By Alex Quayle, Senior Policy Officer, Sustrans Scotland (members of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland)
The Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2018-19 promises to double funding for cycling and walking. This policy has been many years in the making. Alex Quayle reflects on the journey that got us there.
Sustrans Scotland and SCCS have long championed significant increases in the Scottish active travel budget.
In 2013, Sustrans, along with partners and SCCS took part in the ‘We Want To See Double’ campaign, which called on the Scottish Government to double the active travel budget, and then for it to increase year-on-year, until it became 10% of the transport budget.
Though it has taken a few years for the evidence presented and messages championed to bear fruit, the recent increase reflects the efforts of many committed organisations, individuals and campaigning groups, as well as Sustrans Scotland and members of SCCS, to push the potential impact of increasing the active travel budget.
The overwhelming benefits to people’s health and fitness, the significant improvements which could be made to air quality, the chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all of which are gained as a result of increasing investment in active travel, make the case harder and harder to ignore.
So far, the transport sector has had the easiest ride: the least contribution to reducing carbon emissions and even expectations of large increases in vehicle use in future years. Making walking and cycling an easier choice will only help to reduce reliance on cars, and the resulting carbon emissions.
Over the past few years, Sustrans has seen a shift in the way walking and cycling investment is regarded and discussed. Increasingly, transport planning and funding recognises the benefits of prioritising active travel and how this fits with a vision of a low-carbon Scotland.
The move has aligned Scotland more closely with our European neighbours where walking and especially cycling are much more common, easier and safer choices.
We are delighted that the Scottish Government has responded to years of campaign efforts from so many dedicated and diverse individuals and organisations. However, doubling the active travel budget is just the start.
We are ready to deliver this and, with our partners in local authorities, have a vision for how we can best make this investment. Safe walking and cycling routes will help people overcome the biggest barrier to travelling actively every day – the perception of personal safety.
However it is also essential for more behavioural change programmes, which are able to capitalise on this increased infrastructure investment, so people are more easily able to make more of their regular journeys on foot and by bike to work, to school, to shops and for socialising.
The combination of funding for infrastructure and behaviour change, to an extent not seen in the UK before, has wide-ranging benefits for air quality, the economy, physical and mental health, creating more liveable towns and cities, and a vital contribution to preventing climate change.