Air quality campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to take action after figures published yesterday (27 September) revealed a drop in cycling rates.
In reaction to the report, campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to increase spending on walking and cycling to 10% of the overall transport budget by 2020, claiming that air pollution from traffic is a â€œpublic health emergency in Scotland.â€
The Transport Scotland statistics show that in 2015, only 1.9% of the transport budget went towards building walking and cycling paths, with the number of journeys made by bike dropping from 1.4% in 2014 to 1.2% in 2015.
According to Friends of the Earth Scotland, the transport sector is the main cause of Scotlandâ€™s air pollution health crisis, accounting for 28% of Scotlandâ€™s greenhouse gas emissions. Air pollution safety standards continue to be breached in 32 Pollution Zones across Scotland.
In a letter to the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, fourteen organisations ranging from public health charities to childrenâ€™s rights organisations to environmental campaigns urged the Scottish Government to invest in cycle and walking paths to benefit health, the environment, and the economy.
Citing the example of Edinburgh city council, the group noted that the city has bucked the national trend on cycling rates for the last few years and over 10% of trips to work are currently made by bike in the capital, which is claims is due to the councilâ€™s investment in active travel, which is now at 9% of its transport budget.
Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, Emilia Hanna, said: â€œAir pollution, mainly from traffic, is a major cause of early death in Scotland, and has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, and strokes.
“Walking and cycling would be realistic alternatives to the car for millions of trips every year if only the Scottish Government were to provide the desperately needed investment in high quality walking and cycling paths which make people feel safe.
â€œIf investment rates donâ€™t change, then cycle rates wonâ€™t change. The best bit is that it doesnâ€™t require any new money from Government but rather a shift in existing spending away from building yet more roads towards healthier, active travel.â€
The Children and Young People’s commissioner for Scotland, Tam Baillie said: â€œChildren have the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and this right is being directly threatened by air pollution worldwide and here in Scotland.
â€œThere is an ever-growing body of evidence that toxic air can stunt childrenâ€™s lung growth and development. We call on the Scottish Government to invest a greater share of its transport budget in walking and cycling infrastructure, in order to create safe, convenient and viable ways for people to travel by pollution-free modes.â€
Irene Johnstone, head of the British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: â€œMore people died from lung conditions last year in Scotland than from heart disease and the numbers are rising. Our polluted urban areas and cities, particularly Glasgow, have the highest lung disease death rates in the UK.
â€œAir pollution affects our most vulnerable in society. It can cause serious problems for people living with lung conditions, poses a real danger to childrenâ€™s growing lungs, and usually affects those living in deprived areas the most. Itâ€™s a public health crisis.â€