LAST month in Barcelona a small group of parents hosted a short cycle to school for a handful of children. But something happened, word got out and now whole neighbourhoods are taking part. It’s an inspiring vision, with people of all ages on bikes, scooters and on foot as they reclaim their streets.

Every week, organisers circulate a route so that parents and their children can join the “bike bus” on their way to school. It is not just pupils from one school taking part, there are several in the area. This means that they are riding together in the safety of a large and highly visible group.

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It’s not the first time this has happened. There have been similar initiatives in Madrid, Belgium, Ireland and beyond. But as I watched the footage, it made me think of the change that simple steps like this could make to young people in Scotland.

A lot of people began cycling over lockdown, with bike sales up 60% in the first months of the pandemic. But as many of them will have discovered far too many of our towns and cities are designed around cars.

There have been some major improvements made to our streets via the Spaces for People scheme that was brought in as a result of the pandemic.

The National: Decking in Glasgow was part of the Spaces for People schemeDecking in Glasgow was part of the Spaces for People scheme

For example, in Perth and Kinross, the council was granted £1.1 million to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists and to help maintain physical distance. This included additional signage and road markings, reduced speed limits, widening pavements and temporary cycle lanes and cycle segregation.

Some of these changes worked well and are here to stay. In Glasgow, for example, many of the road closures, pop-up cycle lanes and footpath widenings are being made permanent. Similarly, in Edinburgh a lot of the measures and installations are being extended by another 18 months, which will help to build them into people’s lives and routines.

It should not have taken a pandemic to put accessibility and active travel at the heart of our transport system. But now that we have seen the alternatives, we must develop them and ensure that we don’t slip back.

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Cycling and walking have never been more popular. And the government needs to catch-up. There is a lot of talk about building back better, part of that must mean reimagining our spaces, and making our streets safer for everyone.

Unfortunately turning around years of underinvestment takes time. But we are taking big steps to enable this shift. In the cooperation agreement that my Green colleagues and I negotiated with the Scottish Government, we have delivered a huge funding increase.

By 2024/25 we will ensure that 10% of Transport Scotland’s budget is invested in active travel. That means £320 million a year to boost greener and more sustainable ways to travel, a trebling of the current budget. This will go a long way to making walking, wheeling and cycling natural choices.

With my Green colleague Patrick Harvie (below) in government as the first ever minister for active travel, we will ensure that this sort of investment is central to the future of our transport network.

The National: Scottish Parliament election polling day..Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie arrives to vote at Notre Dame primary school, Glasgow. Patrick is the Green's candidate for Glasgow Kelvin...  Photograph by Colin Mearns.6th May 2021..

But many people have told me that they are worried about walking and cycling due to the number of cars on the road and the speed they drive at.

It is an issue I know all too well. In the last parliamentary session I brought forward the “safer streets” bill in a bid to lower the default speed limit in built-up areas from 30mph to 20mph. I worked with communities, activists, councils, transport groups and public safety campaigners, but, unfortunately, we could not get the full parliamentary support to deliver it.

I was disappointed, but I was proud of that campaign and its impact in pushing the issue up the agenda. In the cooperation agreement we included a commitment to ensure all appropriate roads will have a safer speed limit of 20 mph by 2025. This will create safer streets and further boost active travel.

The days of just putting 20mph zones on school gates are over. During the pandemic Scottish Borders Council introduced a huge roll out of 20mph limits in villages and towns across the region. The figures coming back are showing significant speed reductions. We need to build on this.

I know that cycling is not always a viable option for longer journeys. If we are to boost greener travel then we need to ensure that public transport joins up with cycle infrastructure and is an affordable and accessible option.

In the last parliament my Green colleagues and I secured free bus travel for everyone under 22, which will come into effect in January. This major change will help to tackle inequality while opening up Scotland to young people.

A Fair Fares review to consider the wider cost of travel has also been announced, alongside a commitment of £5 billion to decarbonise and improve our rail.

With COP only 10 days away, a lot of the focus will be on big decisions around international targets, but these need to be rooted in millions of local actions around the globe.

Everyone can do their bit, from the politicians and polluters who need to make the system changes to tackle climate change, right through to the parents and children who have left their cars behind and are cycling, walking and wheeling to school.