Project background

Living Streets Scotland was awarded funding from Transport Scotland through the Road Safety Framework Fund to undertake an independent review of sixteen street audits delivered by Living Streets Scotland since 2014. Living Streets Scotland conducted a total of twenty-eight CSA/SRA projects from 2014 to 2019. All projects are pre- Covid as the CSA/SRAs were paused in 2020 due to the physical distancing restrictions of the Covid pandemic. The evaluation includes sixteen projects with a total of twenty-two CSA/SRAs. The audits were conducted in thirteen local authorities across Scotland in a representative range of settlement types and SIMDs. Please see 'Evaluation methodology' for further details of selection criteria.

Map showing a typical street audit route connecting two schools, the local high street, the train station and the local community hospital in Dingwall.
Figure 17: Map showing a typical street audit route connecting two schools, the local high street, the train station and the local community hospital in Dingwall (Mapbase © mapbox)

What are Community Street Audits and School Route Audits?

Living Streets Scotland offers CSA/SRAs to evaluate the quality of streets and road spaces from the viewpoint of the people who use them. Working collaboratively with a small group of Disabled people, older people, and children as well as representatives from schools and community, residents, traders, councillors, and council officers, a local walking route is identified for the audit. The group then walk the route together on an audit ‘walkabout’, noting issues that make walking difficult and suggesting recommendations for improvement. Additional engagement activities typically support the audit walkabouts, to help explore and gain consensus on the issues and recommendations identified with wider stakeholders. A Living Streets officer moderates this process, and a final report summarises the findings.

Inclusion is a population norm

While roads and active travel officers may not have a legal duty to retrofit all roads and roadsides to make them fully accessible, the reality is that the underlying demand for inclusive walking infrastructure in Scotland is high. 48% of the current population of Scotland are either Disabled, over 65 years or children (Calculation based on 911,522 children under 16, plus 1,008,191 people over 65 plus 712,037 (20%) working-age adults self-identifying as Disabled for a total of 2,631,750 people. Population data source: National Records Scotland (2022). Disability percentage data source: Scottish Government, One Scotland). Considering that some of these journeys will be accompanied by an adult or non-disabled person, it is reasonable to assume that more than half of all potential walking journeys need footway to be inclusive and enabling. Population projections estimate there will be a 24% increase in people aged over 65 years during the next twenty years. Even with the 14% decrease in the number of children in the same period, this equates to a 10% increase in age-related inclusion needs meaning that children, older people, and Disabled people will make up 58% of the population in Scotland by 2045 (Data source for population projections: Office for National Statistics (2023)).

Investment in walking infrastructure works

The wider scientific evidence base supporting the importance of walking infrastructure is well established. A recent systematic review found that investing in walking infrastructure works and has a large impact on increasing the modal share of walking (Cavill et al. (2019) Active Travel and Physical Activity Evidence Review. The cost-benefit ratio of investing in walking infrastructure is exceptional (Living Streets (2012) Making the Case for Investment in the Walking Environment, Scottish Government (2014) Let’s Get Scotland Walking – The National Walking Strategy) and arguably the highest of all transport types. Recent studies have identified that good walking infrastructure is vitally important for older people (Walking Cycling Climate Action (2021) Our Streets Too: Why Walking Infrastructure is a Priority for Healthy Ageing and Prosperity in Scotland, Centre for Ageing Better (2021) Active Travel and Mid-Life: Understanding the Barriers and Enablers to Active Travel), and for Disabled people (Living Streets (2016) Overcoming Barriers and Identifying Opportunities for Everyday Walking for Disabled People). National data for Scotland demonstrates that the footway is particularly important for younger children, is this is where they walk, wheel, and cycle to school (Walking Cycling Climate Action (2022) Child mph - Delivering Safe Walking and Cycling Infrastructure for Children and Young People in Scotland). This strong evidence base provides a foundation for confidence that investing in walking infrastructure will deliver more with fewer resources. This evaluation itself contributes to the need for more specific case studies and evaluation data in Scotland.

