Medical professionals call for Edinburgh to expand Covid-19 active travel measures


CALLS by over 140 medical professionals for Edinburgh to retain its temporary Covid-19 active travel measures have been welcomed by the capital’s council.

Doctors and health workers from across the city published an open letter to the City of Edinburgh Council in support of extending travelling safely programme, formerly spaces for people.

The latter was introduced nationally at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, in a bid to provide temporary active travel routes for people looking to exercise or make essential journeys.

In total, the measures brought 24 miles of cycle infrastructure to the city, as well as the widening of certain pavements, removal of unused poles and parking signs, and 54 measures around schools to ensure distancing was possible.

With restrictions now eased, the local authority approved plans in June to remove parts of the scheme and announced plans to engage with communities on options for future measures that could be taken.

In an open letter to councillors, the cohort of medical professionals wrote, “We are a group of doctors and other health professionals, living or working in Edinburgh, and write to support the retention and extension of changes to travel infrastructure in Edinburgh and the Lothians, to improve public health and mitigate climate emergency.”

The group said that they have a ‘responsibility’ to speak up for disadvantaged groups who are disproportionately vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the climate crisis, with the letter highlighting the benefits active travel would have on air pollution, physical activity levels, safe travel to schools and climate change.

The letter concludes, “We are concerned that suggested steps to reverse active travel measures introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic would be a retrograde and harmful step for the health of the population of Edinburgh.”

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener at the City of Edinburgh Council, welcomed the input. She said, “The collective voice of this wide range of medical and health professionals is incredibly welcome. We’ve been vocal about our commitment to encourage travel by foot, wheel or bike, and the benefits this brings, but to have the support of the medical profession demonstrates just how crucial investment in safe, protected routes is.

“Over the last year and a half we’ve introduced changes which have helped many people to feel newly confident about walking, cycling and wheeling safely. There are, of course, tens of thousands of people in Edinburgh who don’t have access to a car. We now have the opportunity to extend the lifespan of many of these measures and to improve upon them so that they work for as many people as possible.

“The evidence is clear and well expressed in this letter – there’s so much to gain from active travel, in terms of health, quality of life and in limiting our impact on the climate. We simply cannot return to the status quo, where private car journeys dominate the streets. By retaining the majority of schemes introduced through spaces for people, we’re laying the foundations for a happier, healthier future for everyone here.”