Active travel and safer streets are good for city life - Lorna Slater
I used to cycle almost everywhere. However, that stopped when I moved to Edinburgh and it became somewhat daunting. Our roads can be terrifying for cyclists, and that’s because too much of our city has been designed for cars rather than pedestrians or bikes.
It’s not as bad as it used to be. For obvious reasons the pandemic saw a major reduction in road traffic - with Spaces for People and other initiatives allowing more of us to feel a bit more confident when cycling again.
As we build back and recover, it’s important that we don’t lose those aspects of our streets.
Having streets and communities where we can all feel safe walking, wheeling, or cycling for everyday journeys is incredibly important if we want to create cities that are both inclusive and environmentally friendly.
These crucial changes can’t happen on their own - they need investment and support.
That is why we have focused so much on boosting sustainable transport and active travel options that we know will overwhelmingly benefit our communities and environments.
With Scottish Greens in government, we have more than doubled government funding for active travel and are working to double it once again.
This increase in funding will lead to some key changes in our cities - improving and safeguarding our existing infrastructure, creating new routes where they have previously been scarce, and encouraging people out of cars.
These measures would bring us more in line with cities across Europe where active travel is far more encouraged. These cities have far higher numbers of trips made on foot or by bike, making them cleaner, greener, and more accessible to its residents.
We can see the new funds being put to work right now right here in Edinburgh. My Green colleague Patrick Harvie has been supporting work on a safe and direct cycle route between Roseburn and Leith Walk via Haymarket and the West End. It is a vital connection that will help to make cycling a natural choice for people crossing our city.
But it’s not only active travel we need to be concerned about. It is making our cities more accessible. That means separate cycle paths, pedestrianised roads, consistent drop kerbs, wider pavements and a raft of other measures that can ensure our streets are more inclusive.
Work has also started at the local level. Last week Edinburgh City Council held its first accessible streets meeting which was chaired by the administration’s Transport & Environment Convenor.
These conversations have been a long time coming, and I am delighted that they are finally taking place and that Greens are playing a part, whether in Holyrood or in our City Chambers.
Our communities need to work for all of us, and active travel and safer, more inclusive streets have a big role to play in that.
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity