I recently attended the launch of the walking manifesto for Scotland: Walking back Better has been produced through a partnership of Living Streets Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, and Paths for all.
The manifesto wants everyone in Scotland to be able to benefit from everyday walking, whether that is walking to the shops or to school or walking for enjoyment and exercise. Walk Back Better sets out their vision for Scotland to move forward to a healthier, cleaner, safer, and happier walking nation.
It is hoped that the Political Parties will be influenced by this manifesto as we move towards the Holyrood elections and that other stakeholders and agencies will support the key facets of the manifesto and play their part in its realisation especially at local neighbourhood level.
Here are the key aspirations and ambitions of the manifesto:
- Investment in a £50m infrastructure fund to develop local walking routes, long distance routes, green neighbourhood networks and support under pressure mountain locations.
- Improved walking and wheeling conditions, including reducing pavement clutter, providing toilets, seating, signage, safety improvements, improved crossings and basic path and pavement maintenance.
- Improved access to local amenities, ensuring the planning system prioritises and delivers development within walking distance of local facilities as part of the 20-minute neighbourhood agenda.
- Increased investment for delivery of walking behaviour change programmes that particularly target the most vulnerable and help to reduce inequalities.
- Measures to improve safety, including a national speed limit of 20mph in all cities, towns and villages and enforcement of pavement parking legislation.
- Investment in walking to school and reducing traffic and pollution outside school gates.
There are familiar themes in this document, and they are consistent with several aspects of the Camelon and Tamfourhill Community Safety Strategy. Thus, we have a vested interest in seeing many of the highlighted policies and declarations being adopted by government both local and national.
Walking has been a lifeline for people throughout the COVID crises and it is widely acknowledged that walking is the best buy in public health. Walking as a health activity should be accessible to all and off course you do not need any equipment for this outdoor activity so it can play a positive role in addressing health inequalities. The canal towpath, our local parks, and open green spaces in Camelon and Tamfourhill could all benefit through improved and safer access, proper facilities like toilets, seating, and improved lighting. Further Improved design, notice boards, signage and appropriate access for wheelchairs are also a significant aspect to this activity. I was also impressed with the findings of recent research which is being cited to support the manifesto proposals. This work found that when there are people out walking on the streets then there is less anti-social behaviour and a reduction in reported crime. As people are about more then the community and its networks are more visible, quite simply if the community is on the streets then others are far less likely to engage in unhelpful and negative behaviours and people generally then feel much safer. When we are out and about walking then we are encouraged to better network with our neighbours and friends and we do this communally and visibly and, this creates a better sense of connectedness and facilitates improved community cohesion.
The launch input from Living Streets Scotland emphasised that local communities can and should develop their own responses and projects which are aligned to the manifestos policy priorities. They spoke and promoted community safety projects that had developed around schools. There are far too many cars in Scotland, and they must be reduced, look at any school in the morning and they are overwhelmed with cars, parked cars, moving cars and obstructive cars. The national aspiration of a universal 20mph speed limit and the implementation of pavement parking legislation are all pertinent to our local community safety priorities. The work I am supporting with the Parents Council at Easter Carmuirs Primary School is a good example. The intention there is to get the various statutory agencies on board with developing a school streets scheme and to explore the possibility of securing SUSTRANS Pocket places funding to promote active travel and improve vehicular safety around the school and the surrounding streets. Community speed watch and temporary lockdown measures have been successfully deployed around several schools in the Edinburgh City Council area and I am hoping that Easter Carmuirs could be a first for the Falkirk Local Authority area.
Achieving political commitment to many of these manifesto ambitions will contribute to making our local neighbourhoods safer, happier and a more attractive place to live.