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Scotland’s draft National Transport Strategy advocates the vision of a transport system that is sustainable, inclusive and accessible, and which promotes prosperity, health and fairness for all citizens.
The strategy signals the future direction for transport and provides the context within which any future decisions should be made, with the key priorities focusing on promoting equality, taking climate action, helping our economy prosper, and improving our health and wellbeing.
Detailed in the strategy, the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy promotes active travel and public transport options in preference to single occupancy car use in the decision-making process.
To build a transport system based on this hierarchy, we need transformational change in our daily travel behaviour.
This is the vision that Fort William should aspire to when planning its transport system for the future. We have the opportunity to begin this process with the new developments being planned for the town at Blar Mhor and Upper Achintore.
The transport system and consideration of the current and future transport needs of these developments should be at the heart of planning decisions to ensure these communities are sustainable. The transport system should put in place travel options to discourage people from owning or using cars. It should be designed so residents, and visitors to the area, are attracted to public transport and active travel options ahead of private cars.
The transport system should be designed to ensure places are convenient to get to without having to use a car.
Planning decisions and where houses, schools, shops and other services are located impact our choices about the types of journeys we make, and how and when we make them.
Cycle paths should take priority over roads, and cycle infrastructure, such as well-placed bike racks and shelters, should be located throughout new developments to ensure easy access and encourage bike use.
Rather than pouring ever more money into road infrastructure, we should be planning for the move to sustainable and healthy travel options, with cycle path networks linking residential suburbs with services and places of employment.
The development of bike share schemes should be encouraged and supported by national and local government to ensure active travel options are accessible to all, not just those living in cities.
In the Highlands, we have already begun travelling down the sustainable travel road, with 11.7 per cent of people regularly cycling to work in 2017, according to the Annual Cycling Monitoring Report by Cycling Scotland. This is second highest in Scotland, slightly behind Edinburgh, and considerably higher than the national average of 4.9 per cent.
However, there is still much work to be done. In 2017, only 2.9 per cent of primary pupils cycled to school in the Highlands, and this drops to 0.1 per cent for secondary school pupils. We will not achieve the Scottish Government’s objective that 10 per cent of everyday journeys are taken by bike by 2020, but we should not give up, and we should aim much higher than this.
Reducing our transport emissions is essential if we are to secure a future without catastrophic climate and ecological breakdown.