Living Streets Scotland has joined 27 organisations in a joint call for the country to “walk back better” as society reshapes following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement, the organisations are calling on the nation to harness the increased numbers of people walking and wheeling locally, connecting with nature and boosting individual physical and mental wellbeing in the process.
People in Scotland have embraced walking during lockdown, with 61% walking more than before the pandemic.
With significant changes already visible within our towns and cities; through the temporary introduction of wider pavements, closed roads for traffic to encourage walking and cycling and reductions in speed limits, the group hopes these will not be seen as just temporary measures.
Signatories of the letter are organisations from the Delivery Forum tasked with implementing the Scottish Government’s ambitious National Walking Strategy, facilitated by Paths for All. The public and voluntary sector organisations – including Public Health Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and The University of Edinburgh – are calling for a range of measures to improve access to walking, such as improving walking environments, community walking initiatives, and promoting ‘walk local’ initiatives to support town centres.
The statement, backed by Scotland’s Active Nation Commissioner, Lee Craigie, sets out walking and wheeling as a significant factor in how we ‘build back better’ towards ‘the new normal’.
Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland said:
“Living Streets Scotland is pleased to be one of 27 organisations calling for more action on walking as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Walking has been a lifeline for many households during lockdown, providing opportunities to exercise locally in streets and green spaces. As Scotland begins to recover from the impact of the pandemic, it is important people can access the health and mental wellbeing benefits of walking.
"Whilst cycling is important, the role of walking in local travel and recreation also needs to be recognised. This means addressing some of the issues exposed by lockdown such as narrow, poorly maintained pavements and safety concerns about walking to school.
"Action is needed now as we can already see traffic levels rising. We hope people will embrace living in communities where people enjoy the benefits of driving less and walking more for both work and leisure.”