Local authorities across Scotland have launched a three-year programme that aims to encourage people to cut their car use in favour of more active and sustainable forms of transport.
Seven local authority areas are taking forward the wide-ranging initiatives through the Scottish Government’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) scheme, which is supported by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
The projects — based in Dundee, Glasgow’s East End, Falkirk, Dumfries, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire and Orkney — will use £15 million of funding to promote greener travel with a focus on improving physical activity levels and reducing carbon emissions.
Each project will introduce a raft of localised measures, including large and small-scale infrastructure improvements, personalised travel planning, enhanced public transport links, free trial bus and rail passes, car sharing schemes and the development of better walking and cycling routes.
Information from 12,000 travel diaries, 4,000 phone interviews and a range of other local and national data will provide a picture of public attitudes and current travel behaviour as SCSP rolls out.
Initial qualitative baseline research carried out in the seven communities has shown there is support for local initiatives while further monitoring, to be carried out between 2010 and 2012, will establish the impacts and effectiveness of the £15 million investment across the projects.
The success of three similar “sustainable travel demonstration towns” in Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester — which were funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and ran between 2004 and 2008 — has proven the value of establishing sustainable travel choices.
The £10-million DfT scheme utilised a variety of simple measures to affect behavioural change and produce a marked increase in sustainable travel use. It resulted in a 9 per cent reduction in car use across the three towns, equating to nearly 53 million miles of car travel taken off their roads and annual savings of more than 17,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Additionally, levels of walking increased by more than 10 per cent in each location while bus use grew by more than a third in Peterborough and a fifth in Worcester.
There was a 12 per cent increase in cycling in Peterborough and a 19 per cent increase in Worcester, while Darlington, which received further Government cash to improve facilities for cyclists, saw levels of cycling more than double over the same period.
The seven new SCSP projects are expected to produce similar or better results within their communities, and act as a benchmark for Scotland as a whole by showcasing examples of best practice.
“Persuading people out of their cars and onto more sustainable forms of travel such as trains, buses, walking and cycling is fundamental to changing Scotland’s travel habits for the better,” said Stewart Stevenson, Scotland’s Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change. “Initiatives such as those being taken forward through Smarter Choices, Smarter Places will help to promote healthier, cheaper, safer and greener travel choices, allowing more people to enjoy the benefits of increased physical activity while reducing their carbon footprint.”
Stevenson added, “Similar schemes, like those in Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester, have delivered impressive results, transforming the travel behaviour of thousands of their residents and this is what we want to achieve. Our projects could result in a catalyst for change right across Scotland.”