Making it feel safe for people of all ages and abilities to walk, cycle and wheel locally is a vital component of a "just transition" to a sustainable transport system, says Bruce Whyte of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health
“Walk on by”, “Walking on sunshine”, “I walk the line”, “Just walkin’ in the rain”…..walking gets a mention in many a song, at least in part because walking is a relaxing activity and can inspire creativity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not provided much in the way of inspiration in itself, but the accompanying restrictions, particularly during the first lockdown period, did lead to far more people walking around their neighbourhood. There wasn’t much else we could do!
Walking was not the only activity to become popular, apparently more people have taken up golf - a safe outdoor activity when other sporting activities were curtailed – and more people cycled, at least in the early part of the pandemic, when many people were furloughed and had time on their hands, the weather was good and the roads were empty.
The learning from this strange period is that when the conditions are right more people will walk or cycle around their local neighbourhoods and beyond. A key condition at this time was the reduction in traffic, which made it feel safer to be out on our streets. So going forward we need to not only think about how we improve active travel infrastructure – which we must do – but also how we make it feel safe for people of all ages and abilities to walk, cycle and wheel locally.
This is a vital component of a ‘just transition’ to a sustainable transport system that addresses transport poverty and inequalities in access and affordability. The Scottish Government has ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions, including a proposed 20% cut in car use. This will not be achieved through increased investment in public transport and active travel alone, though that is needed and has been promised. As well as ‘the carrot’ we will also need ‘the stick’, which equates to increasing the costs of car use relative to other forms of travel, including a reform of motor taxation, stopping the building of new roads and ending out-of-town developments.
There are many environmental, social and health co-benefits that will accrue from a shift to a just and sustainable transport system and that is the subject that I will be expanding on in a paper to be presented at this year’s Active Travel conference.
Bruce will be presenting in breakout session 2A. View the whole conference agenda here.
The future of Active Travel in Scotland and transport, health and inequalities take centre stage at national conference
Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights, Patrick Harvie MSP will speak at the first in-person Active Travel conference in three years. Taking the stage in the morning plenary, chaired by broadcaster Rhona McLeod, the Minster is expected to use his speech to focus on the record uplift in funding for Active Travel announced in the December budget, and his vision for the future of Active Travel in Scotland.
Later in the morning, Dr Margaret Douglas, co-director of the Master of Public Health programme at the University of Edinburgh, and honorary consultant at Public Health Scotland, will discuss transport trends during the pandemic and how they are likely to affect health and inequalities. She'll argue for a whole-system transport approach to enhance health, equity and sustainability.
The National Active Travel Conference is now well-established as the go-to event for everyone whose professional life touches on the need to encourage and develop active travel in Scotland.
This event brings together a broad audience, encompassing transport planners and engineers, health professionals, town planners and property professionals, local authorities, private sector, and third sector participants.
Tickets are priced at £150 + VAT. We know you are keen to get together again in-person after such a long wait, but there is also the option to book an an-demand content ticket to receive session recordings after the event.
Find out more about all the speakers and available sessions here and book your place now by clicking here.
What if the challenge of ageing well in a rural community could also be the key to unlocking prosperity?
That’s the question posed by Jess Read, independent active travel consultant, who will be leading an interactive workshop on Ageing Well in Rural Communities at this year’s National Active Travel Conference.
Participants at the workshop will be invited to contribute their expertise and insights to explore the questions
This interactive session is just one of the varied and diverse sessions available at this year’s conference. Elsewhere, delegates will be able to hear presentations on a range of active-travel related themes.
For example, organisations seeking to build a business case for active travel infrastructure should look no further than Mobilityways’ presentation on “Using data to drive modal shift”.
Or, if you understand the concept of a 20-minute neighbourhood but wonder how it can work in the rural context, check out the joint presentation by Forth Environment Link and Drymen Community Development Trust on that very topic.
These and many more on-point topics are under discussion at this year’s conference. Find out more about all the available sessions and book your place now by checking out the Agenda page.