The Scottish Government will fund a new infrastructure programme for pop-up walking and cycling routes to help create more effective social distancing.
This will be supported by a package of guidance and support to local authorities from Transport Scotland and Sustrans Scotland for improvements such as widening pavements and cycle lanes or other temporary improvements to existing routes.
Transport Scotland points out that 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 better enable this shift and make it safer for people who choose to walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips or for exercise. Scotland’s towns and cities will now be able to do the same.
Every year, Transport Scotland and Sustrans Scotland run the Places for Everyone active travel infrastructure initiative and the impact of COVID-19 means that local authorities will not have the capacity to design and apply for complex multi-year infrastructure programmes due to the necessary focus on responding to the 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 whilst physically distancing and keeping safe from traffic.
“I have written to every local authority in Scotland to advise them that the Spaces for People initiative is designed with agility and pace in mind. Our communities need this support quickly, especially with the welcome increases in cycling we are seeing across the country. At the same time, almost every journey starts and ends on our pavements in some way, and so it is vitally important that people can physically distance for those essential trips or for exercise.
“Infrastructure is only part of the response and I’m struck by the many organisations, including our Active Travel Delivery Partners, who are providing support to keep key workers moving and help with deliveries for those who require it. I want to give my thanks to them-please know your efforts are incredibly valued.
“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. We should all be encouraged by the increases we are 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. I welcome wholeheartedly the Scottish Government’s new guidance and funding measures so that local authorities might more easily reallocate space in favour of people being active. When life resumes its usual pace, let us not forget how good it feels to enjoy having more space to move freely.”
John Lauder, Deputy CEO at Sustrans Scotland said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s package of support and we are ready to respond to local authorities’ needs. With our local authority partners we have 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.
“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 are keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets. The Spaces for People programme will allow that.
For information on available support for key workers please visit: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/campaigns/cycles-for-key-workers/
For cycling advice please visit: https://www.cycling.scot/covid19-information/cycling-advice
For more information on how the Scottish Government is building an Active Nation please visit: https://www.transport.gov.scot/active-travel/developing-an-active-nation/