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Civilising the Streets

As part of our work promoting active travel, Transform Scotland Trust working with Sustrans Scotland have produced a report that analyses decision-making processes in key European cities that have embraced active travel. The report, which investigated active travel provision in thirteen European cities comparable in terms of size and geography to Scottish cities, looks at how social, political, geographical and cultural conditions have led to ‘best practice’ and have brought about high rates of walking and cycling.

While other studies have looked into the technical measures needed for an effective active travel policy, this report takes a unique look at how public pressure and political leadership can bring about a change in travel policy.  A key finding in this study was that in all cases a long term plan for investment at the local level was vital, in not only improving provision, but also in popularising walking and cycling as a way to travel. Even in cities that initially lacked widespread public desire for active travel – sometimes facing opposition from parts of the media over plans to increase investment – once the necessary infrastructure was in place, people were able to enjoy the benefits of walking and cycling and resisted attempts to scale back the level of provision.

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The findings of this report provide important lessons for travel policy in Scotland. The Scottish Government has outlined how it wants to increase cycling in Scotland to 10% of all journeys along with an increase in walking. This report shows that to achieve this level of walking and cycling within our cities, we require a greater level of leadership from local politicians in championing investment in local active travel infrastructure.

Following on from the publication of this report, Transform Scotland Trust and Sustrans Scotland are now committed to communicating the key lessons from this report to politicians and the public. We aim to show how sustained investment in active travel can benefit public health, reduce car use and relieve congestion while also cutting CO2 emissions.