If all that Adrian Davis had done was to write his “evidence on a page” series he would still be a star turn.
The fact that he has been a long-term part of Bristol City Council’s top tier of policy making should be recognised as one of the reasons why Bristol has been able to claim that it’s one of the UK’s top Cycling Cities.
Having him to talk to this month’s meeting was a treat. He rattled through his CV, philosophy and concerns with charm and wit. The heart of it all was the plain fact that £1 spent on active travel like cycling has, at £20, by far the highest return of any other public health intervention. We are at a moment in history when inactivity has become a far greater burden on health expenditure than smoking. Encouragements for cycling and walking are the most cost effective means of securing healthier lives (and lower NHS costs).
Professional silos and vested interests have contributed to our failure to accept the mountain of evidence that this is so. Current national policy and practice is making evidence-based public health work even harder. On the positive side however, Adrian did report that with a public health professional embedded in key policy teams at a high enough level real progress can be made (and has been made in Bristol). Such involvement works if it is accepted and valued within an organisation. He left us slightly anxious that the foreseeable future might not take the wisdom of this approach to heart.