Scots challenged to 'take a risk' and leave car at home

Scots are to be challenged to "take a risk" by leaving their cars at home by Scotland's new active nation commissioner.

Lee Craigie represented Great Britain at mountain biking world championships. Picture: Transport Scotland

Former professional mountain biker Lee Craigie was appointed today to spearhead Scottish Government efforts to get people walking and cycling more

She said: "It’s important to acknowledge change is scary and to embrace change is to take a risk.

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"I’m going to be encouraging individuals to take a chance on change.

Public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick and transport secretary Michael Matheson with new Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland Lee Craigie

"To leave the car at home sometimes and to ride, walk or take public transport instead so they might experience the massive gains to our health and our communities.

"I’ll also be asking local authorities to consider prioritising pedestrians and cyclists instead of cars for everyday short journeys - another big change requiring courage from all involved, but which will ultimately benefit everyone."

Ms Craigie's role is to act as a "national advocate" to promote the heath, environmental, social and economic benefits of walking and cycling as part of ministers doubling their "active travel" budget to £80 million.

However, they are still way off their "vision" of 10 per cent of journeys by bike by 2020, which are currently around 2 per cent.

Lee Craigie with leaders of active travel groups such as Cycling Scotland, Forth Environment Link, Cycling UK and Living Streets Scotland. Picture: Transport Scotland

Transport secretary Michael Matheson wants to expand active travel to include buses and trains because such journeys also involve walking or cycling.

Ms Craigie, co-founder of The Adventure Syndicate, which promotes female cycling, said the organisation was "all about encouraging and enabling young people, and particularly young women, to take their own risks – to step out of their comfort zone and do something different to make them feel healthier, happier and more in control of their lives."

She said: “The ambitious vision of the Scottish Government is what attracted me to this role, but it’s clear to everyone in the active travel community that there is a need to take a few more risks in order to achieve greater outcomes, faster than ever, so that even more people can connect and engage with lifelong walking and cycling."

“I’m looking forward to building new relationships across the country so we can collectively push the current boundaries of thinking in how we travel.

"I’m committed to promoting the idea that by placing our own health needs, the needs of our communities and our environment ahead of single-occupancy car journeys, we can all live more sustainable and fulfilled lives.”

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Mr Matheson said: “I am confident she will not only be an inspirational advocate for active travel, but also progress high-impact policy development.

“Walking and cycling as a form of transport can be incredibly beneficial to our individual health and help protect our environment – but it cannot be a solution that only some can benefit from.

"We are determined to ensure walking and cycling is accessible and inclusive for all.

“Our funding of active travel projects aims to significantly improve our public realm, creating segregated cycle lanes in our towns and cities, support behaviour change projects and make walking and cycling the natural and easy choice for everyday short journeys."

Suzanne Forup, head of development in Scotland for Cycling UK, said Ms Craigie was the "ideal choice" for commissioner.

She said: “As a founder of the Adventure Syndicate and with her experience of working with young people experiencing mental health issues, Lee understands how cycling can improve our health, enhance our wellbeing and reduce inequalities.