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Shifting Gears: Aberdonians Increasingly Embrace Active Travel

Walking and Cycling Becoming Preferred Modes of Travel in Granite City


By Kirsten Koss

Photo Credit: Murillo de Paula via Unsplash

More Aberdonians than ever before are opting to travel by foot, walk, and wheel. 

In its second Aberdeen edition, the latest edition of the Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index report published earlier this month has revealed that more than a fifth of residents are opting to drive less with 50% of Aberdonians choosing to ‘walk or wheel’ more, with 47% reporting a desire to cycle more.

In the report’s foreword, Ian Yuill, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council noted the changing attitudes to getting around in the city, and he listed a number of initiatives that have helped to foster a changing travel landscape, including the recent introduction of the Big issue eBike scheme, which brought 213 bikes to over 58 spots in the city.


Noting the council’s approach to improving cycling infrastructure in the city, Councillor Yuill shared the five goals that have underpinned the council’s cycling strategy, including maximising the role of cycling for short journeys; developing safe, convenient infrastructure, increasing cycling for leisure, tourism and recreation; integrating policies for cycling across council strategies; and setting policies which contribute to meeting cycling targets.


The foreword by Yuill also details the council’s plans going forward, which will include major projects in the city centre, as well as the hotly anticipated ‘Beach Masterplan’ which are set to include a revamped beach area, a new pier, more green space, and a new stadium for Aberdeen Football Club. 

Speaking of the report, Councillor Yuill said: “The Council welcomes the report which provides key insights which emphasise the importance of continuing to deliver on improving walking, cycling, and wheeling opportunities for everyone.


“One of the benefits of living in a city the size of Aberdeen is the wide range of active travel options that are available. Walking, wheeling, and cycling are a real alternative to the car for many people, especially for short journeys and the Council wants to help more people walk, cycle or wheel around.”

While the report noted some position changes, it cites the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as a reason behind a slight increase in the number of residents reporting travelling five or more days per week by car, from 41% in 2021, to 44% in 2023. 


Despite significant progress being made in making travel options more sustainable in the city, with the number of traffic-free cycle lanes increasing from 33 miles in 2021, to 36 miles, the report highlights inconsistencies in those groups choosing to walk or wheel to work.

33% of those surveyed in skilled manual work reporting walking or wheeling to work at least five days a week, with more than 55% of those working in high and middle level management, administrative and professional jobs cycling to work


Additionally, while the council notes that 71% of residents think that the city is a good place to wheel or walk, a closer look at the report reveals that this is a 10% decrease from 81% in 2021. The report shows this has impacted upon manual workers the most, with only 55% of manual workers believing it is safe to walk or wheel in their local area. 


Positively, the report shows an appetite for walking and cycling to work, something which is reiterated by Karen McGregor, the Director of Sustrans Scotland. Speaking to Aberdeen City Council, McGregor said:


“The latest Index results show that Aberdeen City Council has the backing of the public to build on the work it has already started to make it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle to get around.”


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