Claire Black: Councils persist with their belief that in cities the car is king

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COINCIDENCE, it’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?

There you are attempting to do your civic duty by filling in a survey to help your city council improve a historic street that they have (for reasons I won’t go into because, frankly, life is too short) made a monumental pig’s ear of over the last few years. And then, on the very same day, a report emerges saying that for journeys of 15 to 20 minutes, walking and cycling should be the norm.

Amazing, isn’t it? As though the fickle finger of fate had planned it.

Sorry, what? You don’t see the connection?

The survey was ostensibly about improving streets for pedestrians and cyclists. The report from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) concerned the “silent epidemic” of physical inactivity in the UK and calls directly for councils to do more to make walking and cycling an easier option for local communities. That’s what I’d call serendipity.

Alas then that Edinburgh City Council’s survey relates to plans for Leith Walk which do very little if anything to improve conditions for cyclists or pedestrians, despite the fact that two consultations and a highly regarded campaign showed this as a clear priority for the community. In the name of Sir Chris Hoy, what were they thinking?

In Scotland, 72 per cent of women and 59 per cent of men are not active enough. According to a recent report in medical journal The Lancet, physical inactivity now causes as many deaths as smoking.

The recommended amount of moderate activity for adults is 150 minutes per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. The target is for 50 per cent of adults in Scotland to achieve the minimum level by 2022. But, as anyone who has paid more per month for a gym membership than they’ve paid into their pension without ever setting foot on the treadmill will tell you, this will only be achieved if activity can be built into our daily lives. This is not about classes or training for an Ironman. This is about walking instead of driving or cycling instead of getting the bus. It’s that simple. And that complex. The weird thing is that it has taken a group of clinical experts to state something that not so long ago would have been considered common sense. The even weirder thing is that presented with the perfect opportunity to do something about it, city councils keep on failing, mistakenly persisting with their belief that in cities the car is king while our health suffers.

DID you know that two earthquakes on May 20 and 29 utterly devastated stocks of Parmigiano Reggiano in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy? The tremors shook the earth, warehouses crumbled and the maturing wheels of cheese were scattered. No, I didn’t know about this either. And I love parmesan. But, fear not, an innovative UK cheesemaker, John Savage-Onstwedder, has created a way for us all to support the stricken industry by buying from them directly. Go to to do your bit. Brilliant.

YOU must remember this. Or rather you’ll never forget it if you’re the person who bags the piano on which Sam played As Time Goes By while Ingrid Bergman got teary and Humphrey Bogart got twitchy in Casablanca. The old Joanna is up for sale at auction in New York on December 14. The guide price being between $800,000 and $1.2 million, which is rather steep given that the last time it sold it went for $154,000. I just hope whoever bags it has a repertoire that extends beyond Chopsticks. «

Twitter: @scottiesays