News

A note on the General Election

We will not be running a Walk Cycle Vote campaign for this snap general election – we rely largely on voluntary efforts, and coming on top of an intense local election it was not possible to muster the resources again.

Besides, with transport largely being a devolved matter, there’s little that our Westminster MPs can do to make a difference to walking and cycling in Scotland, although Westminster policies will have a significant impact on conditions for walking and cycling south of the border.

However, even though we won’t be collating candidate this election or canvassing their policies, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth raising active travel yourself with your own candidates.

To help with this, our briefing note and our social media tools are all here, for you to use and share over the next few weeks.

Briefing note:

Briefing page 1 Briefing page 2

Material to share on social media:

wcv_congestion wcv_miracle_cure wcv_return_on_investment wcv_congestion_2 wcv_safespaces_2 wcv_shopping wcv_inactivity

wcv_childhood_independence_2 wcv_climate_change

It’s All Over Bar the Voting

Tomorrow is the local elections and with all but possibly a handful of last-minute responses in, we thought we’d give you a final look at the responses we’ve had over the past few weeks of campaigning (we already covered the manifestos, in case you missed it).

FIRST we’d like to start by thanking all of you who have emailed, tweeted, facebooked and otherwise taken the time to get in touch with your candidates – it’s makes a big difference as to whether we get a response and even if the answers aren’t quite what we’d want, it still means that candidates have had to think about where they stand on active travel – and also that they know it’s important to at least some of their voters.

Response by local authority

Overall (at the time of writing) we have had 444 of 2569 candidates who responded in one way or another to our asks – just over 17%. We never, sadly, got a reply from a candidate in Shetland (although we did hear from 4 in Orkney). At the other end of the scale, almost half of all candidates standing for election in Edinburgh have responded followed by Aberdeen (after a late surge!) at 32.7%, Dundee at 27.5%, East Lothian at 27.3% and East Renfrewshire at 27.3%. With strong support also in Dumfries and Galloway, Aberdeenshire and Fife, it’s not just council candidates in urban areas who see the benefit in active travel.

Looking at the responses by party the picture has changed a little from our update a week ago:

share of candidates responding by party

The Greens are still well out in front, with two-thirds of all Green party candidates having taken the time to get in touch and give their response. The Lib Dems have pulled into second place, at 18.1%, followed by Labour at 17.4%, the Tories at 14.2% and the SNP at 13.3%.

When it comes to the level of support for each of our three asks, the differences have widened slightly on the investment question, with the Tories most likely to be cautious about committing themselves to a figure of 10%, followed by Labour.

candidates supporting our investment ask
Share of all candidates by party who fully or partially supported our call for investment in active travel of 10% of the transport budget

Infrastructure suitable for all ages and abilities attracted the most wholehearted support

Share of candidates supporting our infrastructure ask
Share of all candidates by party who fully or supported our call for infrastructure suitable for all ages and all abilities

And removing local barriers remains somewhere between the two.

share of candidates supporting our local barrier ask
Share of all candidates by party fully or partially supporting the removal of local barriers to walking and cycling

Don’t forget to get the final picture of where your individual candidates stand here – which will also allow you to see the relevant local manifesto commitments where available.

So now, all that remains is for all of us to complete the third part of our campaign name and actually go out and vote tomorrow!

Reading the party manifestos so you don’t have to

wcv_walk_bikes

Just a matter of hours before Scotland goes to the polls, and we’ve been working to see where individual parties stand on walking and cycling:

There are 32 local councils in Scotland. We looked for manifestos from the five main parties at the Scotland-wide level, as well as at the manifestos in each council area, totalling a possible 165 manifestos in total.

Manifestos from the parties nationally

Looking at Parties’ HQ manifestos, only the Scottish Greens have supported our 1st and principal ask on investment that 10% of transport budgets be spent on walking and cycling. They have promised to:

“Push for councils to allocate at least 10% of their transport budget to walking and cycling, to create new and safer routes including paths separated from roads.”

