17 March 2008

Plans for travel demo towns

It is a vision that many aspire to in the search for the ideal neighbourhood - tree-lined streets, congestion free roads, and pedestrianised zones clear of cars and pollution.

That vision could soon become a reality under new plans unveiled by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities today.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson is making up to £15 million available over the next three years and calling for expressions of interest on a matched funding basis from Scotland's local authorities to help create a series of 'sustainable travel demonstration communities' across the country.

The communities would be a role model for others to follow, showcasing the very best methods available to encourage residents to use more environmentally-friendly forms of transport.

Similar schemes elsewhere have already led to impressive results. In Darlington, there has been a 14 per cent increase in public transport trips, 29 per cent increase in walking, 79 per cent increase in cycling and car journeys down by 11 per cent.

The results have been achieved through simple measures such as improving cycle and walking routes, better public transport links, more pedestrian-only areas, travel advisors visiting homes providing tailored travel plans, car sharing schemes and discounts on bus and train tickets.

Today's announcement coincides with a visit by the UK Climate Change Committee to Scotland.

Mr Stevenson said:

"Congested roads, increasing car use, more cars on our roads, and rising emissions - these are the worrying trends facing Scotland in 2008.

"It is clear that it is time for us all to take action. We must encourage a change in the mode of transport we use.

"We need to look at new ways of persuading people out of the car and onto more sustainable forms of travel such as trains, buses, walking and cycling.

"Sustainable travel communities give us a fantastic opportunity to do just that, and could drastically change our travel habits. This approach has delivered impressive results in other countries, transforming the travel behaviour of thousands of residents.

"I want to see Scotland do even better.

"This is an opportunity for forward thinking towns to deliver lifelong changes in how its citizens go about their daily business.

"The effects of this policy could be felt across all walks of life delivering a more vibrant Scottish economy, a less congested roads network, a cleaner environment, and a much healthier nation.

"We have made substantial funding available for this project, and I hope local authorities across Scotland take up the challenge and apply to take part. It could deliver real improvements in traffic levels, emissions, and the health of residents across the country."

Councillor Alison Hay, COSLA's Regeneration and Sustainable Development spokesperson, said:

"I am excited about this project. Councils have long been advocating sustainable travel through their work on the provision of cycling and access routes as well as the promotion of public transport and the use of greener fuels. We all want to live in more sustainable, healthier communities but getting from where we are now to there is going to involve some fundamental lifestyle shifts.

"This project provides a forum for looking at how we can make these shifts in a big way. This has to be a concerted effort, and if we can demonstrate that these approaches will work in Scotland as they have in Darlington we can start the journey of bringing others on board to provide leadership at the highest level in making the big changes necessary to achieve sustainable places in communities all across Scotland."

There are currently three 'sustainable travel demonstration towns' running in England - Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester.

The Scottish Government is looking for innovative ideas from local authorities. Activities could include:
  • Individual Travel Marketing (sometimes known as Personalised Travel Planning or travel blending) which provides tailored travel information based on the needs of the household
  • Car sharing schemes
  • Organised cycling and walking trips
  • Discounted bicycles
  • Infrastructure changes
  • more pedestrian/cycle/walking only areas
  • No car zones
  • Improved conditions for walking, footpaths cleared of obstacles; better managed and maintained streets
  • More cycle lanes and secure cycle parking
  • More park and walk as well as park and ride facilities
  • Improvement of green space
  • Better use of public spaces to increase opportunities for recreational physical activity
  • Greater investment in public transport - iimproved bus services, facilities and better public transport information
  • Free bus and train tickets encouraging residents to give it a try
  • Maps explaining how to walk or cycle to a local shop, or even something as simple as a timetable for their nearest bus stop
  • School and work place travel plans

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