More than one million Scots live in areas that are at risk of ‘transport poverty’, according to new research.
The report by Sustrans Scotland found that up to 20 per cent of communities fall into the high risk category when it comes to assessing affordability for transport.
People are deemed at risk of transport poverty when they don’t have access to essential services or work because of a lack of affordable transport options.
The organisation, which promotes walking and cycling, used data on household income, car availability and access to public transport networks to allocate risk ratings to areas across Scotland.
It found that the risk of transport poverty was highest in areas with relatively low income, high car availability and low access to essential services by public transport.
Sustrans Scotland said car ownership can put pressure on households with lower incomes, arguing that cycling could offer an alternative.
The organisation’s national director, John Lauder said: “For many of us, the way we get to the shops, or how we travel to the dentist is something we don’t have to worry about.
“However, for more than one million Scots, these every day trips that most of us take for granted, can be the difference between getting support and services they need or going without. We need a planning system that puts necessary services where people live. People should be able to access shops, schools, healthcare and some places of work within a short distance without the need for a car.
“And whilst offering greater and safer opportunities for people to choose to make the same journey by bike, it will offer an alternative to being dependent on a car for some.”
The findings were welcomed by the Poverty Alliance.
Director Peter Kelly said: “Supporting real alternatives to reliance on cars would bring economic and health across Scotland.
“Too many people living on low incomes have inadequate access to public transport, and other forms of transport sometimes seem out of reach. By providing better, more integrated transport solutions we can reduce the pressure of rising costs for families across Scotland.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government continues to increase investment in sustainable transport, encouraging modal shift to active and public transport, rail and new technologies such as low carbon vehicles.
“We know that active travel, and in particular cycling, can help people to access employment opportunities by expanding access to low cost, low carbon transport options. We have invested over £217 million in active travel since the start of the 2011 spending review, including this year, and as announced in the Programme for Government, we have doubled the active travel budget from £40m to £80m a year from 2018-2019.
“This will allow us to continue to build an active nation, boosting investment in walking and cycling and putting active travel at the heart of our transport planning.”