However, all five major parties made some helpful nods in the direction of active travel which touched on our 2nd and 3rd asks around safe infrastructure and tackling local problems around active travel, as follows:

SNP: “SNP Councils will support active travel and encourage people to switch to cycling as a viable and enjoyable means of commuting.” Read the Scotland-wide  SNP manifesto for local elections at http://bit.ly/2oBdpPw

Labour: “In Scotland, only one per cent of all trips are made by bike and 23 per cent are made on foot. As well as providing good quality, affordable public transport we also want to see more investment in active travel, not just to improve people’s transport choices, but to improve people’s health and wellbeing, and make our communities safer” Read the Scotland-wide Labour manifesto: http://bit.ly/2p06q5U

Conservatives: “Active travel is not only the most affordable and, for many, accessible form of travel, it has clear bene ts for the environment as well as physical and mental health. Local authorities, in partnership with central government and the third sector should work towards improving their local walking and cycle path network…. As an overarching aim, we should work towards providing at least one segregated cycle route in each of Scotland’s seven cities, linking from outer city limits through city centres.” Read the Scotland-wide Conservative manifesto: http://bit.ly/2oHbZ6M

Liberal Democrats: “Potholes cause accidents to pedestrians and cyclists, rough roads destroy the comfort of bus and car journeys alike, while constant ad hoc road repair works are an inconvenience and a drag on the economy….. [We Will] Introduce modern and innovative designs for local streetscapes to make residential streets places for walking, talking and playing…” Read the Liberal Democrat Manifesto at http://bit.ly/2p5o30Q

Scottish Greens: “Scottish Greens want to improve our buses, make walking and cycling more attractive, and make our streets safe and healthy for everyone to use.” Read the Greens’ manifesto at http://bit.ly/2pXsgbT

Individual local authority party manifestos: where do your parties stand?

In reality, we were only able to locate 47 local authority party manifestos across Scotland – many local councils chose not to issue manifestos, and unfortunately in some cases, there were news stories about a given party’s manifesto but with no link to the actual manifesto!

So, of the 47 local authority party manifestos that we could get our hands on, 12 fully supported, and 2 partially supported our ask on

Investment: provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget

We have divided our analysis into three categories: Partially supportive, fully supportive, and “above-and-beyond” supportive, as follows:

Manifesto commitments on investment
Manifesto commitments on investment – click for a larger verison

In terms of our second and third asks on infrastructure and local action, 31 of the 52 local authority party manifestos which we could find made some sort of reference to these asks, from helpful nods towards active travel as important modes of transport right through to fully fledged and developed policies to put active travel at the heart of transport policies. The asks are:

  • Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure, suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Local action: To solve the main local barriers to active travel, as identified by residents and businesses

The following table outlines the sorts of things we picked up in individual manifestos.

Manifesto commitments on infrastructure and removal of local barriers - click for a larger version
Manifesto commitments on infrastructure and removal of local barriers – click for a larger version

Don’t forget to walk or cycle to your polling station tomorrow and make your vote count!

 

 

Our three asks: Where do the parties stand?

 

Politicians at POP
Politicians line up at Pedal on Parliament in Glasgow

With just over a week to go before the elections, we’ve been crunching the numbers again. We’ve now had more than 350 candidates respond in some way or another to our three asks – which is over 13% of the 2,569 candidates standing in total.

You can see the full table online, but here’s an overview of which candidates have responded by party:

Figures showing the share of candidates responding by party
The Greens are well out in front, with 58.3% of candidates responding, followed by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats who are almost neck and neck with 12.6% and 12.5% of candidates responding respectively. The SNP are on 11.5% and Labour are on 9.5%.

Of course responding is one thing – the more interesting question is whether candidates actually support our asks or not. At the moment, almost every candidate who has actually responded has done so positively, either fully or partially supporting some or all of our pledges, but the parties do vary somewhat as to the degree of support. The graphs below show the share of all candidates standing who have either partially or fully supported each ask, by party. The difference is clearest when it comes to our question on investment:

candidate responses on investment, by party
Share of all candidates by party who fully or partially supported our call for investment in active travel of 10% of the transport budget

Perhaps because this is the most ‘measurable’ of the asks, it’s tended to attract the most cautious replies, particularly among Conservatives. Looking at the individual responses, this seems to be a mixture of candidates not wanting to commit themselves to a figure, or feeling that 10% of the transport budget is too high.

