How cycling can transform Scotland’s cities
With the declaration by Nicola Sturgeon of a “climate emergency” we outline
why sustainable transport must be understood as critical in any strategy for
Scotland to go "further and faster" in tackling climate change. The Scottish
Government must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Net-zero
is the point where the same volume of greenhouse gases is being emitted as is
being absorbed through offsetting techniques like forestry. Although Scotland
has been innovative in carbon reduction, transport remains an Achilles heel.
Sustained and strong political leadership in delivering nothing less than
transformational change is required.
Drawing on robust international evidence a study out this week for Sport
England says that town and city-wide active travel interventions are the most
effective at increasing walking, cycling and overall physical activity. Taking a
UK example from the study, the Sustainable Travel Towns (2004-09 in
Peterborough, Darlington and Worcester/Redditch), all three towns put in place
a range of initiatives aiming to encourage more use of non-car options – in
particular, bus use, cycling and walking – and to discourage single-occupancy
car use. Cycle trips per head across the three towns increased by 26-30% and
walking between 13-18%. Between 2008-09 and 2013, both the higher cycling
and walking levels were maintained. Key to this success was scale and funding:
these programmes were funded at a level that enabled significant changes to be
made to the physical environment for walking and cycling supported by
behaviour change programmes. This created a synergistic effect of the wide
range of interventions. Critically, there was a 7-10% reduction in the number of
car driver trips per resident. And all for £10Million shared across the three
towns – roughly equivalent to a mile of a new road scheme.
We are about to see more car free days in our Scottish cities, increased
pedestrianisation and businesses being supported to transport goods by cargo
bikes. This and much more is needed including low speed streets with safe
routes to school for children. Bus lanes, signal priority, park and ride and
Workplace Parking Levies in Low Emission Zones, also form part of a
synergetic package. So fund what we want to see delivered: although the Active
Travel budget was doubled from £40 to 80 million in 2017 this funding needs
redoubling in gearing up to achieve the 2045 carbon emission reductions target.
The major mode share for sustainable travel across much of continental Europe
is not culturally driven. It is because decade in, decade out funding has been at
over £10 per head of population.
Taking cycling - in urban areas cycling could be a normal, everyday activity by
2040. The latest Sustrans Bike Life report predicts in Edinburgh alone that with
adequate funding by 2040 just by more cycling, 47,000 tonnes of greenhouse
gas emissions would be saved annually, equivalent to the carbon footprint of
10,000 people. 96,000 kg of nitrogen oxides and 11,000 kg of particulates
would be saved annually by removing 226,000 cars from Edinburgh roads every
day. Alongside walking and public transport, cycling has the potential to shape
and improve how people move around our cities in the future. Such
transformation will improve the health of whole populations including through
reducing transport-driven inequalities, improve liveability of neighbourhood
streets, the civic, cultural and economic vibrancy of Scotland’s urban life.
Transformational change is the only game in town.
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Adrian Davis, Professor of Transport and Health, Transport Research Institute,
Edinburgh Napier University
Professor Chris Oliver, the CyclingSurgeon