Walking is the most sustainable form of transport. In 2015 almost a quarter of all trips in Scotland were walked and 1% were cycled. However, as half of all journeys taken are under 3km, there’s real potential to increase levels of walking and cycling.
Shifting to walking or cycling for a greater proportion of short journeys would bring huge benefits to the environment, our health and our quality of life. Air pollution, mainly caused by vehicle emissions, is becoming a major health concern in our cities and congestion also has a cost to our economy. In addition, Scotland’s levels of physical activity are low, leading to higher risk factors for a range of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes. Yet half of all vehicle journeys in Scotland are under 5km. We believe that many of these trips could easily be made on foot or by bike, and this would be the easiest way to integrate physical activity into everyday life, bringing benefits for all. However, despite strong government policy to encourage a shift towards more walking and cycling, and a commitment to double the active travel budget in 2018 to £80m per year, investment in active travel will still be under 4% of the overall transport budget. This is hampering the rate of change.
We support a call from the Association of Directors of Public Health for 10% of transport budgets at national and local levels to be spent on walking and cycling. Building up to this level of investment over a period of time would lead to huge improvements in our towns, cities and rural areas, providing safe and pleasant paths for people to use, making sure that walking and cycling are promoted, and helping everyone to choose walking or cycling as the easiest, quickest option for most short trips. To make these changes, leadership and long term funding are key requirements. By investing in infrastructure and promotional measures, we would see long-lasting changes in travel behaviour across the country.
The Scottish government has good policies which encourage more walking and cycling, such as the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and National Walking Strategy.
The government’s funding for active travel is increasing over time, with a welcome commitment to double investment to £80m in 2018. However it is still under 4% of the overall transport budget. By contrast, the budget for motorways and trunk roads in 2017/18 was £967m. Long term, guaranteed funding for active travel is required along with strong leadership, to enable planning and investment to really make a difference and change behaviour. While we recognise that government budgets are tight, we would like to see a reprioritisation of transport spending to support more walking and cycling.
We work on this issue with other active travel organisations: Sustrans Scotland, Paths for All, Living Streets, CTC, Cycling Scotland and Transform Scotland. Download a copy of our joint manifesto for the Holyrood 2016 elections, Scotland on the Move.
Parliamentary Briefing on Active Travel, January 2015
Parliamentary Briefing on Walking, December 2016
Page last updated September 2017