Working towards an active future in Scotland

By John Lauder,
Cyclist on path in a park

One of Sustrans Scotland recommendations to the Active Travel Taskforce is that infrastructure delivery is underpinned by funding and behaviour change programmes.

Sustrans Scotland’s unique role in the delivery of active travel projects means that we see superb walking and cycling projects making a real difference across Scotland. But we also witness barriers to wider delivery.

Last year, I wrote about two Local Authority decisions to vote down cycle routes at Holmston Road in Ayr and the Bears Way between Milngavie and Bearsden. In the aftermath of these decisions, The Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf, sensibly established the Active Travel Task Force.

Active Travel Task Force

Members of the Taskforce include representatives of the Regional Transport Partnerships, the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) and The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), as well as Sustrans Scotland, who were nominated by walking and cycling NGOs. The Taskforce is chaired by Roy Brannen, CEO of Transport Scotland.

The aim of the taskforce is to make recommendations to Mr Yousaf on ways to improve delivery of ambitious, inclusive walking and cycling projects and create high-quality places and communities that support health and wellbeing. In other words, how do we ensure that the infrastructure that the public and the Scottish Government want is delivered, and how do we allow people who wouldn’t currently cycle for a functional everyday journey to do so?

Our response and recommendations 

Last week, alongside organisations and authorities across Scotland, we submitted our response to the call for written evidence to the Taskforce; Sustrans Scotland’s response to the call for written evidence.

Our key recommendations include:

  • Funding: Funding should be allocated over multi-year cycles and progress upwards to 10% of the Transport Budget. This is to give local authorities the opportunity to make long-term commitments to walking and cycling projects.
  • Coordination: Improving coordination between policies, across governmental departments and at different levels of government. This would ensure that all government policies work towards the same goal, and that local decisions reflect national strategy.
  • Leadership: Hard working local authority officers deserve clear and strong leadership. Locally elected councillors in particular need to recognise and support party and government policies aimed at growing levels of walking and cycling in Scotland.
  • Guidance: Better guidance and more financial help to allow local authorities to retain technical skills and to deliver in-depth community engagement. The way in which national goals are achieved locally is crucial, and this requires skilled local authority staff and delivery that meets the needs of the whole community.
  • Behaviour Change: Ensuring that infrastructure delivery is underpinned by behaviour change programmes. This ensures Scotland gets the full value when it makes an investment in walking and cycling.

These are some of the first necessary steps if Scotland’s shared ambition for walking and cycling is to be achieved. The way problems have been recognised and the willingness to learn from past projects are reasons for positivity, but much depends on what happens next if there is to be a healthier and sustainable Scotland.

Read the joint walking and cycling manifesto of active travel NGOs, including Sustrans, for the 2017 local government elections in Scotland.