Walking and wheeling, travelling using wheelchairs, walking aids or scooters, are integral parts of our lifestyles and therefore it’s important to make sure they remain safe and accessible activities. Most often used for short everyday journeys walking and wheeling have a core function in the transport system and are increasingly important for joining up public or shared transport options as travellers' transition to more sustainable journeys. As low impact activities walking and wheeling are amongst the simplest forms of sustainable transport which community groups to support, yet remain vital and hugely beneficial modes of sustainable transport
As well as being a no cost, no carbon mode of transport walking and wheeling is proven to have positive effects on mental and physical health through the exercise provided and the benefits of being outside. In urban area walking and wheeling can reduce pressure on the transport system and ease congestion whilst allow benefitting local businesses. Due to the gentler pace of activity, walking and wheeling often have an important social function and provide opportunities for community development.
Community led walking and wheeling projects are diverse, numerous and widespread ranging from awareness raising through mapping of local routes and local campaigns to improve road safety to community led walks and making improvements to local areas which support walking.
Skye for All is an innovative and inspirational project set up by two friends from the Isle of Skye which aims to reveal the accessibility of routes on Skye and beyond to users of all abilities. Skye for All includes a blog which introduces local routes with a focus on their accessibility. Each walk is completed by Sarah, who uses a stick and folding wheeled frame, and Melanie and descriptions provide clear and specific details on nearby infrastructure and amenities as well as more general reflections on the walk.
Videos of some walks are also produced and shared on YouTube. Sarah and Melanie have also teamed up with Skye and Lochalsh Council of Voluntary Organisations to create accessibility focussed maps of local towns, Portree and Kyle of Lochalsh through the Advancing Active Journeys Skye and Lochalsh project, supported by Paths for All and Think Health Think Nature. The value of Skye for All in supporting walking and wheeling for functional or leisure journeys is huge and shows the importance of community voices in making sustainable transport a realistic and safe option for all.
Walking Connects, a Living Streets Scotland project funded by the Big Lottery’s Accelerating Ideas Pilot Fund, improves the older people’s wellbeing by empowering them be involved and active in decision making about streets, spaces and places for walking. The project supports groups with advice and resources, enabling older people to be physically active and remain connected with their community. The project works across Scotland and a powerful example can be seen in the work of a residents of a retirement development in Sutherland Street, Edinburgh.
Using Walking Connects resource as guidance the residents came together to document the challenges faced, namely unsafe pavements limiting access to the community centre, build good relationships with local councillors and transport planners and emphasise the need for action. These actions were successful in getting pavements repairs prioritised and completed, bringing a transformative impact to resident’s lives. Walking Connects demonstrates the importance of community cohesion in affecting change and improving local active travel and access opportunities.
Paths for All are a Scottish charity promoting everyday walking and supporting a wide range of sustainable transport projects. Their focus in clear “get everyone, everywhere in Scotland walking everyday for leisure and active functional journeys. To do this they support walking for health, improve active environments and active travel opportunities, and work to influence policy towards an increased focus on physical activity. Paths for All offer various support and funding opportunities for charities, community groups and local authorities to support local projects which will further their aims. This includes grants supporting walking for health initiatives, building and maintaining community paths and diverse transport projects which encourage changes in everyday travel behaviours through the Smarter Choice, Smarter Places fund. Smarter Choices, Smarter Places supports groups across Scotland to help people reduce or replace commuting with home or flexible working, adopt active travel for shorter journeys and uses, public, community and shared transport for longer journeys. For groups considering any type of sustainable transport project, Paths for All can draw on their wide and varied successes and experience to offer essential advice and support.
Living Streets Scotland support everyday walking and aim to create a nation without polluted or congested roads where walking in a safe, natural and common choice. In realising this vision Living Streets works across political and community levels to create vibrant public spaces. This includes nation-wide projects such as Walk to School and Walking Connects, which partners with community groups and older adults to improve walking opportunities in local areas. They are also a powerful force in policy campaigning with previous successes such as for a ban on pavement parking in Scotland and reduced speed limits in Edinburgh City Centre. On a smaller scale, Living Streets support community groups to engage with local government through campaigning and relationship building with local politicians.
Ramblers are a charity who support walking by connecting walkers and walking groups and expanding the infrastructure and places in which people walk. Ramblers focusses on leisure walking rather than walking for functional journeys (Active travel) and have been instrumental in improving access rights within Scotland and championing long distancing walking routes. However, Ramblers also support active travel through protection of walking infrastructure in country side and urban environments and participation in wider coalitions of national charities and organisations. Ramblers also support people to begin walking through organising walking groups and sharing route information, acting as an essential helper to those looking to improve their health and wellbeing through walking. In Scotland, this is led through the Medal Routes, over 700 short local routes mapped online to encourage daily exercise, and group walks which are organised and led across the country