Travelling is a necessary part of life. However, how we travel can have a significant impact on our health as well as the environment. During the pandemic, our use of private cars has declined, whilst walking and cycling have greatly increased. Both walking and cycling are fantastic ways to engage in slow travel. Yet, many people still have some reservations about cycling on roads, particularly with children. This week, we consider how we can cycle safely across Scotland, whilst engaging in slow travel.
Cycling has been one of the few areas to have thrived during the pandemic. Many individuals and families have taken to cycling as part of their daily exercise. Similarly, many people who previously relied upon public transport have turned to cycling as an alternative form of transportation.
There are many benefits to cycling, aside from it being a good form of exercise and a good activity to undertake as part of a healthy lifestyle. Cycling as a form of transportation is also much more environmentally-friendly, as it helps to reduce air pollution and is more sustainable in the long-term.
However, cycling can also be a fantastic shared experience. Many families have found that taking cycle rides together has been a lovely and enjoyable activity to experience together. As well as going on cycle rides where your child has their own bicycle, there are also plenty of bicycle seats that can be attached to bicycles, so even families with young children can partake in cycling safely, without worry.
A positive aspect of the lockdown was that, due to the reduction in traffic, roads were significantly less congested. For those who perhaps had been fearful of cycling along busy roads prior to the lockdown, this concern was significantly reduced.
In fact, so popular has cycling been, that manufacturers have reported a boom in bicycle demand. In Scotland alone, there has been a 50% increase in cycling, whilst walking has also increased by 30% during the lockdown period.
Among the various organisations seeking to promote cycling, Sustrans is a charity which aims to promote cycling and walking and make it easier for people to engage in these activities safely. To this end, Sustrans works closely with local and national authorities, helping to promote change and influence policy-making.
In Scotland, Sustrans promotes and develops the National Cycle Network, alongside local and national roads and planning authorities. Among their many projects, Sustrans aims to encourage cities and towns to implement changes, encouraging road space to be reallocated for walking and cycling. Since 2010, the charity has also worked closely with the Scottish Government on the Places For Everyone initiative, aimed at creating “safe, attractive, healthier places by increasing the number of trips made by walking, cycling and wheeling for everyday journeys.”
The National Cycle Network
The National Cycle Network is a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to cycle. From interactive maps and routes, to route collections and even traffic-free family rides, there is something for everyone, whatever stage of cycling you may be at.
For those who are less confident or even a little hesitant to start cycling, there are a whole host of cycling-safe routes to try and Sustrans even have a dedicated page for those new to cycling, which includes helpful tips and advice. Amongst the National Cycle network route collections, there are even challenge rides in Scotland, romantic routes and even art trails and routes created around artworks.
Sustran’s Outside In Campaign
Another brilliant initiative which Sustrans began in response to the lockdown, is the Outside In campaign. Outside In offers weekly resources, games, activities and challenges for families to do with their children. Moreover, as it has been designed by Sustran’s Schools Officers, the resources are also educational, as well as being themed around cycling, walking and scooting.
As we look ahead to the future after lockdown, we must consider how the way in which we travel and interact with one another will continue to be impacted. Many cities have already begun to release plans relating to how they are planning to change street layouts to make them more walking and cycling-friendly. In Scotland, an emergency active travel fund of £10 million has been made available to help fund and support cities and towns in their efforts to fast-tack schemes including pedestrianizing streets, widening footways and creating more cycle tracks and cycle parking.
However, as we begin to emerge form lockdown, there is some concern that there may be an increase in private transportation, particularly an increase in the use of cars. In part, this is due to people’s fear of using public transport and contracting the virus. Similarly, as social distancing measures are observed and public transport capacity is significantly reduced in response, there is the potential for greater numbers of people to resume travel via private vehicles.
The call to action by Sustrans and other organisations concerned with the environment and creating sustainable ways of living is to avoid using cars. Wherever possible, they urge us all to try to walk or cycle as a way to decongest roads, reduce air pollution and make travelling a more pleasant and enjoyable activity. If more measures are put in place to ensure cycling can be done safely, then perhaps more people will consider switching to cycling as their new form of travel.
Last week we considered the benefits of engaging in slow movement and slow travel. Cycling offers yet another opportunity to engage in this practice. Rather than racing to a predetermined destination, take your time and slow down. Enjoy the sights along your route and take the opportunity to pause.
This week, we invite you to use the National Cycle Network to plan your own route. Why not plan a family cycle? If you don’t have access to a bicycle, you can use the route planner to find walking routes too.
For those with families, we also invite you to try the Sustrans Outside In activities. There is a sample one on the website that you can try without needing to subscribe.
Explore your local area and see it afresh by engaging in slow travel. As always, we warmly invite you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Happy cycling!