Sustrans – Spaces for People

For over 40 years, Sustrans has been reimagining the way we move. By making it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle in their local areas we believe we can create happier and healthier, more connected communities.

In Scotland, this vision is driven by our landmark Places for Everyone programme, funded through the Scottish Government. This fund has allowed us to transform the school run, the work commute, and make parks and gathering spaces friendlier and more accessible for everyone.

Now, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Spaces for People, a new £38.7 million fund is delivering swift temporary infrastructure changes throughout Scotland to protect public health and safeguard community wellbeing.

To ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to share their views Sustrans has created websites for the following regions, where comments and suggestions about creating temporary space for walking and cycling can be posted.

People can also provide feedback on temporary measures which have been implemented already here –

Have a look, get involved and have a say in how your local areas shapes up.

Public health and transport inequalities
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted everyone. However, existing societal inequalities mean that the most vulnerable groups have been most disadvantaged by the ongoing crisis.

Analysis from National Records of Scotland show that those living in deprived areas in Scotland are more than twice as likely to die with Covid-19 as those in the most affluent areas.1

They’re also more likely to suffer the negative health impacts of air and noise pollution coming from congested traffic2, and are at higher risk of road accidents.3

Research shows that children on foot or bike in the most 20% deprived areas in Scotland areas are 3 times more likely to be involved in road accidents compared to the 20% least deprived areas.4

Lack of reliable access to a car can also leave vulnerable groups isolated, cutting them off from essential services such as healthcare and leisure facilities, green spaces and grocery stores.

Vulnerable groups face additional challenges in their everyday lives. Now, with the added strain of a public health emergency, our responsibility to provide help and support has never been clearer.

What we’re doing to help
Funded by the Scottish Government, Spaces for People is supporting local authorities to deliver temporary changes that make physical distancing possible and ensure it is safer for people to walk, cycle or wheel during Covid-19.

Tailored measures such as the widening of pavements, pop-up cycles lanes, targeted road closures, and speed limit restrictions give people more space to pass one another in the street and queue outside of essential services, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and leisure facilities. Accessibility to hospitals and residential facilities has also been prioritised to ensure key workers, such as nurses and carers are more easily able to support those in need.

We are already seeing the benefits Spaces for People has achieved and, as we emerge out of lockdown and public spaces become more crowded, the space and active travel options afforded by these temporary interventions will only become more important.

However, the number of cars on the road has also now started to rise again. We need to support and encourage the increased appetite for walking and cycling by creating safe infrastructure that will secure a lasting impact on public health.

The supporting evidence
We already know that Spaces for People interventions such as the introduction of 20mph zones can reduce the risk of injury or death from traffic accidents significantly.5

In addition to this Road closures and the pedestrianised streets help to improve public health by reducing air pollution, particularly in congested city centres.

Union Street in Aberdeen, for example, was partly pedestrianised as part of a Spaces for People initiative, and without the usual gridlock of traffic, air quality has significantly improved. Daily average nitrogen dioxide levels on Union Street have fallen from a January peak of 74.8 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (mgcm-3) to a low of 3.6 at the end of May – less than a tenth of the daily safety limit of 40mgcm-3.6

Spaces for People measures which reduce traffic flow and create quieter streets also allow people to more easily access the places they need to, as well as provide more people the opportunity to experience the benefits active travel can have on our physical health.

It is estimated that more people walking and cycling regularly could create annual savings of £94 million to the NHS, the current cost of inactivity in Scotland.7

In terms of mental health, walking, wheeling and cycling can link up neighbourhoods and essential services, helping people feel more connected in times of increased isolation, as has been observed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ali Macdonald from Public Health Scotland has taken a look at how these measures can help protect public health by slowing the spread of Covid-19, as well as address the transport inequalities that are present within our society.

The summary of this is that the measures funded by Spaces for People have huge potential to improve the health and wellbeing of local populations, both in the short and long term.
The full briefing can be read here: Public Health Scotland briefing

Through Spaces for People, Sustrans is committed to addressing the transport and health inequalities that we face in Scotland. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these systemic problems and shone a clearer light on them. By investing in accessible travel infrastructure and safeguarding public health, we are also investing in a happier, fairer Scotland for future generations.


1. Deaths involving COVID-19, Week 19 – 4th to 10th May

2. Deaths involving COVID-19, Week 19 – 4th to 10th May

3. Deaths involving COVID-19, Week 19 – 4th to 10th May

4. Geddes I, Allen J, Allen M, Morrisey L. The Marmot Review: Implications for Spatial planning.  

5. NHS Health Scotland Place and Communities Inequality Briefing. Edinburgh: NHS Health Scotland; 2016.

6. A SPICE blog on air pollution during covid-19 lockdown.

7. Public Health Priorities for Scotland.