A new report on Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network shows that 78% of users believe that the network of paths helps them increase their physical activity. Over half (52%) stated that the existence of Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network allowed them to actively travel on foot or by bike rather than taking the car.
The research was carried out by Sustrans Research and Monitoring Unit in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage. It looked at patterns of use on Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network, the characteristics of users, their perceptions of the network and evidence on how Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network benefits local businesses.
An estimated 8.7 million walking and cycling trips were taken on Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network in 2016, and researchers believe that this could be a conservative estimate of usage. From those millions of trips, 87% of the walking trips and 67% of the cycling trips were taken for recreational purposes, generating an estimated £84.9 million of expenditure in the local economy.
More than half of local businesses responding to the survey anticipate Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network will lead to increased footfall, while 27% anticipate an extended operating season.
Mike Cantlay, Chair of Scottish Natural Heritage said: “By offering a better connected network of paths, we’ve seen huge returns in terms of health benefits across the nation and for local businesses who are experiencing greater trade, boosting the local economy. Recreational trips alone generated a staggering £84.9 million of expenditure in 2016.
“The survey outcomes reflect our ambitious plans to continue to invest, extend and improve Scotland’s network of paths, trails and canal paths, as well as underlining the benefits of the investment that’s been made so far.
“The development of the network will ensure that more of Scotland’s population has better access to the outdoors for recreation and active travel, offering greater choice for users, contributing to better health and of course, enriching the environment.
“This is what we aimed to see when we put Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network forward as a national development in the National Planning Framework.
John Lauder, Sustrans Scotland National Director said: "Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network is a hugely valuable resource for Scotland. It is clear that awareness of its benefits to health and well-being are widely recognised among the public, with 78% of users saying it helps them increase their physical activity.
“Just over a week ago, we had the revelation from Public Health England that over 6 million middle-aged people in England don’t even spend as much as 10 minutes doing a daily brisk walk. We hope Scotland can be different.
“We look forward to working with our partners in Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Canals to build awareness of Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network."