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The Scottish Government’s sustainable transport hierarchy ranks active travel as the preferred and most sustainable mode of transport.

Active travel refers to transporting people or goods by physically active means and includes walking, wheeling and cycling. An overview of the hierarchy is provided in the choosing locations for your chargepoints section.

The carbon emissions from active travel are negligible in comparison with other transport modes. Also, active travel doesn’t produce any air pollution and can bring a host of physical and mental health benefits.

For all these reasons, it would be beneficial for people to switch as many of their journeys as possible to active travel modes. Bikes and ebikes will have a key role to play in this, as many private journeys may be too long to walk but could potentially be cycled. Mobility hubs will be important in providing the facilities necessary to support people to complete at least parts of their journeys using active travel. To implement shared ebike schemes, there is a need to consider the charging infrastructure.

Although mobility hubs will be important, it’s unlikely they will be sufficient on their own to encourage a significant portion of Scotland’s population to switch to active travel. This will require the development and upkeep of other supporting active travel infrastructure, along with the redesign of roads and urban centres to make them more appealing and safer for cyclists. This will mean the introduction of networks of good quality cycle paths, physically separated from other road users where possible. Mobility hubs should then connect directly into this network of active travel infrastructure.

Our engagement found that there are specific challenges in developing active travel infrastructure on the Scottish islands:

  • Some of Scotland’s islands have introduced active travel projects aiming to reduce the dominance of car travel. ZetTrans (the regional transport partnership for the Shetland Islands) for example, outlined in their 2021 Active Travel Strategy that Shetland has amongst the highest levels of car ownership in Scotland. Nearly half of all journeys on Shetland are less than 2km. For most people, journeys of this length could be completed using active travel modes, such as walking or cycling. However, on Shetland, there is a tendency towards car dominant travel, due to the types of journeys being carried out, the island’s particular geography and climate, and established cultural norms. There is appetite for change however, with 77% of those engaged in a residents’ survey expressing support for investment in walking and cycling infrastructure.

    The strategy developed by ZetTrans includes the following key action areas:

    • An attractive walking and cycling environment
    • Policy integration
    • Promotion, travel behaviour change, and information
    • Leadership and governance
    • Training and education

    To develop an effective active travel promotion strategy, it is critical that these action areas be integrated together. Other projects looking to tackle high levels of private vehicle use could refer to these actions areas as a guide to support their own work.

  • When we engaged with community energy Scotland on this topic, they highlighted some key points from their January 2021 report ‘Barriers to Sustainable Transport in the Western Isles’, undertaken as part of the Western Isles in Motion project. Their research found that the islands’ geography made the development of active travel infrastructure challenging. They also discovered that finding suitable locations to host infrastructure is difficult, and that the distance from the Scottish mainland results in higher construction and shipping costs.

  • The Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust (IGHT) experienced similar challenges to the Western Isles (i.e. accessing materials and managing civil works) when developing a footpath network for their LCTT project. More information on the Gigha project is provided in the choosing locations for your chargepoints section.