WE all know the sigh, the look, the roll of the eyes when someone says they're using their car when they could walk, tram, train or bus it.

It's with an irony then we find ourselves heavily reliant on vehicles once more. Covid-19 tests are widely available at drive-thru facilities like Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports. The Scottish Government says that home tests are available booking system but subject to demand.

For those who are unable to cycle, get access to a bike, or can't/don't feel comfortable using public transport, Covid-19 presents an unmitigated disaster. It still seems many people find themselves in the bind of not having access to a car and feeling increasingly cut off as the economy returns to some semblance of activity.

Hiring or buying a bike might not be possible. Walking could be a challenge for a plethora of reasons. It goes without saying that the poorest, and the most vulnerable in our society, will suffer the brunt – as they always do.

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There's a palpable fear about using public transport, and while car ownership is at a record high, many don't have access to one at the drop of a hat. Taxis and Ubers are a considerable expense, and many parts of the city are not within walking distance. Bikes and cycling are perhaps easier said in principle than practice – they are not a perfect solution for carrying shopping or even an affordable purchase. Some have never been on the main road before. Hiring provision in Edinburgh is expanding but doesn't that negate the issue or if people don't feel comfortable on the roads have never ridden before.

We must be very wary of expecting walking or cycling or even driving to be standard practices in lieu of public transport. This is not an anti-green point or reactionary argument, but a reflection on ensuring people, particularly if they're vulnerable, are not cut off in practice and by shaming.

What many are underestimating is the fear factor that's in place now for most of the public. You can't switch that terror off. The mad rush to Primark aside, there's a palpable nervousness in folk about returning to normalcy. The reassurance that 'everything is fine' is never going to be forthcoming from the Scottish or UK governments, and months of conditioning can't be undone overnight.

As we move away from home working over the coming months, it would be unreasonable to presume that walking, cycling or even car access is a given. Need and ability are different to everyone. Being green is less a concern; how to get to work, go to the shops, how to live – even if it is just sitting in a park – is are the forefront of most folk's minds.

Recently there's been widespread discussion, perhaps even romanticisation, about turning our cities into green pathways like other capitals in Europe. Social distancing and appropriate safety measures must be the only consideration, everything else is perfunctory as we balance the public health with getting the economy moving.

For years there's been a growing demonisation of car users, either on environmental grounds or in an effort to make our cities friendlier to walking or cycling. Public transport, now enforcing face masks, is to be treated as an absolute necessity, and an unpleasant one at that. Walking – even in Edinburgh – is less than practical for those outside the city centre, or working further afield for an en masse return to work.

This isn't to play into the argument that bike users should take a road safety test or pay road (that is a fight for another day). But somewhere in between creating green visions for our cities, we need to look at honestly who is still trapped in their homes. Older people, folk with disabilities or illnesses, even people who've just never ridden a bike before or don't have a car.

We live in uncertain times, and it's never, ever been more important not to presume about people's situation, their health, their fears, their abilities as we all, everyone one of us, tries to get back to normal. This should be as fair and as inclusive as possible.

Alastair Stewart is a public affairs consultant with Orbit Communications. He regularly writes about politics and history with a particular interest in the life of Winston Churchill. Follow him on Twitter at @agjstewart