Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Regional & local government / Healthy Cities

Funds reallocated to support active travel within social distancing constraints

By Andrew Sansom 28 Apr 2020 0

Councils in Scotland will be able to help citizens follow physical distancing advice by installing pop-up walking and cycling routes, or making temporary improvements to existing routes – thanks to funding by the Scottish Government.

Across the world, cities have seen increased rates of cycling as the number of car journeys have declined due to COVID restrictions – and many cities have responded to this by reallocating road space to make it safer for people who choose to walk or cycle for essential trips or for exercise.

Scotland’s towns and cities will now be able to do the same, thanks to a new infrastructure programme from the Scottish Government. This will be supported by a package of guidance and support from Transport Scotland and Sustrans Scotland aimed at helping local authorities make built environment interventions, such as widened pavements and cycle lanes.

Every year, Transport Scotland and Sustrans Scotland run the ‘Places for Everyone’ active travel infrastructure initiative. This would normally see local authorities design and apply for multi-year infrastructure programmes, but all focus this year is, of course, on responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, up to £10 million is being reallocated from the ‘Places for Everyone’ budget to deliver the new ‘Spaces for People’ initiative with no match funding from local authorities required, while continuing to support previously committed projects.

Following a statement to the Scottish Parliament confirming the measures, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “I’m pleased we are able to put forward a package of support for our local authorities to implement temporary active-travel measures, helping to ensure that people can walk, cycle and wheel during this public health emergency while physically distancing and keeping safe from traffic.”

Matheson said he had written to every local authority in Scotland to advise them that the Spaces for People initiative is designed “with agility and pace in mind”. He noted that “it is vitally important that people can physically distance for those essential trips or for exercise”.

He also thanked those organisations, including the Scottish Government’s active-travel delivery partners, that have helped keep key workers moving and helped with deliveries for those who require them during the lockdown.

“For our air quality, climate, health, and particularly for our mental wellbeing at this time, walking and cycling remain our most beneficial form of transport,” he said. “We should all be encouraged by the increases we’re seeing in cycling and this Government will do what it can to continue to support this through our recovery and beyond.”

Lee Craigie, active nation commissioner for Scotland, said: “Access to safe, pleasant places to exercise is good for everyone’s physical and mental health, but it has taken this crisis for towns and cities across the world to realise the urgency with which space for walking, running, cycling and wheeling is needed, and especially in our urban areas.”

“It has never been more important that we look after our own health and the health of members of our society who have limited access to such spaces.”

John Lauder, deputy chief executive at Sustrans Scotland, also welcomed the package of support and insisted the organisation is ready to respond to local authorities’ needs. “With our local authority partners we’ve helped turn around this idea in less than two weeks and it’s great to work with a government that listens and engages so actively,” he said.

“It’s clear that people across Scotland want to do the right thing during this COVID-19 crisis. They want to look after their physical and mental health. They also want to make sure that they’re keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets. The Spaces for People programme will allow that.”