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Spaces for People Research Resources

Spaces for People is the Scottish Government’s temporary active travel infrastructure programme, administered by Sustrans Scotland. It was launched in May 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The programme allocated a total of £33m for active travel infrastructure measures. 34 partners, mostly local authorities, claimed funding through the programme for a range of projects that enabled safe active travel during the pandemic.

It enabled local authorities to install temporary measures to help people on foot, bike or wheels get about safely during the pandemic.

850 measures installed including:

  • 192 Footpath Widening stretching 41.4km
  • 27 Crossing Upgrades
  • 70 Cycle lane (Segregated) stretching 79.4km
  • 14 Cycle lane (Non-segregated) stretching 25.3km
  • 219 Cycle Parking
  • 56 Street Closure stretching 28.9km
  • 24 Street reduction (20mph) zones
  • 30 Speed reduction (Other) stretching 84.1km
  • 168 Vegetation cut back stretching 209km
  • 81 Other measures

Provided below are a range of reports and results from consultations in relation to Spaces for People. Resources are also provided in relation to the broader context of travel during the pandemic. Additional resources are also available on the relevant local authority website.


Argyll & Bute – Spaces for People Engagement Surveys

Argyll & Bute Council asked for the views of the local community on Spaces for People proposals in seven town centres. The survey was open from Thursday 16 July to Sunday 26 July 2020. Reports are available for each of the individual towns included in the survey.

Argyll & Bute – Spaces for People Engagement Surveys

Scottish Borders CitizenSpace Survey responses

During June and July 2020 the public was asked to provide specific suggestions for temporary local schemes which would make it safer for people to walk or cycle for essential trips and exercise during COVID-19. An overview of all comments submitted is available through the below link.

Scottish Borders Citizen Space Survey responses


Visitors to the Commonplace website were able to create their own comments at a specific location, or agree with existing comments by clicking on the thumbs up button. For each comment, at each location, respondents choose from a multiple-choice list of issue(s) relating to social distancing, and a list of potential ways to improve this. They could also add extra information about issues, improvements or suggestions in the ‘other’ section. The platform was open for multiple council areas, and comments are available to review.

A report is also available on the Aberdeen responses. It includes three sections that explore the headline results of the Commonplace consultation for Aberdeen. The first section provides an overview of the whole consultation area. The second section provides a summary of results from three specific areas. The final section summarises who responded to the survey.

Commonplace Platform

Aberdeen City Council – Commonplace Report

East Lothian – Dunbar public engagement results

East Lothian Council conducted a survey to gain feedback on the proposed Spaces for People measures in Dunbar. The local community provided feedback online from the 30th November 2020 to 6th December 2020. This report presents the results and provides an insight into the community’s attitude to different interventions proposed in the local area.

East Lothian – Dunbar public engagement results


Edinburgh City Council

The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) undertook a six-week public consultation entitled Retaining ‘Spaces for People’ Measures from the 22nd February until 5th April 2021. The survey is intended to give the Council a better understanding of how people feel about retaining the different spaces for people projects that have temporarily been introduced in Edinburgh, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stantec was appointed to undertake the analysis of the open-ended questions in the public consultation survey. They had surveys on our online consultation hub aimed at residents, businesses and stakeholders. In addition to the consultation, Edinburgh City Council also conducted Market Research. The online questionnaire focused on;

  • how much people supported or opposed keeping the measures from strongly approve to strongly disapprove
  • what people felt were the main benefits or disadvantages of keeping the measures
  • which measures people would especially like to keep or remove.
  • what forms of transport they had used on streets with measures in place
  • how they had travelled around Edinburgh before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Spaces for People Consultation Analysis Open-Ended Questions Reporting

Summary of Business Responses to consultation on possible retention of Spaces for People (SfP) measures: Consultation Hub

Summary of stakeholder and community council responses to consultation on possible retention of Spaces for People measures

Response to individual and business surveys: headline data

City of Edinburgh Council Spaces for People Market Research

Disability Equality Scotland

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to their members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 14 August 2020, they asked two questions about the Spaces for People programme. The questions related to awareness of the measures and any impact on getting around.

