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"Paths for all" by Ian Findlay, chief Officer, Paths for All - Edinburgh meeting of 9 November 2010

Ian Findlay.d

Ian Findlay.

© John Yellowlees, 2010

Formed fourteen years ago by Scottish Natural Heritage with many partners including Scottish Enterprise, HIE, Sustrans and Cycling Scotland, the Paths for All Partnership has 22 staff with an annual budget of £1.4M and exists to promote walking for health and the development of a path network.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. The recommended level of physical activity is half-an-hour or more at least five days a week, a modest aspiration but one achieved by only one-third of women and 44% of men.

British children cycle the least and are the most obese in Europe, and the average person walks only 189 miles a year, a fall of 66 miles in 25 years, with car replacing walking as the predominant mode at distances of over one mile.

Being healthy reduces the risk of developing disease, can reduce stress and anxiety and halves mortality in retired men who walk over two miles a day. Physical inactivity accounts for a hugh proportion of health spend, and regularly active people take less sick leave.

Social barriers to walking include lack of time, fear of walking alone, lack of support and the why-bother attitude. The Partnership gives start-up funding for local projects, advocates walking at the political level and promotes new models for development of walking including loan of pedometers.

In the relationship between benefits and risks, the very fit may not be the healthiest of people, but walking for health deliveries a £7 social return on every £1 invested, with over 200 walking schemes and 3000 walk leaders.

Key advocacy points for active travel are the place of walking and cycling at the top of the transport hierarchy, the need for leadership and long-term commitment, the goal of achieving 10% of transport budgets, the desirability of more 20 mph zones and the need to tackle inequality and climate change.

Shared streets develop respect between walkers, cyclists and drivers, and the Partnership knows it's succeeding when it starts to see ordinary people on bikes, emulating the greatest modal shifts in Scandinavia where the weather also is not conducive - usage of Glasgow's pedestrianised Buchanan Street by walkers and cyclists shows what can be done.

Current active travel initiatives include support for an Active Travel NGO, Smarter Choices, a Cycling Action Plan, Walkipedia, the Commonwealth Games, the Central Scotland Green Network, input to the ScotRail cycling forum and support to local authority initiatives.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Graham Atkins for hosting this event at Edinburgh City Council.


You can click on this link to download a copy of the presentation on Paths for All. (PDF Format - 3.8Mb)

Report by John Yellowlees


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