Support for decent ‘all ability’ infrastructure has attracted the most whole-hearted support – it’s clear that most candidates recognise that if we’re going to build cycle paths, then it’s worth doing it properly.

candidates supporting infrastructure by party
Share of all candidates  by party who fully or supported our call for infrastructure suitable for all ages and all abilities

Support for removing local barriers was somewhere in the middle – and when you analyse individual candidate responses it’s clear that some of them have taken ‘barriers’ fairly literally, to mean the removal of bollards or other obstructions on cycle paths, which might explain why some are less enthusiastic! Clearly we need to work on our wording – but if you’re contacting your candidates you might want to explain that this is the removal of any kind of barrier, which could translate into the need for a dropped kerb or a new pedestrian crossing, as much as removing an actual physical barrier.

share of candidates supporting local barrier removal by party
Share of all candidates by party fully or partially supporting the removal of local barriers to walking and cycling

We’ve also now added several party manifestos to our candidate information base so even if your candidate hasn’t responded you can still find out where your local parties stand (and they vary widely from local authority area to local authority area!). But we’d still rather hear from the candidates directly if we can. Not only does it mean they’ve had to think about active travel and realise it’s an issue for some of their voters – remember, they’ll be hearing all about parking and potholes from others – but because some of the individual responses have been great. We’ve been heartened to learn how many of our wannabe councillors actually get the issues, ride a bike and walk themselves, and are excited about our campaign!

We’ve a week to go, so there’s still time for more responses! We’ll be updating our website every night with new data so keep on contacting your councillors and letting them know we want to hear from them! They can email us on contact@walkcyclevote.scot, contact us on Twitter at @walkcyclevote or just fill in our super-quick candidates’ survey.

NB: If you’re interested in the actual data you can see the figures here.

 

Solving the cycling parent’s dilemma? Guest post by Playing Out

We hope that eventually our campaigning efforts will radically change our streets so that this dilemma goes away completely. Until that happy day, one of our supporting organisations, Playing Out, has a radical solution that transforms our streets now – albeit temporarily – to give children the freedom some of us remember as kids to just ‘play out’, whether on two wheels or not.

By Daniella Radice of Playing Out.

Ok, so you’ve hauled your children around for the past few years, first in a seat and then graduating to an axle-challenging trailer.  They’re now just too heavy to cart around with your own steam but yet to master two wheels on their own.

Dad helping child to ride

In your mind’s eye you can see family cycling trips at weekends, with the children happily racing along and enjoying the freedom of two wheels as much as you do. But where and when do they learn to ride safely?

Many kids learn to ride on the pavement, often with the stabilisers on. But pavements are usually narrow or cluttered with bins, making it hard to learn. Also, learner cyclists can disconcert younger toddlers, older people and other pedestrians. As they get bigger, they need more space to get the feel for a bike, and yet you don’t feel happy to let a wobbly five year old onto the road.

One option is to take the children and their bike to the local park or nearest flat car park at the weekend so they can master manoeuvring and balance in a safe space. This can mean the hassle of putting bikes into the car or attempting to carry a bike whilst safely ushering small child(ren) along the pavement and across busy roads. A recipe for meltdown (theirs and/or yours) if ever there was one.

Playing out event
When the roads are closed to traffic, kids can get on with being kids

But there is another way! Many streets around the UK are now regularly closing to traffic as a way of allowing children to play safely outside their own front door. When their street is closed to cars for up to three hours a week, children can simply get out their dusty bikes and ride. They have the freedom of a largely car-free space but experiencing the feel of a road. In a recent survey of parents involved in ‘playing out’ sessions, 80% reported that children have learnt to cycle or improved their skills and confidence as a result. This quote from Louis Schafer (aged 5), who has been ‘playing out’ on his street since he was two, says it best:

 “Well I was playing outside on my bike and then I kept on falling off and then I gradually got my balance and I started to go faster but I kept on crashing into things at the end so I had to learn to make it controlled and slow down, and I learnt that and I started to learn other things and I started building ramps for it and stuff like that and bumps for it, and I went to the end of the cones and I went back down again and cycled up and down and I kept on doing that ‘til I found it really easy to do it, and that’s why I know how to do it now and now I do loads of other stuff !!”

Well, you can’t argue with that.

girl cycling on closed road

To find out how to open your own street for play, go to www.playingout.net or contact me directly: daniella@playingout.net Twitter: @PlayingOutCIC

A final PS: If you and your family do cycle – or scoot, or walk – to school, School Run Stories wants to hear from you what it’s like this week! 

Barriers … what barriers?

 

Here’s a timely guest post from Matt MacDonald, Community Links PLUS Manager for Sustrans Scotland, one of our supporting organisations. Matt knows more than most what might prevent councils from putting in ambitious schemes for active travel – and how they might be overcome. 