Disability Equality Scotland


TACTRAN is the statutory Regional Transport Partnership covering Angus, Dundee City, Perth & Kinross and Stirling. TACTRAN commissioned an attitudinal and behavioural survey to measure the effectiveness of the Spaces for People (SfP) programme in the TACTRAN region. It comprised of ten waves between August 2020 and April 2021. The survey provides in insight to:

  • The frequency participants travelled and mode used for nine different purposes both in the last seven days and hypothetically, if no COVID-19 restrictions were in place. It also included questions about expected future travel over the next month.
  • Participants’ attitude towards different modes of transport. If a respondent reported a negative feeling for a transport mode, they were asked to provide a reason for this opinion. Participants were also asked about their concerns in relation to people spreading the virus while using public or active travel respectively.
  • Participants’ were asked about their awareness of different Spaces for People measures implemented across the four local authority areas. If participants were aware of the measure, they were asked how positively or negatively they felt towards the measure, and the reason for this opinion.
  • Participants also shared information on the time spent walking or cycling for different purposes, such as leisure or commuting and how this had changed since March 2020.

TACTRAN Spaces for People Attitudinal Surveys Wave 10 Report

Traffic Data

Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh City Council has presented data on cycle volume at locations that have Spaces for People measures.

Supporting Information for report on potential retention of Spaces for People measures: June 2021 Cycle counter data from Counters on Spaces for People routes

Scottish Borders Council Traffic Speed and Volume Dashboard

The Scottish Borders Council have provided a public dashboard presenting the outcome of speed surveys in multiple sites across the region. A comparison between three surveys is available, providing average speed and 85th percentile. The initial survey occurred before Spaces for People measures were introduced. The second and third surveys evaluate the Spaces for People measure of a 20mph speed limit.

Scottish Borders Council Traffic Speed and Volume Dashboard

Project Review

Glasgow City Council – Spaces for People Project Review & Assessment Report

Glasgow City Council has introduced a number of Spaces for People temporary measures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; including widened footways, pop-up cycle lanes and pedestrianisation zones using road space, giving priority to those walking, cycling, and wheeling. This report provides an overview of these measures, documents the analysis and evaluation of relevant data, sets out a process to enable an assessment of the individual measures and presents recommendations for either the removal or retention. Glasgow City Council commissioned Sweco to carry out this report.

Glasgow City Council – Spaces for People Project Review & Assessment Report

Travel during the Pandemic


Nestrans have commissioned Systra to conduct monthly online travel behaviour and attitude surveys between July 2020 and March 2022. The reports provide insight as to how people in the North East of Scotland are traveling and how they expect to travel in the future, as well as finding out their current issues and concerns.


Public Health Scotland

The report considers how COVID-19 is affecting the use of transport systems, the implications for population health and wellbeing and support for policy responses during the transition through and beyond COVID-19. While the report does not specifically review Spaces for People measures, it does provide it does give an understanding of transport use and attitudes during the pandemic, with particular focus on health and health inequalities. Both the briefing and full report is available below.

Transport use, health and health inequalities: The impact of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – Briefing

Transport use, health and health inequalities: The impact of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 A rapid review of evidence in support of a health inequalities impact assessment

Transport Scotland

Transport Scotland is monitoring trends and attitudes to transport during the COVID-19 outbreak. Regular reports provides a snapshot of travel across main modes when compared to a pre-pandemic baseline. 

Transport Scotland also carried out a series of telephone surveys with a representative sample of over 16s across Scotland. The survey is aimed at gaining an understanding of the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting current travel behaviour and intentions for future travel in Scotland. As of October 2021, 20 waves of the survey have been undertaken, with the highlights of the report available below. The report provides an insight into:

  • The frequency participants travelled and mode used for ten different purposes. These questions were asked in the context of the last seven days and prior to the first lockdown.
  • Participants were asked about their concerns in relation to people spreading COVID-19 while using public or active travel respectively.
  • Participants were asked about their future expected travel behaviour
  • Participants were asked about their attitude to public transport, their compliance with travel guidance and the vaccination.

COVID-19 Transport Trend Data

COVID-19 Public Attitudes Survey Data

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How a road closure in Glasgow has made locals feel safer and more connected

Opening Kelvin Way to walking, cycling and wheeling has created opportunities for exercise, play and connection during the pandemic.

Kelvin Way has been opened to people on foot, bike and wheels during the pandemic.

In spring 2020, Glasgow City council launched its Spaces for People project in partnership with Sustrans Scotland.

The temporary changes across Glasgow support physical distancing and active travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Temporary cycle lanes have been constructed on a number of key routes throughout the city, to provide a safe lane for people cycling.

Pavements have also been widened to allow people space to physically distance in the city centre.

The most ambitious temporary intervention has seen the closure of Kelvin Way, stretching for over 500 meters through the middle of Kelvingrove Park.

Kelvin Way has been closed to traffic since the height of the lockdown. Vehicles can access the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, but the street remains an open space for walking and cycling, and the benefits it brings are welcomed by the local community.

The case for space on Kelvin Way

With traffic on the roads, residents from densely populated areas nearby struggled to keep a safe distance from other people and moving traffic.

By closing it to traffic, residents are able to physically distance whilst out for a walk, cycle or wheel.

During recurring periods of lockdown, the street provides vital space for people from separate households to meet for exercise and to stay connected.

Children walking, cycling or scooting along the Kelvin Way don’t have to worry about traffic, and have space to connect with others, play and exercise.

Access for Everyone

Kelvin Way is adjacent to the boundary of the Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Cycling Village, a community-led initiative which aims to create ‘the most accessible community in Scotland.’

Creating an active travel link along Kelvin Way is key to making the area accessible for all, not just those with cars.

Kelvin Way connects Yorkhill and Kelvingrove with the University, Hillhead primary School and other amenities. There is also a wide range of independent shops and cafes close to each end of the street.

It is an important active travel link for the residents of Yorkhill and Kelvingrove and the surrounding areas.

Children and parents on the school run don’t have to worry about traffic.

Safety in numbers

Before the closure, Kelvin Way was a busy thoroughfare for traffic to and from the West End. Pedestrians were forced onto uneven and poorly lit pavements, and it did not feel like a secure place to walk in the dark.

Having more people around has made the area feel safer, particularly for women and more vulnerable people.

As the nights draw in, Kelvin Way remains an attractive space for everyone to walk. The centre of the road is well-lit and pedestrians are no longer confined to the shadowy pavement.

Attractive by day and night

Some planters have been added to the street following the initial closure.

Wooden planters have been provided by Glasgow Wood Recycling and there are also distinctive black and white ZICLA planters, to make the area more amenable.

Cllr Anna Richardson, Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction said:

“These revisions proposed for Kelvin Way will provide a more sustainable long-term layout and ensure that those out walking, wheeling and cycling in this popular area continue to have the safer space to do so.

“As the Spaces for People programme develops further, we’ll be seeking to improve the appearance of temporary measures where possible, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the planters installed, further enhancing the popularity of this space.”

More information on City of Glasgow Council’s Spaces for People programme can be found here.

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Safe commuting in Edinburgh during Covid-19

A person cycles uphill, seperated from motor traffic by orange and white stripped cylinders. A blue car is to one side of the cyclist, keeping a safe distance.
Spaces for People measures on Crewe Road have made it easier and safer for people cycling to work at the Western Infirmary. Neil Hanna/Sustrans

Edinburgh has opened up active travel commutes for essential workers, helping to keep the city on the move during the Covid-19 Pandemic

The City of Edinburgh Council launched its £5 million Spaces for people project in partnership with Sustrans Scotland.

The temporary changes seen across Edinburgh have been put in place to support physical distancing and active travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Protected cycle lanes, funded through Spaces for People, have been introduced on routes to two hospitals within the city.

Streets for Everyone: Crewe Road, Edinburgh –

Physical barriers have been added to pre-existing painted cycle lanes on Crewe Road South and Ferry Road to protect cyclists from vehicle traffic on the streets.

