When the Big Fit Walk went to Holyrood on Wednesday, the timing could not have been better. The walk through Holyrood Park was followed by a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Active Travel.
Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie was involved in both – as the constituency MSP, helping to organise the walk and a meeting with MSPs for the Big Fit Walk organisers and the Helix Green Team; and as Deputy Convener of the Transport Infrastructure and Climate Change committee, summing up in the debate on the committee’s inquiry into Active Travel.
“The timing was a happy coincidence. The walk had been planned for months when the parliamentary business managers set the date for the inquiry debate.
“Of course, I was very pleased to be able to mention the Big Fit Walk in the debate, telling my colleagues about what a fantastic success it has been, growing stronger every year, promoting active travel.”
Starting from in front of the Scottish Parliament, 15 young people from the Falkirk based “Helix Green Team” .were joined by MSPs, partnership agencies and 10 representatives from Edinburgh Community Health walks, for a thirty minute walk in Holyrood Park, followed by a meeting in the parliament. The walk and meeting with MSPs was a prelude to the 7th Annual Big Fit Walk, which took place on Friday 11th June.
In her speech on Active Travel, Cathy said that she was pleased that the government had indicated that it would accept the majority of the committee’s recommendations, but that increased participation in active travel would not happen without proper funding. Currently, less than 1 per cent of the Government’s transport budget is spent on active travel.
“The Scottish Government has said it will aim to improve active travel education across Scotland, focusing on teachers, developers, planners, engineers and designers; and in “Cycling by Design”, which has just been published by Transport Scotland, there is a commitment to provide a comprehensive guide to contemporary examples of best practice in cycling design.
“These commitments are welcome, and existing projects that have been proven to work must be taken further, but commitments will be meaningless if the Scottish Government fails to match its stated ambition with proper resources.
“Another big issue is safety. This is a huge factor in people’s decisions about whether to use walking or cycling as opposed to other ways of getting about. We must address the fear of road danger in a way that is satisfactory to parents, so that they will encourage their children to cycle. The committee made a number of recommendations to the Scottish Government on the issue of road safety, including encouraging the wider adoption of 20mph speed limits. It is also essential that walkers and cyclists are not hindered by physical barriers and are respected by other road users.
“We need to make public transport more accessible. This is important for wheelchair users and people with pushchairs as well as cyclists. People should be able to leave home by bike, get on to a bus or a train and continue on to their workplace. We need to make active travel much easier to combine with public transport.”