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Daisy Narayanan - I want to see active travel across the city become the norm #Edinburgh2050

23 November 2017

Daisy Narayanan, Deputy Director of Built Environment for Sustrans Scotland, gives her insights into how the city's transport infrastructure should develop to serve the Edinburgh of the future in the latest in our series of posts from thought leaders on the #Edinburgh2050 City Vision.

Edinburgh is a city of magnificent yet delicate beauty - its ever-changing landscapes between the dramatic rocky hills and the clear blue sea, provide a unique setting for its rich and vibrant heritage.

I arrived in 2004 as a student and instantly fell under the spell of this city. Even today, thirteen years later, I find new corners and streets that surprise me and reinforce everything I love about Edinburgh.

And to me, this is where the magic of Edinburgh lies - in the joy of discovery of new, interesting places by being willing to explore Edinburgh at a human scale, on foot or by bicycle. By 2050, my dream is for the city to change the way it functions, to provide better choices for people to move around and become the most liveable city in Europe.

Scotland’s capital has a strong record of transforming its urban environment to creating better places for people. Over the years Edinburgh has benefitted hugely from local and national political support for walking and cycling. As long-term champions of active travel, the City of Edinburgh Council has already helped to encourage bike use levels across the city reach a record high, and more than a quarter of commuters currently make their journey to work on bikes.

By 2050 however, I would want to see active travel across the city become the norm for residents and visitors alike. And, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site we need Edinburgh’s public spaces to be befitting for its citizens and visitors, rather than being dominated by cars and plagued by pollution.

The continued creation of a network of traffic-free cycle routes across the city, in the form of Edinburgh’s Quiet Routes and the National Cycle Network, will enable even more people to cycle safely and enjoyably. Fast forward thirty years and I hope to see all communities across the city serviced by a system of safe, segregated and easy to use active travel routes.

These routes would be underpinned by a cheap, reliable and fast public transport network of electric-powered vehicles – helping to ensure it is easier, quicker and more cost-effective for people to leave their car at home for journeys within the city.

By creating and developing infrastructure which promotes walking and cycling as the default transport choice for people, air quality, congestion and safety will all be improved. And by having safer streets, which encourage children to walk and cycle, activities such as travelling actively to school, either on foot, by bike or scooter, or playing on the streets would be a normal part of daily life.

By 2050, my vision is for Edinburgh to be well connected to cities across Scotland and the rest of the UK by an affordable, fast and reliable electric rail network. Trains would accommodate large numbers of passengers and families wishing to take their bikes, helping to encourage a multi-modal shift in travel away from cars.

The quality of life that Edinburgh provides its citizens would be improved in other ways as well. With the rise in the number of people walking and cycling for more of the journeys they make every day, would come a healthier, happier population.

As more people enjoy the benefits of active travel, the local economy will also thrive – and levels of spending and investment into local businesses will also increase.

From the Council’s commitment to investing 10% of its total Roads and Transport budget towards measures supporting the growth of walking and cycling, to its implementation of innovative solutions to promote active travel in and around schools, Edinburgh already sets the standard for active travel provision in Scotland.

However there is still more which Edinburgh can and should do, if it wants to continue to be seen as a desirable place to live and work. To me, the solution to this issue is clear. The more Edinburgh can do to encourage people to eschew car use in favour of walking and cycling, the closer the capital can move towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable city; a place where people can thrive.

My vision for Edinburgh by 2050 is a city that is vibrant, healthy, more active and less congested, aligned with other global cities and most importantly, a city that has people at its very heart.

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