The last few months have seen changes to our usual way of life on a scale many of us have never seen before, and it’s likely we’ll continue to see changes and adjustments for a long time to come. There have been huge changes to how we interact with the world around us – including when and how we travel.
Since the very beginning of lockdown, there’s been a consistent trend towards people walking and cycling more. For many people, the relatively quiet roads have been a chance to try their hand at cycling for the first time or after a break in the habit. We’ve also seen a sharp drop in air pollution with fewer people driving. During National Walking Month in May, Living Streets heard from people all over the country who were making time in their days to get out and about for a walk, sharing their photos on social media using #WalkingFromHome.
In light of the increased interest in walking and cycling, there are changes being made all over Scotland to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle by creating temporary changes to urban infrastructure. It’s been wonderful to see new projects popping up to create much-needed space, and to see so many people reconnecting with the simple pleasure of walking.
This new normal isn’t without its difficulties: to follow physical distancing rules, pedestrians are sometimes forced to walk on the road to avoid others around them where pavements are narrow or there’s clutter on the pavements. Some people are cycling for the first time, and some people, who may be less mobile than others around them, are worried about getting active again after a period of shielding.
Since lockdown restrictions have begun to ease, we’re seeing more cars on the roads than in previous weeks. Living Streets is also concerned about figures showing increased levels of speeding in 20 and 30mph areas, as this creates a danger of a spike in road casualties as we approach the school summer holidays.
At Living Streets, we continue to campaign for 20mph limits across urban communities for precisely these reasons – because everyone deserves safer, walkable streets. Not only are 20mph limits vital for keeping people safe – pedestrians are seven times more likely to die if they are hit by a car at 30mph than if they are hit at 20mph – but it also contributes to people feeling safer in their communities. If people feel the streets are safe and pleasant for them to walk in, they are more likely to walk regularly for local journeys and for pleasure. And where people feel safe and able to walk in their area, there are all sorts of benefits for our communities.
To create cities where people feel safe to walk, we also need to create space around schools in advance of them returning in August to avoid danger, congestion and pollution. Alongside this, we’ll be supporting measures such as wider pavements and better crossings to make sure our streets remain safe for walking as lockdown starts to ease.
Read more about Living Streets and our work in Scotland.
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