Time for a re-think

Re-think is neededAccording to the latest Scottish Transport Strategy, road traffic has increased by 2% since 2006, while 6% fewer people are travelling by public transport.

It shows 68% of commuting is done by car (up 1%); while bus and rail are unchanged at 10% and 4% respectively. Walking has fallen by 1% to 13%, although cycling is up 1% to 3%. Whatever your perspective, this has to be disappointing.

The Strategy is badged as an interim ‘refresh’ of the first published ten years ago, but by demonstrating such little progress these figures suggest it is, in fact, time for a total re-think.

Of the three key objectives of the National Transport Strategy, one seeks reduced emissions to tackle climate change, air quality and health improvement and another involves providing transport choice or an alternative to the car. If we are ever going to achieve either, more needs to be done to change our attitude towards active travel and to move towards embracing pedestrians and cyclists as pivotal to the solution.

Scotland’s major cities currently have some of the UK’s worst records for pedestrians hit by motor vehicles and it is statistically proven that walking is more dangerous than driving a car in Scotland. Glasgow, for instance, ranks 9th worst in the UK with 86 pedestrians killed or seriously injured per 100,000 population against an average for UK cities of 46.

Cycling is no easier. In 2014, serious injury to cyclists in Scotland was nearly 16% higher than the 2004-2008 average, with 155 reported cases, and can only partly be explained by higher levels of cycling.

We clearly live in world where there is both an aspiration and a desperate need for safer and more sustainable active travel and yet this is also a world where the roads are perceived to ‘belong’ to the car. Too little attention and money is being spent on supporting and encouraging journeys by foot and by bike and it shows.

It is time to take bolder decisions. The Scottish Government has an opportunity to lead the way with an ambitious policy agenda that embraces road infrastructure, training and education and legislative changes which would provide additional legal protection for the vulnerable on our roads. Only going forward with such commitment, backed by sufficient funding, will attitudes change and the aims of the Transport Strategy finally be met.

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