A new report published today sets out the multi-billion pound health benefits that Scotland would reap if its transport system was set on a more sustainable course. ‘Towards a Healthier Economy’ is published by the Transform Scotland Trust. It makes the key finding that Scotland’s economy could benefit by up to £4 billion annually if the country was to move to continental European levels of cycle use.
This echoes findings from a report produced for Cycling England in 2007 which showed that for every pound spent on cycling there would be a return of £3
The new report also highlights the costs to the economy from car use, and the annual deficits suffered by Scotland’s economy due to the aviation industry.
Professor Stephen Stradling, Chair of the Transform Scotland Trust, said:
"This report shows the clear benefits to the Scottish economy and quality of life that would result from setting our transport system on a more sustainable course. Previous research has shown that a majority of Scottish motorists are keen to cut their car use, and many are prepared to try more active modes of travel, especially for short journeys. This research shows the substantial economic benefits that would result from a shift to cycling and walking.
"Given Scotland’s frequently dire conditions for walkers and cyclists, especially in urban areas, it is important that the Government switch resources into delivering the sort of high quality public realm that the Dutch and the Danes, for instance, take for granted. The high rates of cycling – and the concomitant health and well-being benefits – observed in these countries came about because of sustained investment in ‘green infrastructure’.
"An early and substantial investment in cycling and walking is essential. Just as road building results in extra ‘induced traffic’, so if we provide more green infrastructure the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ argument – ‘If you build it they will come’ – will apply to active travel, and with much more welcome consequences."
Dr. Helen Zealley, President of Scottish Environment LINK & a Board member of NHS Health Scotland, said:
"It is beyond doubt that we need to see major switches to public transport, walking and cycling if we have any hope of heading off climate chaos. This report highlights the range of economic benefits that we can expect if politicians are prepared to take action to deliver sustainable transport.
"But there would be other important benefits. Increased levels of walking and cycling will help to stem Scotland’s obesity crisis as well as contributing to mental well-being. It is therefore good news to find that the changes called for in this report will also provide wider economic benefits: a win-win solution. I hope that planners will see that they can contribute to two of the Government’s key strategic goals by investing in ‘active travel’ and that colleagues across the health sector will welcome this contribution to the debate on how to deliver a healthier and more sustainable Scotland."
The report makes a series of recommendations, with the top recommendation being that the Scottish Government’s transport appraisal system – the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) – include the direct economic beneﬁts resulting from improved health due to increased cycling and walking.