Governments often forget that providing for the private car is not the only way to drive growth – local and national. In a rural country like Scotland, the car will always be an essential part of the transport mix but when motorised traffic comes to dominate our cities, towns and villages then the economy suffers. According to the latest household travel survey, one-quarter of journeys in Scotland are under 1 km – easily done on foot – and over 60% under 5 km, a distance perfectly suited to cycling. Enabling Scots to make walking and cycling the obvious choice for these trips will revitalise town centres, make everyone’s journeys more reliable and save NHS Scotland significant amounts of money.

  • Cycling and walking are good for the local economy. People travelling by foot or by bike tend to spend significantly more at local shops per week than those travelling by car.
  • Cycle tourism, along with walking, has a huge potential to bring prosperity to Scotland’s rural communities – and help showcase one of the most photogenic countries on earth. Already cycle tourism is estimated to contribute between £117.2m and £239m to the Scottish economy each year.

Scotland in autumn

  • Studies have consistently found that improving infrastructure for walking and cycling can significantly reduce traffic congestion. In cities, the private car is one of the least efficient means of moving people  – An average road lane can carry 2,000 people in cars per hour, compared to 14,000 people on bicycles or 19,000 people on foot. And even small reductions in car traffic make a difference. One study in the US found that reducing traffic by 1% at peak periods can reduce travel time for all by 14-18%
  • Investing in everyday walking and cycling infrastructure also offers excellent value for money. When health benefits are calculated alongside other benefits such as savings in travel time, congestion and collisions, walking and cycling schemes can deliver returns of between 13:1 to 19:1. In contrast, most road schemes provide £2 or less for every £1 spent.
  • Walking and cycling projects can also be a quick win! Many towns and cities have seen dramatic shifts in transport modes in just a few years, thanks to sustained political support and investment. In Seville, cycle use increased 10-fold in only three years – from 6000 to 60,000 cycle journeys per day between 2007 and 2010. Edinburgh has also seen rising cycling share resulting from its commitment to invest a rising share of the transport budget in cycling over the past five years.
  • Walking and cycling can also offer a cost-effective way to meet Scotland’s climate change commitments. 20% of all car-related carbon dioxide emissions are from journeys of less than 5 miles – a perfect distance for cycling. Someone making the average UK commute of 4 miles could save half a tonne of CO2 per year by switching from driving to cycling – that’s 5% of the average person’s annual carbon footprint.

Download our briefing note for a digest of some of the best evidence for investment in active travel – and how best to bring it about.