 

My five year old daughter learnt to cycle recently in our local park. Thanks to the wonders of a balance bike it took her about an hour to learn. She loved it. The freedom, the rush of air on her face, daddy slowly disappearing behind her as she laughs maniacally. I wanted to capitalise on this, and start riding with her to places we need to go, to shops, friends’ homes, to her nursery. However, I couldn’t, because doing so would require riding on roads I myself ride, and knowing some of the close encounters that I’ve had, I couldn’t bring myself to take the risk.

Good segregated infrastructure would enable us to build a life skill that will serve my daughter for the rest of her life. We’re starting to see infrastructure of this kind in Scotland, slowly but surely, there is still a lot more that needs to be done.

Given what I’ve just said, I’m privileged to manage a design competition called Community Links PLUS for Sustrans Scotland. Community Links PLUS seeks big, game-changing infrastructure projects that recalibrate streets in favour of people on foot and on bike.

The concept is simple but powerful; reallocate road space and create places that work for people. The proposals are multi-year, multi-million pound projects in densely populated areas, with all the complications that they can bring.

The competition finds us moving away from the old fashioned view of delivering off road networks* to understanding that people want to walk and cycle safely on the majority of streets.

For example, the first winner of the competition, the South City Way, is an incredible project by Glasgow City Council. The South City Way will offer over 3km of Copenhagen style terraced segregation from Queens Park in Glasgow’s Southside, right into the heart of the city.

I’ve gathered together a few insights into the elements required to successfully deliver public realm infrastructure projects, and I hope that in sharing them it enables you to identify and support projects in your own area.

I’d like to tell a short story that highlights the biggest determining factor in successful delivery of cycling and walking projects. A couple of my colleagues recently went on a research trip to Copenhagen. I wasn’t even remotely jealous as I knew they’d come back with precious insights, honest! And they did. Whilst there, they met with the team from Gehl Architects. Jan Gehl is the man credited with much of the public realm improvements in Copenhagen that have helped shape it into the thriving city that it now is. My colleagues were taken to the busiest, most desirable shopping street, Stroeget, photo below.

Stroeget as it is now

I’m sure you agree, it’s pretty amazing. Who wouldn’t want to spend time there, meeting friends, letting children play, shopping, eating out? But let me show you how it used to look:

Stroeget as it was in the past

Not so pleasant. Truthfully, quite cool, looking like a scene from an Orson Welles movie, but not somewhere you’d want to hang around too long, and certainly not somewhere children could cycle or walk around without parents desperately holding onto their hands. When it was closed as a temporary street trial, in 1962, it caused outrage in the media and amongst the general public. So what led it to become the chic street you see in the first image? Strong political support! There was cross-party and cross-political term support for change. The lesson is to support, involve and be nice to your Councillors, and for that matter MSPs and MPs. Involve them, empower them with knowledge, invite them to see the issues. Don’t just fling pelters on social media!

Despite the optimistic title, there are obviously barriers, but I want to focus on how we overcome them, so what are they?

Funding: in these times of austerity local authority’s budgets are being constrained. Seek sources of funding, and share them with your local authority officers, offering to help write bids for funding. Our own Community Links and Community Links PLUS funding streams offer 50% of project costs but the local authorities must find the rest. When successful projects are delivered and the benefits seen, more local authority funding will be allocated for similar projects, as Edinburgh have demonstrated over the last decade.

Resourcing: this is linked to funding in that teams delivering cycling and walking projects are being stretched. Seek out the teams in local authorities delivering these projects and offer support, as they are your allies. As with politicians, don’t get stuck into them on social media. Constructive campaigning is far better, offering evidence of benefits and community support is far more likely to open doors than being relentlessly negative.

Misconceptions: if there is one thing that the Sustrans Scotland team have learnt from infrastructure delivery, it’s that community engagement goes a long way in dealing with issues before they arise. Good engagement that goes beyond statutory consultation requires a lot of time and effort. Do your bit to support it, go and knock on doors or deliver leaflets, help identify venues, turn up at events and proactively engage with the people that turn up. The earlier engagement happens, the better. Ideally projects should be co-designed with the community, by clearly setting objectives and working on interventions that achieve those objectives, e.g. increased footfall for businesses, safer streets, streets that allow better movement of people on foot and on bike.

