Record car journeys and static active travel raises health fears
A FAILURE to change Scotland’s modes of transport is contributing to high toxic pollution and an unhealthy society, according to environmental campaigners.
Friends of the Earth Scotland have raised concerns over the latest transportation statistics, which found a record 44.8bn km of road travel in 2014 – enough to travel round the earth over one million times.
Over 2.8 million motor vehicles were registered for the year, also a record high, while travel by public transport, walking or cycling has stalled at 30 per cent of all journeys – down from 31 per cent in 2004.
“Around 2,500 people in Scotland die early from air pollution every year, and that traffic is the key cause.” Emilia Hanna
Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna was disappointed by the findings: “The statistics reveal that Scotland is motoring towards more air pollution and climate change. Only 30 per cent of Scots are commuting to work by public transport, walking or cycling, the same level as a decade ago. Since 2009 the number of bus passengers has actually contracted by almost 10 per cent.
“The Scottish Government last week passed a budget that commits less than 2 per cent of transport cash to walking and cycling. This falls far short of what is required for the government to deliver on its commitment to see 10 per cent of journeys made by bike by 2020.
“Around 2,500 people in Scotland die early from air pollution every year, and that traffic is the key cause. The next Scottish Government must introduce stronger measures to discourage people from using their car such as 20mph zones or congestion charging.
“It must commit to rolling out Low Emission Zones in each of our major cities by 2018, so that the most polluting vehicles are kept out of city centres. It must invest 10 per cent of its transport budget on walking and cycling to give sustainable transport a chance to really thrive in Scotland.”
Friends of the Earth were disappointed that the Scottish Government’s latest budget allocated PS820m for motorways and trunk roads – but only PS41m for active travel like walking and cycling.
The bus sector has been especially hard hit in the last five years – with a 10 per cent cut in journey numbers, 14 per cent drop in fleet sizes, and a eight per cent drop in staff.
On the positive side, extra investment in Edinburgh cycle infrastructure led to an increase in cycling to work from 4 per cent to 11.8 per cent over ten years.
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Picture courtesy of Graham Campbell