Scotland-on-the-move-image-211x300An alliance of Scotland’s national walking and cycling charities have launched a joint platform setting out how to radically improve Scotland’s public health by getting Scots more active.

The document, ‘Scotland on the move’, calls for a range of measures, including infrastructure, safety, policy, behaviour change interventions and a long-term funding commitment to increase walking and cycling in Scotland.

The alliance of groups comprises seven Scottish organisations who together champion walking, cycling and sustainable transport: CTC Scotland, Cycling Scotland, Living Streets Scotland, Paths for All, Ramblers Scotland, Sustrans Scotland, and Transform Scotland.

The groups have put forward a number of evidenced arguments for the consideration of Scotland’s political parties as they begin work on preparing their party manifestos for the 2016 Holyrood elections.

BikePath_People_SustransColin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

“Our core aim is to see increased long term investment in active travel with a call for 10% of local and national transport budgets to be allocated to walking and cycling. While we recognise and welcome recent additional investment announcements by the Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, active travel investment remains at only 1-2% of the Scottish Government’s transport budget.”

Ian Findlay, Chief Officer of Paths for All, said

“Realising commitments to increase and enable everyday walking amongst the Scottish population will improve people’s physical, mental and social health and decrease health inequalities – walking is physical activity which almost anyone can do for free from their front door. But too often it is taken for granted. Continued commitment and investment are required from all parties to ensure active choices are the first and easiest choices for people.”

John Lauder, Director of Sustrans Scotland, said:

“Enabling and promoting active travel needs to be put firmly on the party manifesto agenda for 2016. Now is the right time for the parties to commit to specific policies to increase levels of walking and cycling, as we believe this could be the game changer not only for Scotland’s health but also for our economy and environment. We hope that the 2016 Scottish elections will be an exciting time for those of us who would like to see walking and cycling become the normal modes of transport for everyday shorter journeys.”

20140624_BikeHireLaunch02Specific infrastructure commitments highlighted include entirely segregated cycle routes in all of Scotland’s cities and the consolidation of long-distance walking and cycling routes. Funding for creation, maintenance and promotion of a comprehensive network of walking and cycling routes in towns and cities across Scotland is also a key recommendation.

The groups also set out a range of actions that political parties should use to get Scotland on the move. All of these are being piloted throughout Scotland but the groups want to see them delivered cohesively in towns, cities and rural areas. They include reducing speed limits to 20mph in towns and cities and enabling children to travel actively through calming traffic around schools, promotion and educating them to be skilled and confident cyclists. Other measures include tackling pavement parking, a particular issue for pedestrians with mobility issues, and pursuing a ‘Vision Zero’ where no one is killed on Scotland’s roads.

All about active travel

So what is active travel? Well, it isn’t about asking people to don Lycra and pedal hell for leather. It is about walking, cycling and taking public transport where possible in everyday life. Active Travel is about improving quality of life and quality of place. Over 50% of all driven journeys in Scotland are less than 5km, and 26% less than 2km. There is plenty of scope for achieving a significant shift to walking and cycling as the natural and most sustainable forms of transport.

Enabling everyone to choose walking or cycling for everyday journeys will transform people’s lives and create better places to live, visit, work, learn and play. It will help Scotland to deal with our health, environmental and economic challenges including physical inactivity, obesity, air pollution and road safety.

Out for a stroll

Out for a stroll

Active travel could be the game changer in Scottish health. The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle are well known. There is abundant evidence that regular activity is related to a reduced incidence of chronic conditions particularly affecting Scottish people, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type two diabetes. Being active is also good for our mental and social health.

Active and sustainable transport can also bring a host of benefits to our environment, reducing congestion and air pollution and cutting carbon emissions. The Scottish economy will also benefit from connected communities where attractive well-designed places to live and work attract investment, footfall and economic activity.

The benefits of active travel have been recognised across a range of government policy documents including The National Walking Strategy, Cycling Action Plan for Scotland, Physical Activity Implementation Plan, Good Places Better Health and the Long Term Vision for Active Travel 2030. Scotland’s political parties now need to match good intentions and ambition with long-term commitment and funding to make these a reality.