Putting Walking First in Edinburgh

It feels like summer is drawing to a close, and it has been quite a memorable one where weather is concerned. We’ve had both floods and heatwaves in Edinburgh. We’ve also seen huge weather variations across the world, and many people are now drawing the conclusion that climate change predictions are becoming reality. I think these people are right, and I hope COP26 in Glasgow forces the UK and Scottish Governments to move beyond talking about “ambitious” targets, and start taking action.

In the coming decade we will see much changing in Edinburgh in response to the climate emergency. I think we all should now demand that new developments come with better public transport links, and new homes come with things like ground source heat pumps and solar panels as standard. I’m interested to see if technology can be used to better integrate these things at a community level so that if an individual has excess solar power, they can “sell” it to their neighbour.

At a city-region scale, I hope we will also see local authorities working together to provide a fully integrated and publicly owned public transport system. This is key as whilst we cannot drive our way out of the climate crisis, people must have a viable alternative if they are to give up their car.

The challenges are no smaller in our communities. Over half of car journeys are under 5 miles, and we know that many people would be happy to walk, cycle or take the bus if it was viable. There is a lot of talk about improving buses, trams and cycling in Edinburgh, but we don’t talk enough about the most sustainable mode of transport – walking!

We know that women, older and poorer people are the least likely to own a car or bike, but too often the footpaths they use are too narrow, potholed, cluttered and have cars parked on them. We need to ensure walking is at the top of our transport hierarchy if we are serious about equality, the climate emergency, the obesity crisis and social isolation. What’s stopping this from happening?

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