About Active Travel

Increasing levels of active travel can bring huge benefits to our communities, health and environment. 

Active Travel: woman walking away from bus stop

Active travel simply means making journeys in physically active ways - like walking, wheeling (using a wheelchir or mobility aid), cycling, or scootering.

We aim to make active travel the natural choice for short journeys.

By supporting more people in Scotland to walk, wheel, and cycle for everyday short journeys, we will improve health, create safer communities, and reduce environmental impacts.

In 2019 seventeen per cent of journeys in Scotland were under 1 km, and more than half (54%) were under 5 km – these shorter trips offer a real opportunity for a significant shift to active travel.

The role of walking

Walking is key to getting more people choosing to not use car, it is by far the most likely mode of active travel. It is free, no equipment is required and it is ideal for shorter trips. Walking also forms an important part of public transport journeys – walking to and from buses, trams and trains. 

The positive impact of increased active travel

  • Reduced congestion - enabling people to choose active or sustainable travel will reduce congestion on our roads

  • Reduced air pollution - less car-driven journeys and more walking, wheeling, cycling and public transport are important in tackling air pollution and its negative health impacts. As well as being a part of the solution, active travel becomes more pleasant and therefore more likely to be adopted as air quality improves.

  • Higher quality public realm - Improving opportunities to walk will create places and communities that are more able to adapt and be vibrant, creative, enterprising, and accessible

  • Better physical, mental and social health - Active travel has clear health benefits as physical activity increases, social connections are made and mental health is boosted by activity and time outdoors in nature. Active travel is an important opportunity for savings in terms of preventing ill health.

  • Reducing carbon emissions and helping reach net-zero carbon goals - Changing to active travel can have significant lifecycle carbon emissions benefits.  The largest benefits come from shifts from car to active travel for business, social and commuting journeys.

  • Economic growth and vibrant communities - Investing in infrastructure and support for active travel can increase economic growth and vibrancy. Those walking, wheeling and cycling tend to spend more money locally than drivers. Increasing active travel can stimulate economic growth in urban areas and benefit local shops

  • It is inclusive and reduces inequalities - Accessible walking, wheeling, cycling and good public transport links can reduce inequalities by giving equal access to employment, education and other services. 


Active travel and COVID-19

The Covid crisis has had significant impacts on active travel with huge decreases in use of public transport and a greater interest in walking and cycling. At the same time many of us have been working from home and recognising the importance of our local neighbourhoods. Other people have lost fitness and confidence to reintegrate and leave their homes and have deteriorated physically.

A number of towns and cities across Scotland implemented and benefitted from a temporary emergency active travel infrastructure initiative called Spaces for People. The initiative included a widening of pavements, closing streets to vehicles or adding temporary cycle lanes.

As Scotland moves forward from the pandemic there has been an opportunity to harness the increases in active travel, support those who have struggled to stay active, and invest in sustainale transport to build a healthier, cleaner, fairer and safer nation.