OPINION: COP26 shows us that the way we get around doesn’t have to cost the earth
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Transport accounts for 36 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland, writes Ranald Robertson director transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, HITRANS.
The majority of regular journeys are less than three miles and more than 50 per cent of comuting journeys in Inverness are around a mile.
Many of these journeys currently made by car could be made on foot or by bike.
Regular physical activity is an important part of living well.
The easiest way to become more active is to make it part of your everyday life.
People who are more active are less likely to develop serious illnesses and health conditions; and research suggests that being more active can improve your mood and reduce stress levels.
So transport is not just about how we get around; it’s something that fundamentally shapes where and how we live.
Do our town centres and communities feel like places to walk and chat, or do they feel crowded and dominated by vehicles, with pedestrians pushed to the side?
To make it easier and safer for people to choose to walk or cycle for local journeys, there needs to be a commitment to re-shaping our places so that walking and cycling - and stopping, sitting and meeting – are given priority.
We need cycle routes separated from vehicles and pedestrians. When routes feel safe and pleasant, more people have the confidence to venture out on foot or on wheels.
A simple measure we can all take is to replace some or all of our short car journeys with active travel.
You might be surprised by how far you can walk or cycle in 20 minutes.
Some journeys are too far for active travel, so we also need affordable public transport that operates when and where people need it.
This might mean more demand responsive transport which links up with bus and rail.
Sustainable travel might be a mixture of active travel and public transport, so making sure that routes to bus stops are accessible is important, as are the facilities at bus stops.
Bus services should be affordable offering journey times that are competitive with the car. The Highland Bus Partnership project will improve journey times in Inverness and Fort William.
For longer trips we need to have rail services that are low carbon, more frequent and offer attractive journey times. For Inverness to the central belt and Aberdeen we need an hourly frequency and a journey time to Edinburgh / Glasgow of under three hours and two hours to Aberdeen.
Our Go-Hi app provides a single platform where anyone can book different journeys to suit their needs across multiple modes throughout the Highlands and Islands.
For many in the Highlands and Islands a resilient and safe road network is still essential for businesses to access markets and for locals and visitors to get around. We have a fantastic opportunity to decarbonise road transport and other elements of our strategic network by embracing the region’s renewable energy resources to support a transition to electric and hydrogen fuel.
COP26 shows us that the way we get around doesn’t have to cost the earth.