Walk this way: Campaign to get people on their feet

Katherine Manley and her daughter walking home. Picture: Joey Kelly
Katherine Manley and her daughter walking home. Picture: Joey Kelly
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YOU have bits of breakfast cereal smeared into your hair, a half-dressed child who insists on removing their clothes as soon as you wrestle them back on again, and inevitably you’re running late.

You look out the window and, of course, it’s just started raining.

The easiest thing in the world would be to bundle your child into the car parked enticingly close and conquer the school run and journey to work with enough time to spare to scrape the Ready Brek out of your hair and make a cup of coffee.

But a new campaign is trying to target exactly the kind of people whose chaotic lives lead to them driving those short journeys which could so easily be replaced with walking or cycling.

By now we’ve probably all seen the computerised road signs with the catchy slogan “Not far? Leave the car”, but how many of us have actually taken the suggestion on board, or really thought about why leaving the car behind for short journeys could be of benefit both for our health and well-being and for the purposes of making our environment cleaner and greener?

“There are a number of different benefits if you do travel actively to work or school,” explains John Lauder, national director of Sustrans Scotland, which oversees and promotes walking and cycling routes.

“There’s the health benefits of building your exercise into your daily life instead of having to go to the gym after work. It’s also been shown that if you walk or cycle to work you’re more refreshed and raring to go. Same with schoolchildren – they arrive with their minds clear and ready to go.

“If you’re going to work or meetings, you can actually time down to the last minute how long it’s going to take if you’re walking or cycling, but if you’re on a bus or in a car it can take much longer than you expect.”

He adds: “There’s also the financial benefits.

“Walking is free and so is cycling after the initial outlay, whereas petrol and diesel prices are going to keep increasing.” An app has been created especially for the Scotland-wide campaign, launched by the Scottish Government, which allows people to plot their journeys and track how many calories they have burned off by walking and cycling.

It also calculates the carbon emissions saved by leaving the car at home for short journeys.

John adds: “We are trying to get people to think that - especially for short journeys - walking or cycling is easily manageable and in many cases it’s handier than taking the car.

“Anything up to five miles is very easy to cycle and up to three miles is quite straight forward for walking, so we’re talking quite short distances.”

Earlier this month, the Evening News revealed that parents are fuelling a rise in congestion-causing car trips by dropping their kids off at the school gates in increasing numbers.

The Transport Scotland survey revealed 19 per cent of parents drove their children to school and nurseries in Edinburgh last year despite concerted efforts to promote alternative forms of transport such as cycling and walking. The figure was up from 17 per cent in 2010.

Mother-of-one Katherine Manley is an advocate of active travel, saying that the short walk to and from nursery with her daughter each day not only provides a more active lifestyle for them both, but gives them quality mother and daughter time.

Katherine, 39, walks with four-year-old Anna from their home in Bellevue to the Edinburgh Nursery on Broughton Road, which takes between ten and 15 minutes.

“I work full time, and she is at pre-school, so our time together is very precious,” says Katherine, an account director at the Leith Agency.

“Walking her to pre-school is a lovely, calm activity after the rush of getting up, getting ready and out of the house in the morning.

“We can have a bit of a natter in the fresh air, get a bit of exercise, and most importantly, she has my full attention. You can’t do that if you’re driving, as you have to focus on the road and finding a parking space can be quite stressful.

“After a hectic day at work, I step outside, leave all the stresses of work behind me and walk to the nursery to pick up my daughter. We have a good chat and a laugh on the way home, and if she’s lucky, a quick play in the park.

“I really treasure these short journeys to and from nursery with Anna.”

Katherine says that walking with Anna gives her the chance to teach her daughter good habits when crossing the road and to learn about her local community. She adds: “It’s good to know I’m helping to create good travelling habits in Anna. We’re learning to cross the road safely together and do what the lollipop lady tells us to do.

“It also expands her social circle and fosters a feeling that there’s a big world out there, by walking through our community and saying hello to people we know, and those we don’t see every day.

“We also use this time to find out things through our chats and always make time for a sing song and a joke, the kind of quality time you don’t get by running from A to B in the car. We have used the car on occasion, if we’ve been running late. When you have children and are working, you’re always in a bit of a rush, so it can be a tempting choice.

“But the parking is just terrible so you can spend as long trying to find a space as you can walking there.”

Keith Irving, head of Living Streets Scotland, adds: “We think you’ll be amazed at what a difference a short blast of fresh air can do for you as part of your daily life. Walking is free, green and easy, helping you feel better, in body and mind.”

For more information and tips, visit www.greenerscotland.org/activetravel. The app can be downloaded from the App Store by searching ‘greener journeys’.