Divisive labels: avoid letting a project be pigeonholed as either cycling or walking, or people as cyclists or pedestrians. We are delivering projects for people, creating safer, more attractive streets that are better for businesses and the community as a whole.

Finally, remember that you can’t please everyone. Avoid the vocal minority that often refuse to see the bigger picture and that fear change. Instead focus your efforts on those receptive to change for the good of the majority. Emotions can often run high when people’s views are challenged, but we must stay calm, be well informed, and bring people with us.

It is people that create change, be they politicians, local authority officers, business owners, or residents. It is only by everyone working together, as a team, that we can create places and spaces that work for everyone. I’m confident that if we do, in ten years’ time my daughter will be cycling to high school on infrastructure that our friends in Copenhagen will be visiting on study tours!

*Off road networks are still great by the way

Milestone reached!

Which way for walking and cycling? Do your local candidates know?
Which way for walking and cycling? Do your local candidates know?

Since going live with our Candidate Information base we’ve had a busy couple of weeks and we’ve now had responses from 272 candidates – that’s more than 10% of the total of 2,569 people who are standing in these elections

So what do the figures tell us so far?

First, we’ve had responses from 31 out of the 32 local authority areas (if there’s anyone here from Shetland, do please get in touch with your candidates because that’s the one that’s missing) and it’s not all concentrated in the cities, as you might have expected:

Council area responses % of all candidates
Aberdeen City 9 8.9%
Aberdeenshire 19 16.4%
Angus 5 9.4%
Argyll and Bute 3 3.9%
City of Edinburgh 32 26.7%
Clackmannanshire 3 8.6%
Dumfries and Galloway 16 18.2%
Dundee City 5 7.2%
East Ayrshire 2 3.2%
East Dunbartonshire 9 19.6%
East Lothian 8 18.2%
East Renfrewshire 2 4.4%
Falkirk 6 10.0%
Fife 26 14.6%
Glasgow City 26 12.4%
Highland 5 3.0%
Inverclyde 1 2.2%
Midlothian 1 2.4%
Moray 6 13.3%
Na h-Eileanan Siar 3 5.0%
North Ayrshire 8 11.4%
North Lanarkshire 11 7.0%
Orkney Islands 2 5.7%
Perth and Kinross 18 20.9%
Renfrewshire 7 7.4%
Scottish Borders 8 10.7%
Shetland Islands 0 0.0%
South Ayrshire 6 13.3%
South Lanarkshire 13 8.6%
Stirling 4 8.2%
West Dunbartonshire 1 2.3%
West Lothian 7 10.1%

 

Edinburgh comes top, with over a quarter of all candidates responding so far, but followed by Perth and Kinross, East Dunbartonshire, with East Lothian and the predominantly rural Dumfries and Galloway tied in fourth place.

How about the parties? Well, perhaps not surprisingly , the Greens are doing well. Their manifesto for the local elections has made a strong commitment to our three asks, and that’s reflected in individual candidates’ responses.

Independent 18 3.6%
Scottish Conservative and Unionist 47 12.4%
Scottish Green Party 102 46.8%
Scottish Labour Party 36 7.9%
Scottish Liberal Democrats 29 11.7%
Scottish National Party (SNP) 37 5.9%
Tommy Sheridan – Solidarity – Hope Over Fear 3 18.8%

 

But it might surprise some to see the Conservatives in second place – perhaps David Cameron’s cycling legacy hasn’t been as quickly shaken off as it has in Westminster!

We’ll look at what the responses are in more detail in a few days, but we need more responses to get an accurate picture. Please take a moment to find your candidates and ask them to let you – and us – know where they stand on our three asks. All they have to do is email us on contact@walkcyclevote.scot and we’ll do the rest.

Some reflections on active travel in Glasgow

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health has done a lot of useful research into the importance of active travel (indeed we’ve quoted some of it in our briefing notes). In a guest post here, Bruce Whyte,  one of their Public Health Programme Managers, provides some Friday afternoon thoughts on the importance of active travel and the case for more investment.

Glasgow cycle pathAs sometimes happens I start thinking about work on my cycle into work! My commute takes me across Glasgow from west to east, along the Broomielaw path on the north side of the river Clyde, past the Squiggly (or Tradeston) Bridge. With the completion of the South West City Way between Tradeston and Pollokshields, the relatively new West City Way connecting the city centre with the west of the city (and rising usage on both routes), work starting on a South City Way and proposals for a ‘mini-Holland’ style development in Woodlands, it feels like there is real progress being made toward providing a good quality cycling and walking environment in Glasgow.