Similar protection has been introduced on Dalkeith Road to better enable cycling to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Many Edinburgh residents don’t have access to a car, so creating safe cycling routes to hospitals has been crucial for providing access to hospitals for both service users and staff.

The importance of safe routes

Crewe Road connects North Edinburgh with the west end of the city centre. Protected cycle lanes run along the adjoining Ferry Road to provide a physically protected route for residents to access amenities and work in the west end.

As traffic gradually returned to the streets, it was necessary to provide protective options to allow people to continue cycling.

51% of people in Edinburgh are concerned about cycling safety. Providing simple interventions such as these traffic wands allows people to feel safer when using cycle lanes along the road.

Black and white stripped cylinders mounted in kerb-like bases separate motor traffic and a cycle lane on Lothian Road
Traffic wands are uses to create a temporary cycle lane and space for pedestrians on Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Neil Hanna/Sustrans.

In May, Cllr Lesley MacInnes said:

As offices and worksites begin to return, we will address arterial routes to support commuters.”

The safe routes along Ferry Road and Crewe Road have helped some people to cycle who didn’t feel confident to do so previously.

Cycling for Heroes

During the height of lockdown, key workers and other NHS staff were still travelling to work.

Helping key workers get to work during the pandemic has been a priority for Sustrans and our partners. We supported 100 free cycle hire scheme passes and 110 free 4-month passes for key workers. We also produced a map cycle offers and discounts available to all key workers (including NHS staff) across the UK.

A person unlocks a Transport for Edinburgh hire bike from a rack on Bristo Square.
Free cycle hire passes helped key workers stay on the move when other transport options were limited. John Linton/Sustrans.

The Bike Station launched its Hero Bikes scheme back in April, donating refurbished bikes to key workers.

Bridge 8 Hub/ Bikes for Refugees also provided free loans of bikes to key workers.

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The community-led transformation taking place in Dundee city centre

Once lined with parked cars and busy with through traffic, Union Street is now a spacious destination for foot and wheel. Paul Reid/Sustrans

The success of opening up Union Street in Dundee to walking, wheeling and cycling in the wake of Covid-19 has inspired the communities across the UK to reimagine their local spaces.

Planning out of a pandemic

Earlier this year, Dundee City Council launched its £2.46 million Spaces for People project in partnership with Sustrans Scotland.

As with all Spaces for People projects, temporary changes in Dundee are aimed at supporting physical distancing and active travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

So far, sections of The Esplanade and Douglas Terrace have been closed to motor traffic to provide additional space for people to safely walk, wheel and cycle.

20mph speed restrictions have also been introduced in key locations throughout the city.

The most dramatic and celebrated temporary intervention thus far installed, however, is the opening of Union Street to people on foot, bikes and wheels.

The case for Union Street

Union Street is firmly in the heart of Dundee, and is host to an array of independent businesses and traders.

It is also a popular destination for people looking for something to eat or drink.

Union Street in Dundee is home to a range of independent businesses and would usually be bustling with people. Paul Reid/Sustrans

Prior to the current interventions, parked cars either side of heavy two-way traffic made Union Street a treacherous route to cycle, with limited space for people walking or wheeling to get around.

The combination of a predicted return to heavy footfall and existing narrow pavements prioritised Union Street as an essential location for the council’s Spaces for People measures.

An inspired space

Following discussions with local business owners, a comprehensive plan was drawn up to close Union street to non-essential traffic.

This would allow people to walk, wheel and cycle comfortably and safely, whilst still maintaining disabled, loading and emergency vehicle access.

These changes were initially achieved through road signage and temporary cone barriers. These were soon replaced with attractive wooden planters and outdoor seating.

As a final flourish to tie the changes together, an iconic colourful super graphic was installed on the road surface.

Planters, outdoor seating and vibrant creative design has trasnformed Union Street into an iconic destination. Paul Reid/Sustrans

Inspired by the layout and function of a pedestrian crossing, the primary intention of the new creative design is to raise driver awareness to the new priorities of the street.

