CREATING a legacy of active travel in Scotland following the UCI Cycling World Championships is a “necessity”, Patrick Harvie has said.

The Minister for Active Travel told The National that the “next generation will not thank us” if the Scottish Government doesn’t get the infrastructure right and future-proof city centres.

Speaking following a discussion on International Active Travel Policy in the Trades Hall in Glasgow on Friday, Harvie said that there was a “compelling story for transformational change” discussed by attendees.

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The panel event included contributions from Karel van Oosterom, the ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands to the UK, Ida Bigum Nielsen, from the city of Copenhagen, and Lee Craigie, Scotland’s active travel commissioner, as well as Harvie.

Speaking about contributions from Oosterom and Nielsen, Harvie explained: “They had a really compelling story to tell about the transformational change that’s been achieved, what it looks like, what it feels like, and the way it's just become normalised and become bedded in.

“And the way that when you make that change, you see places that are thriving, bustling, lively, fun places to be.”

He added that it can sometimes be difficult to offer the public a “different vision” of how their community could be, and how embedding cycling, walking and other forms of active travel can still meet the needs of each community.

The National: The World Cycling Championships kicked off in Glasgow this weekThe World Cycling Championships kicked off in Glasgow this week (Image: Gordon Terris)

“It's a harder thing to do, but if we can paint that picture, if we can show the benefits that have been achieved in other places that have already made that change, I think many more people will see the opportunity to do it in Scotland.”

The Scottish Government is investing almost £4 million in direct legacy projects from the Cycling World Championships, taking place in Glasgow between August 3 and 13.

However, funding has been ramped up to record levels by ministers to almost £190m in 2023, with a commitment to invest £320m - or 10% - of the Scottish Government’s transport budget on active travel by 2024-25.

In 2017, the annual budget given to local authorities on active travel was only £39m each year.

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The Scottish Greens MSP insisted that there was an “appetite” for active travel across Scotland, but that the approach had to involve national government, local government, and the voluntary sector that have previously plugged the gap but have plenty of expertise to share.

“I genuinely think we're in a moment of opportunity and I think we're in a moment of necessity for doing this stuff,” Harvie said.

“Whether it's online retail, whether it's Covid accelerating the way that's changed the way that we use cities, whether it's online working, remote working, all of these changes have shifted the way that we use space, the way that we use buildings.

“If we get this right, if we join the dots between active travel as transport policy, as emissions reduction, and as a health policy, along with the economic development, how are we changing the way we use our towns and our cities and our built environment?

The National: Harvie is the Minister for Active Travel and a keen cyclistHarvie is the Minister for Active Travel and a keen cyclist (Image: Newsquest)

“Then places like this will be thriving, places like this will be places that folk want to spend time and want to be in and where they spend time, many of them will spend some money as well, that will support the economy.

“If we don't do that, the next generation will not thank us for not reinventing the way that we use city centres.”

In Copenhagen, ranked as the world's best capital for cycling, residents cycle an estimated 1.44 million kilometres daily, with 49% of all trips to school or work taken by bike. This is up from 35% just a decade ago.

And, not only that, but 97% of Copenhagen residents are satisfied with the cycling conditions in the city, including in the long dark winters.

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“There's a huge opportunity to create that kind of positive vibrancy that you do see in places like Copenhagen or Amsterdam,” Harvie said.

“That you have places that are genuinely attractors of people's time and of people's creativity and of the way they spend their money.

“I think this is a moment where it's, it's not just possible, but it's more important than ever that we get this right.”