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New research shows that if safe space is provided for walking and cycling, “people want to use it”.

That’s according to Scotland’s active travel minister, Patrick Harvie, on the back of an initial evaluation of the Spaces for People programme.

Launched in May 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic, Spaces for People provided emergency funding to local authorities, transport partnerships and health boards in Scotland.

The funding was made available to create space for people to physically distance during the pandemic, and improve road safety for people walking, wheeling and cycling.

Some 178 interventions were installed within the first two months of the programme – rising to 316 by the end of the first six months.

These included:

  • The opening of Kelvin Way in Glasgow, to walking, wheeling and cycling
  • The installation of seating, planters and street art on Union Street in Dundee
  • The installation of seating areas in Aberdeen
  • The implementation of widened footways and a temporary one-way system for motor traffic in Inverness
  • The introduction of speed reduction zones in 272 locations across Scotland, including 90 zones in towns and villages in the Scottish Borders

An initial evaluation of the measures, carried out by Sustrans, reveals there has been a 25% increase in pedestrian use where Spaces for People measures (such as pavement widening) were introduced, compared with control sites.

In addition, 50% of local people support the 20mph limits introduced in Perth & Kinross, Dundee, Stirling and Angus – while a further 27% feel neutrally about them.

Elsewhere:

  • 48% of survey respondents in Perth & Kinross, Dundee, Stirling and Angus reported an increase in the time they spend walking for leisure and exercise
  • 94% of respondents in Aberdeen City agreed that the Spaces for People measures have made it easier to walk or cycle
  • Two million people live within ten minutes’ walk of Spaces for People measures

Patrick Harvie, Scotland’s active travel minister, said: “When the pandemic struck last year it changed overnight how we thought about travel.

“Both in how far we could go and how we travel. It showed a real appetite for people to walk, wheel and cycle more.

“So the speed and breadth of change that was delivered by many councils, Sustrans and other delivery partners to create safe spaces in our towns and cities, was so important in meeting that new demand.

“I’m pleased at the positive findings coming out from Sustrans’ initial report on Spaces for People and look forward to the full report being published next year.

“It shows that if safe space is provided, people want to use it.”