Environmental campaigners have welcomed the announcement in the Scottish Parliament today by Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson MSP that the Scottish Government will support councils with £10m to introduce temporary road reallocation measures.

This follows concern that pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in Scotland is often insufficient to allow safe social distancing, while traffic reductions during lockdown have left road space under-used.

Mr Matheson said a package of support will be delivered to Scottish councils for measures such as pop-up cycle lanes and widening walkways. In answer to an MSP’s question, Mr Matheson said these measures could be introduced “in a matter of weeks”.

The Cabinet Secretary also explained that there has been an increase in walking and cycling during lockdown, an increase he would like to see continue long-term.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson said:

“It’s fantastic to see the Scottish Government giving councils the support they need to unlock much needed public space for social distancing. We support the Cabinet Secretary’s ambition that we should build upon the recent increases in cycling and walking long after the risk from the coronavirus subsides. Hopefully these measures can help achieve that.

“Fundamentally, we need more space for people. Maintaining 2 metres social distancing can be difficult on our narrow pavements; people are walking on the road to ensure compliance with the guidance. Support from the Scottish Government will help all councils temporarily re-allocate road space, which recognises the drop in road traffic.”

“There are great examples around the world of governments quickly unlocking space for distancing, such as expanded cycle lanes, space for pedestrians on roads, and parks closed to through-traffic. All 32 councils in Scotland now have support to introduce innovative, low-cost measures, and they must start introducing these measures as quickly as possible.”

Notes to Editors

1. This is in response to Michael Matheson’s statement made in Parliament today, 28th April 2020. The Scottish Government press release detailing the announcement is here: https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/10-million-to-support-pop-up-active-travel-infrastructure/

2. In recent weeks, Friends of the Earth Scotland has called for Call for free public transport for NHS workers and for Local Authorities to expand public space to allow for social distancing:
15th April. ’Expand public space to allow for social distancing, say campaigners’.

25th March. ‘Call for free public transport for NHS workers’.

3. Examples of road space reallocation in response to Covid-19 from around the world include:

Paris To Create 650 Kilometers Of Post-Lockdown Cycleways. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/04/22/paris-to-create-650-kilometers-of-pop-up-corona-cycleways-for-post-lockdown-travel

Improved facilities for those walking & cycling across Auckland

Vancouver – Cars to be banned from Stanley Park to encourage physical distancing

4. . Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.