Graphic Design graduate Callum Laird created the original designs for street graphic.

This was then translated into the real world by Scenic Deisgner Leila Kalbassi, with painting assistance provided by a team of recent graduates and volunteer residents.

Union Street prior to temporary Spaces for People changes (left) and after (right). Paul Reid/Sustrans

The new layout has proved broadly popular with residents, visitors and local businesses, so much so that the lifetime of the temporary changes has now been extended beyond the initial proposed end date of October.

Union Street will remain a walking, wheeling and cycling only zone through early 2021, with an option to further extend the changes.

Community co-design

Ensuring that local business owners were involved in the decision making process was a crucial part of making Union Street a success.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, online workshops were delivered through Dundee’s Service Design Academy.

This allowed key concerns such as maintaining access rights for traders and suppliers to be accounted for and factored in to the final designs.

By taking a co-design approach, the engagement undertaken was more than a consultation, and traders and residents were able to directly influence the outcome on the street.

The provision of outdoor seating areas to restaurants, bars and cafés, has been particularly beneficial in encouraging people to support local businesses whilst still maintaining a safe physically distance.

Businesses have been supported by being involved in the design process, with access rights for loading maintained and outdoor seating provided. Paul Reid/Sustrans

Beautification of the area through the installation of floral planters and street art only further creates a sense of place to attract locals and visitors to the area.

More information on Dundee City Council’s Spaces for People programme can be found here.

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Monitoring active travel infrastructure during Covid-19

Sustrans’ Martin Laban, Evaluation Manager for the Research and Monitoring Unit outlines the principles of monitoring and evaluation techniquesin relation to Spaces for People.

Dynamic engagement

Monitoring and evaluating the impact of Spaces for People projects is more important than ever before due to the limited opportunity for engagement on temporary emergency measures that are being introduced.

Sustrans offer a broad range of monitoring techniques in support of this to help assess how Spaces for People projects are delivering for communities in response to Covid-19.

In this knowledge sharing session, Sustrans Evaluation Manager, Research and Monitoring Unit, Martin Laban discusses the value of understanding the impact of temporary measures have had throughout the UK in helping to shape future permanent infrastructure.

Guidance on standard best practice for monitoring and evaluation can be found here.

Three strategic principles

When it comes to monitoring and evaluation, there are three main strategies that can be empoyed.

  • Process Evaluation – Attempt to understand why you may or may not have achieved your outcomes. Did it relate to the how it was delivered, factors beyond control of the project, or process and approach used?
  • Look – Employ visual monitoring techniques in order to see how where your project is and isn’t working (i.e. automatic counters, manual counts, video analysis of traffic speed, volume or ATC).
  • Listen – Engage meaningfully with communities and key stakeholders to understand public perception of temporary measures (i.e. GIS and survey tools). This has been successfully employed within Spaces for People through Commonplace and Space to Move tools.

Questions Answered

  • Why is monitoring and evaluation important?
  • What strategies are most effective for understanding Spaces for People impacts?
  • How can Sustrans help support local authorities monitor and evaluate their project delivery?
  • What has monitoring and evaluation of Spaces for People interventions actually shown us?

Note: the examples shown are in no way prescriptive and are for information only. Where specific products are shown in this document, this does not constitute Sustrans’ endorsement of that product.

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The Highland Council – lessons learnt

Gaining insights

In today’s session, Colin Howell and Craig Baxter from The Highland Council share their experiences of implementing Spaces for People temporary infrastructure changes across the region.

Doug Mitchell and Jess Action from Sustrans’ Research and Monitoring Unit (RMU) team also give further explanation of the data driven support Sustrans has provided The Highland Council.

This knowledge sharing session aims to give partners key insights and valuable waymarkers about how to make their most of their own suite of temporary Spaces for People proposals.

Looking back

One of the major focus points of the Highland Council’s intervention plan was linking key healthcare facilities throughout Inverness.

