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April 4, 2023

Walking is not straightforward

The concept of the 20 minute neighbourhood has evolved from the experience of several major cities around the world with the best known being Melbourne. But as ever, the devil will be in the detail of its implementation and as the concept is now written into our national planning policy, it’s about time some of that detail started to emerge. Some useful work just published by Living Streets looking at it from a community perspective. And while the research showed that the theory had broad appeal, the reality of walking as a mode of transport is rather more complicated.

Living Streets

20-minute neighbourhoods: a community perspective is published by Living Streets Scotland, part of the UK charity for everyday walking.

20-minute neighbourhoods are at the heart of Scotland’s fourth National Planning Framework. The concept – based on the idea that people can meet their essential needs within a 20-minute walk – is already popular in cities worldwide like Melbourne, Copenhagen, Paris and Utrecht for its potential to improve public health reinforce, economy as well as reducing carbon emissions from short car journeys.

The Living Streets Scotland report looks at the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods, studies the evidence behind them, and asks whether they can be applicable in Scotland. The report follows a one-year research project that asked people in Stirling and North Lanarkshire how they travel within their local areas and what a 20-minute neighbourhood might look like for them. It also considered the barriers they currently experience when it comes to walking more.

Participants in the research commented on a lack of safe crossing points missing or and badly maintained pavements, and that pedestrian and disabled access can feel like “an afterthought”. The report recommends much better care and maintenance of local walking routes to make walking and wheeling a realistic and attractive option.

Stuart Hay, Director, Living Streets Scotland said:

“Creating safe, accessible and well-connected places will enable more of us to choose to walk or wheel our everyday journeys – helping to boost health, support local businesses and connect us to our local communities.

“Most people who drive report doing so because of the convenience, the lack of time to make another choice, or the necessity of using their car because the walking route is challenging or simply non-existent. While they like the idea of living locally and walking more, they still choose to drive. For 20-minute neighbourhoods to work, walking needs to become the easiest choice.

The report launches at Living Street Scotland’s Big Walking Seminar, which this year focuses on reducing traffic in car dominated places and is supported by Transport Scotland.