City moving in the right direction on sustainable travel - Scott Arthur

Yesterday (Tuesday) I joined Sustrans to officially launch the results of Edinburgh’s Walking and Cycling Index (WACI) at the City Chambers. As always, this report contains a wealth of fascinating information about Edinburgh residents’ travel habits, their views on transport here and the kind of effects their choices have on the Capital.
Edinburgh City Centre West to East Link walking, wheeling and cycling route was officially opened todayEdinburgh City Centre West to East Link walking, wheeling and cycling route was officially opened today
Edinburgh City Centre West to East Link walking, wheeling and cycling route was officially opened today

Our compact city continues to be walkable – two thirds of us travel by foot or wheel five days a week – and annual cycling trips are on the up, increasing to 30.7 million from 24.4m in 2021. These choices have a real impact. By taking thousands of cars off the road every day, each year they help create £262.6m in economic benefits and save 42,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

What really struck me about the feedback gathered through the index though, was the appetite for change. There’s clearly so much we need to do to create a truly accessible, sustainable and safe transport system, free of congestion, air pollution and harmful carbon emissions, where these benefits are realised on an even greater scale. And what’s particularly heartening about the WACI is that many of Edinburgh’s citizens already do want to see us investing in the kind of bold changes needed to achieve this.

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That 57 per cent of people want to see us spending more on walking and wheeling, 68 per cent support more investment in public transport and half of residents have asked for better cycling infrastructure shows that we’re moving in the right direction.

The stark inequalities revealed in WACI – 28 per cent of men cycle at least once a week compared to 16 per cent of women, while those in higher socio-economic groups are far more likely to walk, wheel or cycle than more deprived residents, for example – give us even more reason to take the leap, to make sure everyone can share in the rewards healthy, emission-free active travel can offer.

Fittingly, today we’re able to celebrate one of Edinburgh’s flagship walking, wheeling and cycling projects, with the official opening of the City Centre West to East Link (CCWEL). This multi-million-pound scheme, pictured, has transformed the route between Roseburn and Leith Walk via Haymarket and the West End to create a safe and direct cycleway, as well as significantly enhancing streets for those walking, wheeling and spending time there.

This is a taste of things to come, with work set to get underway, or even finish, on several major cross-city initiatives to overhaul our walking, wheeling and cycling network this year. Hot on the heels of CCWEL, this summer we’ll put the finishing touches to the Roseburn to Union Canal route, which will connect into CCWEL, and making a start on West Edinburgh Link.

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We’ll soon be beginning the statutory processes for Meadows to George Street, which will be game-changing for travel by foot, wheel or bike in the city centreand will reduce bus journey times , alongside George Street and First New Town (GNT). GNT will not only deliver a dedicated cycling thoroughfare through the heart of the city, tying into CCWEL, but will significantly enhance public spaces and nearby streets for all those who spend time, socialise and shop there.

That’s not to mention our ambitious plans to accelerate the City Centre Transformation by reducing motor traffic travelling through the Old Town via a trial, and the forthcoming consultation on plans for a tram line between Granton and the Bioquarter. Residents have told us that they want to walk, wheel, cycle and use public transport more. It’s our responsibility to give them the safe, accessible and reliable options to do so.

Transport and environment convener councillor Scott Arthur

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