When it comes to cycling infrastructure, communities really can do it for themselves

Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links programme now makes it easier for communities to not just campaign for better infrastructure, but also to have a hand in developing it. In this guest blog, Charlotte Otter of Sustrans explains more:

Communities up and down Scotland are daring to dream and thinking big about how their neighbourhoods can and should be improved to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle – and there is now funding available to make these dreams a reality.

From identifying local routes and networks, which can make it easier and safer to travel actively, to boosting local economies by creating vibrant and attractive places for people to visit and spend time in, local community groups have the power to make significant and positive differences to the lives of people living and working within them.

Through Sustrans Scotland’s Scottish Government funded Community Links programme, community groups and developments trusts have the chance to apply for up to £2million of funding for schemes aimed transform town centres and neighbourhoods into more attractive, accessible and people-friendly public spaces that make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle for more of the journeys they make every day.

Up to 100% of funding is available through the programme towards the design and feasibility of projects that encourage walking and cycling and up to 50% of match-funding for the total construction cost of a project.

Meanwhile, through our Safer Routes to School programme, funding is available to community groups to support infrastructure developments around school catchment areas and clusters to make it easier and safer for pupils to walk, scooter and cycle to school safely.

A major characteristic of these two programmes, which set them apart from other grants, is the support, guidance and enthusiasm that Sustrans is able to offer to community groups and development trusts. We are experts in helping to develop walking and cycling infrastructure and are on hand to support successful applicants to develop aspirational designs and strategic projects that put walking and cycling at their heart.

And, by working with Sustrans, you have the opportunity to access expertise from our Schools, Communities, Workplaces and Behaviour Change teams, as well as Research and Monitoring and Communication teams helping to better realise a project’s ambitions.

Muthil to Crieff path opening
The Muthil to Crieff path on its opening day

One such example is a project carried out by Perthshire’s Muthill Village Trust, which saw the creation of a 1.5km surfaced path stretching from the outskirts of the village of Muthill towards nearby Templemill. The path offers active travel opportunities for the whole community and is the first stage of a link which will eventually connect Muthill with Crieff via a 6km route using off-road paths, quiet country roads and a bridge over the River Earn.

Getting community backing is the best way of tapping into the wealth of local knowledge and expertise; it encourages dialogue and collaboration and – crucially – buy-in from right across the community for schemes, often resulting in schemes that are much better for everyone

Whether it’s the creation of green spaces, new walking or cycling routes, safer junctions and routes to schools or the widening of existing routes to improve access to local shops, businesses and public transport, we want to support and empower to local people to come together and really influence how their neighbourhood can develop and flourish.

Find out more about setting up your own community group