutions at the European level may wish consider funding activities to securing the benefits of active travel in Europe.
- Source: CTC
- Polis: Securing the benefits of active travel in Europe.
- "OECD data showing rates of obesity" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- House of Commons Health Committee, Obesity - Third Report of Session 2003–04 
- Prentice, A. M et al. BMJ 1995;311:437-439
- "Take Action on Active Travel". Adsph.org. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- "Polis Network - News". Polisnetwork.eu. Retrieved 2012-06-12.