Temporary cycle lanes on Milburn Road improve active travel links to Raigmore Hospital from Inverness city centre. Ewen Donaldson/Sustrans

By creating temporary cycle lanes and widening footways along the routes which connect healthcare facilities, the Council has been able to expand the opportunities for physical distancing and support safe access for for key workers.

Another suite of temporary interventions in the Highland capital has focussed on creating spaces for physical distancing along main shopping streets and tourist areas.

As lockdown eases and people begin to return to these areas in greater numbers, these changes could prove vital in allowing residents and visitors to get around whilst protecting public health.

Bridge Street is just one of the many streets in Inverness city centre that has benefited from Spaces for People interventions. Ewen Donaldson/Sustrans

Temporary road closures and speed restrictions introduced in places such as Dingwall, Fort William and Portree have also helped keep rural communities safe from the spread of Covid-19.

Questions answered

  • What learning experiences has the Highland Council gained and which have been the most useful?
  • What are the main achievements of the Council’s Spaces for People project?
  • How has partnering on Spaces for People differed for the authority as compared with Places for Everyone?
  • How can Sustrans assist local authorities with project research and monitoring?

More information on The Highland Council’s Spaces for People project can be found here.

Note: the examples shown are in no way prescriptive and are for information only. Where specific products are shown in this document, this does not constitute Sustrans’ endorsement of that product.

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What can we learn from the return to school?

The majority of children in Scotland have been learning from home since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK in March. Sustrans.

Spaces for Schools

It’s been just under one month since children throughout Scotland returned to school after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to and during time this time, Sustrans have been working with local authorities through the Spaces for People programme to ensure that children have been able to get to and from class safely.

In this week’s knowledge sharing session, Sustrans Infrastructure Officer Dan Jeffs discusses how temporary infrastructure around schools has been supporting walking, wheeling and cycling.

Dan Jeffs talks about the benefits of children travelling actively to school, both within the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

Teaching active travel

There are three main ways to help parents and children travel actively to and from school:

  • School Streets
  • Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
  • Place-based measures

Whether its through speed limit restrictions, priority access times or closed streets, each of these changes moderates driver behaviour to prioritise the comfort and safety of those the school run.

Thinking smart, staying healthy

National advice very much favours children travelling to school actively where possible. The key here is in expanding what is possible.

Not only do one third of children said they would like to cycle to school if they could, but active travel to school has been shown to increase children’s concentration levels for up to four hours.

Closing roads to traffic encourages children to travel actively and see the playground in the street. Colin Hattersley/Sustrans

“Where possible your child should travel to and from school on foot, bike or scooter while maintaining physical distance.”

The regular exercise that walking, wheeling and cycling provides also helps to keep children healthy, reducing sick days and improving school conduct.

Less cars on school roads travelling at slower speeds has been shown to reduce traffic accidents.

A breath of fresh air

The Kelvin Way in Glasgow was closed to traffic earlier this year in order to provide access to green spaces and give people room to exercise. Sustrans.

Promoting health and active travel is also about contributing to a sustainable environment, an issue which will affect future generations more than anyone else.

By walking, wheeling or cycling to school instead of taking the car, our air quality has been shown to improve time and again.

With Scottish Climate week just around the corner on September 14th, and Clean Air Day on October 8th, it is now more important than ever to consider the effects our travel habits have on those most vulnerable to the consequences.

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Places for Everyone match funding changes support active travel projects in Scotland

Transport Scotland is providing local authorities more support to build permanent walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure through the Places for Everyone programme. Neil Hanna/Sustrans

What do you need to know?

Following Transport Scotland’s announcement, Places for Everyone is pleased to be able to confirm a significant change in the match funding requirements for projects.

All projects are now eligible to receive up to 70% funding towards construction costs.

In addition, the 10% cap on pre-construction funding will now only be applied once projects reach construction, i.e. pre-construction funding will be extended 100% and any over payment will be deducted from the grant made available for construction (this will be subject to the Places for Everyone teams discretion).

The Spaces for People programme provided Scottish local authorities £38.97 million to create temporary infrastructure for walking, whee;ling and cycling as part of the Covid-19 recovery. John Linton/Sustrans

What do I need to do now?