The area around the Squiggly Bridge is busy with walkers and cyclists and there is a buzz about the place – the good weather also helps. As I continue along the river past the Briggait I come to a stop at a crossing of a busy road leading to Glasgow Green. Although by no means perfect, this route feels safe because of the separation of cyclists and pedestrians from cars, lorries and buses. It is also sociable. I enjoy it for the people you meet on it and for those you don’t know, like the family that transports their very small children on two cargo bikes. This social aspect is not something that can be enjoyed by drivers and not something we would see without safe infrastructure separated from motorised traffic.

Into Glasgow Green, on a wide path which follows the river. I pass swans, geese, black-headed gulls and the odd cormorant, while rowers scull up and down the river. I leave the park heading to Bridgeton. At Bridgeton Cross you get the sense of a busy local hub for shopping and travel which has benefited from renovations to the built environment around the cross, including the repurposing of historic structures such as the Olympia building. At one side of the cross, there is a bike hire station. The scheme, established just prior to the Commonwealth Games, has been a great success with increasing numbers of hires and plans for expansion. It is arguably one of the few lasting health legacies of the Games.

But Bridgeton is also where the case for simply building new infrastructure starts to hit problems. Leaving Bridgeton Cross, a segregated cycle lane runs on one side of London Road and there is further segregated infrastructure around the Emirates arena. However I suspect a cycle counter on many of these routes would struggle to hit double figures on most days. This is where culture, preference and necessity become important. Glasgow has a growing ‘car dependency’ culture. Despite only 49% of households having access to a car in the city, car ownership continues to rise – in some Glasgow neighbourhoods over 75% of households have a car and across Scotland, over 25% of households have two cars. 50% of Glasgow’s school children currently walk to school, but 28% are driven to school – a much higher proportion than in other Scottish cities. In some of the more disadvantaged communities in Glasgow the issue of ‘forced car ownership’ has been identified. This is the notion that a small but growing proportion of poorer families despite financial difficulties see a car as a necessity to gain and maintain employment and to transport their children, perhaps in situations where public transport is lacking or expensive.

The stalling of the Bears Way cycle route in Bearsden and Milngavie and the removal of a new segregated cycle route on Holmston Road in Ayr are manifestations of the strength of our car dependency culture. The completion of the Bear’s Way will depend on changing people’s minds in the local community and in part this comes down to challenging a culture that puts car use above all. But why should we challenge this? Well there are many good reasons…

Global warming and climate change have been fuelled by our burning of hydrocarbons since the industrial revolution and in part have been driven, quite literally, by the growth of transport. The transport sector contributed to 25% of total Scottish carbon emissions in 2012 with 70% of these emissions derived from road transport. There has been no reduction in carbon emissions from transport since 1990 and road transport emissions have actually increased. Linked to this, it is estimated that air pollution accounts for 40,000 deaths in the UK, equating to between 2500-3500 deaths per year in Scotland. Transport sources contribute 40% of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions and 20% of PM10 emissions – two of the main air pollutants affecting human health. Changing the way we travel to more active and sustainable modes will directly help in reducing carbon emissions and air pollution.

Our sedentary lifestyles and an obesogenic environment contribute to two out of three adult Scots being overweight and three out of ten being obese, while just less than two-thirds of adults meet the physical activity guideline level. The 2016 Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card makes grim reading, in terms of the amount of time children in Scotland are sedentary, their low physical activity levels (only 21% of boys and 15% of girls achieve the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of daily moderate physical activity) and the relatively low levels of active travel to school.

Getting more children and adults travelling actively for short journeys will help to address these ‘lifestyle’ challenges. Declining functional active travel has been associated with population-level decreases in physical activity[i] and countries with the lowest levels of active travel generally have the highest obesity rates[ii]. In contrast, lower levels of BMI and fat have been associated with active commuting.

We need to address safety issues. We should not accept rising cycling casualties as inevitable as levels of cycling rise nor socioeconomic inequalities in risk whereby child pedestrian casualties are three times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived. And we know that safety concerns put people off cycling and letting their children walk to school, evidence from Glasgow shows that people appreciate the separation from traffic provided by segregated lanes. The introduction of 20mph speed limits in urban settings (for example the new scheme in Edinburgh) has the potential to reduce casualties and their severity, improve air quality and to encourage more people to travel actively.

We also need to think about what kind of communities we want to live in? The pedestrianisation of Buchanan Street in Glasgow and the centre of Milngavie in the 1970s were no doubt controversial at the time but would anyone  propose reintroducing cars to these streets now? Sometimes brave decisions are needed. The creation of better cycling and walking routes in our cities and towns, more pedestrianised areas and addressing parking blight would help transform local travel, and not only contribute to better physical and mental health but more vibrant local economies and more liveable communities.

Many European cities have invested in active travel and have been transformed from places that were car dependent, car dominated and congested, to places in which a variety of modes of travel are used, with public transport, walking and cycling much more prominent.

Bike parking Gothenburg
Outside the main train station in Gothenburg, Sweden

At a political level, we need to change mindsets. There is evidence from Europe that leadership, longterm commitment and sustained increased investment in active and sustainable travel, particularly infrastructure, can benefit public health and increase public support for such measures. There are signs of such positive developments in Scotland: Edinburgh’s commitment to increasing the share of the transport budget spent on cycling (currently 9% in 2016/17); and, Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling over the next 10 years, which aims to create an integrated network of cycling routes. But we need more and we need to shift investment toward more active and sutainable modes of transport. Part of this includes investment in public transport, particularly buses where passenger numbers have been in long term decline. This will enable more walking journeys and if the right regulatory conditions are in place, could provide cleaner, less polluting travel. Edinburgh has shown that a high quality bus franchise can increase bus use (slide 11) and start to address environmental issues.

I have tried to be positive in this piece about developments to support active and sustainable travel but I am also under no illusions that much, much more needs done. Nationally and locally, we need much greater investment in new active travel infrastructure, integrated with public transport, at a level sufficient to enable significant modal shifts towards more active and sustainable modes of transport to be achieved.

I cycle to and for work. Why? Because it is the easiest and the quickest way for me to get around the city, gives me flexibility, is inexpensive, gives me a bit of exercise and I have a pleasant journey to work. As we plan for the future, we need to create active, sustainable and integrated transport networks in our towns and cities that take into account people’s needs, preferences and motivations, so that more people choose to travel actively.

At a recent seminar we played a film showing how Glasgow gets to work from 1935. A lot has changed in 80 years, but is it so hard to imagine a film of Glasgow in the 2020s, where commuters on the Glasgow Bridge (crossing the river Clyde at Jamaica St) are travelling in low emission buses rather than trams, what was the horse and cart lane is now a segregated cycle route, many people are walking and the level of cars on the bridge has dropped to that seen in 1935?

Still from Glasgow Gets to Work
From Glasgow Gets to Work (1935) – http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-glasgow-gets-to-work-1935/

[i] Pucher J, Buehler R, Bassett D, Dannenberg A. Walking and cycling to health: a comparative analysis of city, state, and international data. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100:986-1992.

[ii] Bassett DR Jr, Pucher J, Buehler R. Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2008;5(6):795-814.

Get Briefed!

There’s no shortage of evidence for the benefits that investing in active travel can bring – so much, indeed, it’s hard to take it all in. So we’ve been through the latest reports and boiled some of the key points down for you, in a handy two-page document which you can print out to take to meetings, or easily share.

Briefing page 1

Briefing page 2

All of this evidence – which has links and references to the original sources – should give you the backing you need when you’re taking any of these simple actions to help our campaign.

The hard work starts here!

mothers day launch
Gathered at Five Ways Junction with our banner

Thank you to the families who took the time this Mothers’ Day to help us with our informal launch of  this year’s campaign.

mothers day ride

Despite a chilly start, the sun put in an appearance, and it was nice weather for a relaxed ride, photos, a bit of leafletting and a return to Bangholm for tea and (naturally) cake.

mothers day cargo bike

It’s paths like these that gives families the freedom to ride which is why we’re campaigning for more investment, in the sort of infrastructure that everyone can use, that goes everywhere that people need to go – not just for commuting to work, but the school run, shopping trips and visiting families and friends.

mother and daughter

That means more freedom for children to get themselves around once they’re old enough to travel independently – and thus, mums might get a lie in more than just once a year …

If you’d like to help make this a reality, then here’s how you can help.