Walking in the Road Safety Framework

The Road Safety Framework lays out Scotland’s vision to have the best road safety in the world by 2030 and Vision Zero by 2050 (Scottish Government (2021) Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2030). Safe Roads and Roadsides forms one of Scotland’s Road Safety Framework 2030 five pillars, described as safe roads and roadsides are "self-explaining in that their design encourages safe and sustainable travel so that they are predictable and forgiving of errors." A key outcome for walking in the Road Safety Framework is intermediate outcome target ‘1’: 40% reduction in pedestrians killed or seriously injured. This casualty reduction target for walking is matched with intermediate outcome target ‘7’, a commitment to achieving equality in casualty rates with a target of reducing the overall casualty rate for the most deprived 10% SIMD areas to the same level as the least deprived 10% SIMD areas. Simply put, this is an ambition to reduce pedestrian causalities substantially and fairly.

These ambitious road safety targets for walking sit within a context of national policy to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030 and unprecedented new funding levels for active travel. While walking is currently the second largest mode of transport in Scotland at 22%, walking levels are at an historic low with walking levels estimated at 35% in 1975/76 (DETR Environment Transport Regions (1998) Walking in Great Britain Transport Statistics Report). The 20 Minute Neighbourhood and Local Livings policies as embedded in the National Planning Framework 4 are an impetus towards increasing short, local journeys to gain the multitude of socio-economic benefits this can provide. There is high potential for modal shift from car to short walking journeys as 22% of car journeys are less than 3km, the key distance potential for walking.

A direct modal shift of these short car journeys to walking would equate to increasing walking to 34% modal share which is on a par with ambition levels stated in The National Walking Strategy (2014). Large increases in the modal share of public transport will be fundamental to achieving the 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030; as walking also forms an essential part of public transport journeys hypothetically walking could form 40% of transport modal share across Scotland.

As such, the wider policy context points towards substantially increasing levels of local walking in Scotland. This means that the Road Safety Framework targets need to be operational in a context with substantial increases in local walking levels. The role of infrastructure and maintenance is recognised in the Road Safety Framework as a key strategic action (see p. 40). Removal of accessibility barriers is equally pertinent on local authority roads, and targeted maintenance and infrastructure renewal of the footway is arguably fundamental to deliver increases in walking levels. As walking has a strong equality profile, investing in walking infrastructure and maintenance is one of the fairest ways to deliver on both road safety and car kilometre reduction targets.

Evaluation methodology

The evaluation methodology follows a pragmatic approach to evaluating delivery, impact and process (Nutbeam and Bauman (2006) Evaluation in a Nutshell). A mixed-methods approach was followed, which generated quantified and qualitative insights. This approach was informed by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, 2010) as a theoretical framework for reporting prevalence and divergence in findings. Overall, the evaluation approach was iterative, with each progression refining and shaping the data collection and analysis process as the most appropriate way of identifying insights (Pope et al. (2000) Qualitative research in health care).

Projects were selected based on a representative sample of CSA/SRAs with geographic spread across Scotland, SIMDs, and urban and rural typologies. The number of projects included in the evaluation was limited to sixteen due to the timeframe and scope available to complete the project. From an initial sixteen projects identified by Living Streets Scotland, three were excluded as they did not include CSAs. The evaluator selected three replacement projects based on geographic spread and SIMD representation. It is noted that no CSAs or SRAs had been conducted with island communities or in remote rural areas.

A data extraction table was prepared to capture the audits' characteristics and to explore initial delivery indications through Google Street View. Predefined data headings were iteratively refined based on what data was consistently available across audits or verifiable through Living Streets where data was selectively missing from a report. A second data extraction table was set up to capture the community recommendations from the reports, including those listed in the text and appendices while screening to eliminate double counting. This process generated a more in-depth understanding of the nature and type of community-identified recommendations. Observations relevant to process evaluation were also collected at this time.

A semi-structured questionnaire was used to conduct 45-minute interviews with local authority partners. All original local authority partners were contacted via email to request participation in an interview, with a subsequent second invitation. Eight interviews were conducted, representing eleven of the sixteen CSA/SRAs (69%), as three local authority had commissioned two of the projects included in the evaluation. The interviews were conducted without Living Streets as a confidential learning space and all interview findings have been anonymised. The interview findings are reported as impact evaluation and inform the process evaluation in terms of improvements local authority partners would like to see in the CSA/SRA delivery. In addition, an online ‘flash’ survey was sent to the original community partners, who snowballed the survey out to their members for completion. The intent of the flash survey was to cross-reference evidence of impact in terms of both delivery and perceived safety, and to assess the current level of demand for minor measures.