  • Category 1-3 projects already at construction stage: Please submit a project update form on the application portal detailing any increased funding request. Where these increases are solely attributable to the increase in intervention rate they will be automatically approved. Should you be requesting increases in funding for any other reason, please include a change control with the form.
  • Category 1-3 projects at design stage: Pleaseincrease your forecast construction request the next time you provide Places for Everyone with an updated programme and spend profile; this will likely be at the next stage review for your project.
  • Category 4 projects not yet approved by Panel: Please follow the previous recommendation for category 1-3 projects. Those partners who are about to submit to Panel should ensure that their submission documents reflect any increase in grant request.
  • Category 4 projects Approved by Panel and other legacy projects in receipt of multi-year funding: Where there is an existing budget or programme revision awaiting approval, please submit revised financial information to the portal via a project update form and both these figures and any previous figures provided will be presented to a Change Control Board alongside your existing change control. If you are not otherwise waiting for approval, please submit a revised grant request via an update form and this increase will be approved.
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How can mapping pavements help support physical distancing?

Mapping pavement widths can help local authorities identify pinch points in urban centres or where physical distancing is otherwise unachievable. High Street, North Berwick. Neil Hanna/Sustrans

Using analyses of geographical data Sustrans are supporting pavement widening measures to give people more space for walking and wheeling throughout and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to a crisis

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the scarce amount of space allotted to people across Scotland’s towns and cities is firmly in the forefront.

Attempting to maintain a two-metre physical distance from other pavement users whilst navigating by foot or wheel can be a nuisance at the best of times and an impossibility at others.

In aid of this, Sustrans’ Spaces for People programme, funded by the Scottish Government, has distributed almost £40 million to local authorities to provide temporary infrastructure to help people walk, wheel and cycle.

Spaces for People is delivering temporary infrastructure throughout Scotland to help people walk, wheel and cycle safely through the Covid-19 pandemic. Forrest Road, Edinburgh. Sustrans/Neil Hanna

With a common bid by local authorities’ being to widen public footways, Sustrans have set to calculate and map pavement widths in towns and cities through Scotland to help identify potential crowding pinch points and support physical distancing.

Early mapping in Edinburgh

In 2010, City of Edinburgh Council began work on developing an Active Travel Action Plan, a long-term city-wide project to improve the accessibility and safety of walking, cycling and wheeling infrastructure.

One of the ways Sustrans has been assisting the council with this ambitious project is by undertaking the painstaking work of mapping individual pavement widths throughout the city.

With physical distancing guidelines now in effect as a matter of public health, the construction of a working pavement width database for the whole of Scotland has taken on a new urgency.

Once lockdown was announced, Sustrans accelerated work on providing City of Edinburgh Council with a comprehensive dataset of pavement widths.

This was achieved by adapting code developed for New York to complement Ordinance Survey data.

From this initial success, Sustrans has been able to develop further datasets for Glasgow, East Lothian, Dundee, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire, with the offer being extended to any other local authorities who would find such data useful.

The coding process

Infrastructure Coordinator for Sustrans Alasdair Anderson was a key player in developing the mapping datasets. As lead on the project, he explains:

“The Python code used to do the analysis utilised Ordinance Survey’s most detailed Mastermap Topograpic Area mapping.

This identifies pavements and paths within a given local authority and accomplishes the surprisingly difficult task of measuring the width of an irregularly shaped object by using a tailored algorithm.

By first calculating the centreline for each of the thousands of bits of pavement that have already been identified, the algorithm then measures the distance back from individual pavement centre point to the pavement edge to calculate the width.

Finally, the results are compiled into a GIS dataset which can be analysed statistically or displayed on a map”.

Alasdair Anderson, Infrastructure Coordinator, Sustrans
Even Edinburgh’s busiest shopping streets have very narrow pavements. Raeburn Place, Stockbridge. Ordinance Survey.

Using the data

An immediate benefit of this data is that it can be used to help people navigate routes which only follow wider pavements.

