This year’s National Active Travel Conference will feature a leaders’ panel with senior figures from the four spearheading organisations talking about the challenges the sector has faced over the past year, and looking forward to the priorities for building back better.
In this guest blog, Stuart Douglas, Smarter Choices Smarter Places Manager at Paths for All, gives some of his thoughts.
“Lockdown has brought with it many challenges to the sector. Local and national government have focussed their attention and efforts on dealing with Covid, rather than building their response to Climate Change and prioritising sustainable travel. This priority has been replicated in the third sector with agencies focussing their activities on supporting the most vulnerable and ensuring key workers can travel to work safely. So collectively the momentum that had been generated in previous years has been paused and we need to reignite the passion and commitment that may have been lost.
The seismic reduction in use of public transport has accelerated a worrying decline in patronage that will take a concerted effort to reverse. It was a big task to get people out of their cars and onto public transport before lockdown, it is an even bigger ask now.
Embedding the changed behaviours that have seen more people walking and cycling than ever before has to be a priority. Building on the momentum of people experiencing their local community as a pedestrian or a cyclist so it becomes everyday behaviour, not just something that is done during a pandemic. Lockdown has created a new audience of people who have experienced the benefits of quieter streets, improved physical health and living without the need for a car.
There is real hope that embedding home-working as a norm will reduce car use. If people do not need a car to commute, there is a real potential that they will question the need to have one at all. There is a whole new audience of people that are on the cusp of changing their regular travel behaviours. The sector needs to make sure it is communicating with this new group of people, helping them to keep up their new behaviours.
Paths for All has continued working with local communities throughout the pandemic. We will build on this work across all our workstreams. There is a resurgence in Health Walks across Scotland as people want to carry on their new found love of walking. Enhanced awareness of local greenspace will result in more community groups taking responsibility to improve their local path networks. Our Step Count Challenge is a great motivator to keep people walking rather than slipping into sedentary activity.
Our communication activity will inspire and motivate individuals and agencies to keep walking. Our Smarter Choices Smarter Places programme has expanded, with an additional £500,000 available in open grants and we are looking to reach newer and more diverse projects the length and breadth of Scotland. We will be promoting good practice and celebrating successes through the year, demonstrating that walking and wheeling is something that everyone can do every day, everywhere.”
Paths for All is one of the Active Travel Delivery Partners spearheading the Active Travel conference on 2 June. Book your place now for just £25 + VAT here.