For many people in our communities the benefits to active travel are well understood and accepted. They have the will to walk and cycle more but something prevents them from taking the first steps or getting on their bike. These barriers can include concerns about fitness levels, a lack of confidence in their cycling skills or simply not knowing which routes to take.
The Kilmarnock Active Travel Hub’s regular Monday walks show that providing high-quality health walks, linked with other activities and information, are a very effective way of enabling individuals to make the change to travel more actively.
The walks began in November 2017 after a new volunteer called Gillian was recruited as a walk leader. Gillian had experience and training in walk leading and first aid, and worked together with the Hub project officers to develop a number of routes. These were designed as health walks of an average length of about 2.5 miles and were designed to be completed in about an hour.
The walks were publicised and were very successful from the start. A core of regular attendees soon formed, complemented with more occasional participants.
So far 76 individuals have participated in over 50 Monday walks, covering hundreds of miles in total. There are many examples of the positive impact the walks have had including:
- Helen: At the one year anniversary of the Monday walk, Helen, who had been coming along since the start, spoke to the Walk Leader about how much fitter she feels now and how much she looks forward to the walk from a social perspective. She commented that it has improved her ability to take part in activities with her grandchildren and that she now walks more in her everyday life.
- Anne: When a new participant came along to a walk and spoke about how unfit she felt, Anne reassured her that she felt the same a year ago when she first started joining the walks. Anne told her that by coming every week her fitness has improved significantly and she can now walk further and for longer.
Enabling further activity
By engaging through the Hub, other information, opportunities, activities and events are readily available to the walking group. Having come to trust the quality of the Hub’s services, many of the group have gone on to attend its other events and activities on offer.
The regular walk backmarker is also a cycle ride leader which has encouraged some of the walking group to join a led ride using e-bikes. The cross-promotion of activities is now well established, with people from the walking group trying bike rides and cycle skill sessions, while people from the led rides then take part in walks and other services, such as developing personal travel plans.
An example of this is Chris, who has been coming on the Monday walks for seven months after joining to lose some weight and stay active in his retirement.
He has gone on to take part in other activities run by the Hub such as group bike rides, puncture repair workshops and active travel challenges. He won a bike through one of our challenges and now regularly cycles to his local shop. His uptake of cycling has, in turn, encouraged his son to do the same and he now commutes to work by bike.
Chris often comments on how coming to the Monday walk has improved his fitness and he enjoys the social element of these group activities. Chris has even recently trained to be a Walk Leader himself, helping others to experience the benefits of the walks.