For example, Sustrans officers have been looking to use pavement widths data to enable them to plan led walks with volunteers or school children once lockdown restrictions are sufficiently eased.

The larger impact, however, of these mapping capabilities is apparent when the data is combined with other information in order to identify the narrowest or busiest streets in order to prioritise them for widening interventions.

While the £38.97 million available under the Spaces for People fund is a lot of money, it is not nearly enough to widen every pavement in Scotland. As such, working out how to prioritise pavement widening initiatives becomes crucial.

Pavement distancing descriptionWidthkm%
Comfortable3.8 to 4.7m105.933.1
Possible2.7 to 3.8m362.7510.7
Difficult2 to 2.7m608.8418
Too narrow1.5 to 2m975.0128.9
Less than minimum design guidance<1.5m1192.835.3
Total ‘difficult’ or narrower<2.7m2776.6582.2
Table demonstrating the widths of pavements throughout Edinburgh as they relate to physical distancing health guidelines.

Applications in Dundee

One of the first practical applications of Sustrans’ pavement mapping capabilities took place in Dundee city centre.

While nearly empty during lockdown, Union Street in Dundee has been closed to traffic in anticipation of crowds of people returning as businesses reopen. Union Street, Dundee. Paul Reid/Sustrans

A dataset of shops and services in Dundee was first created. This was then overlaid with the footway width dataset Sustrans had created to help identify narrow pavements where high footfall was likely to occur. From this, a unique set of Covid-19 emergency proposals for shopping streets in Dundee was able to be generated.

Using these emergency proposals, Sustrans was then able to highlight particular areas where it would be most crucial to prioritise pavement widening interventions.

Areas in blue are streets which would most benefit from widened pavements. Similar approaches have now been utilised in Edinburgh and East Ayrshire.

Looking forward

Looking beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, the datasets Sustrans has created provide local authorities with an invaluable resource with which to maximise the benefit of footway renewal programmes.

Initial progress can be made by first focussing on pavements which fall short of 1.5m, normally considered to be the minimum.

Interventions in areas such as these would improve accessibility for those with additional mobility support needs immensely, such as those manoeuvring a wheelchair or a pram.

Recent adaptations in the code used to calculate pavement widths have now enabled Sustrans to calculate the widths of entire streets.

This new capability could be instrumental in helping Scottish local authorities understand where it would be most beneficial to deliver cycling infrastructure in the future.


Take a look at some of the Scottish towns and cities Sustrans has created GIS pavement width maps for in the image gallery below.

News News & Opinion

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – an introduction

Pop-up filter in Croydon
Pop-up filter in Croydon. Meristem Design

What are Low Traffic Neighbourhoods?

There have been big increases in the amount of traffic on residential streets over the past few decades. This has resulted in more noise and air pollution as well as a greater danger on roads.

To address this problem, some local authorities have put in place filters such as bollards or planters, through which people can walk or cycle, but not drive.

Other local authorities have taken a more strategic, holistic approach, and removed through-traffic from entire residential areas..

This application, known as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) is widespread in the Netherlands. It means that private motorised vehicles can still access all homes and businesses, but they cannot cross through a neighbourhood. People can therefore only travel through the area on foot, wheel, bicycle or bus.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: where people can only only travel through an area on foot, bicycle or bus.

What makes them so good for communities?

Low Traffic Neighborhoods have been proven to significantly reduce traffic volumes, both in the residential streets and across the entire residential area.

This is known as traffic evaporation – when short trips previously made by cars are now taken by other modes, such as by foot or bike.

Low traffic neighbourhoods have also shown to:

  • increase physical activity through walking, wheeling and cycling
  • benefit local businesses
  • create new public leisure spaces
  • deliver improved air quality

In light of this, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be described as a public health tool rather than a transport tool.

This knowledge sharing session explores the different ways in which towns and cities across Scotland can implement Low Traffic Neighbourhoods so that local communities can reap the benefits of this simple, cost-effective measure.

Note: the examples shown are in no way prescriptive and are for information only. Where specific products are shown in this document, this does not constitute Sustrans’ endorsement of that product.