PEOPLE and businesses in Scotland are being urged to grasp a chance to change the daily commute – for good.

As part of phase three of the Scottish Government’s route map out of Covid-19 lockdown, travel demand impact assessment suggests cities and surrounding areas will welcome back hundreds of thousands of commuters, visitors and shoppers over the coming weeks.

The number of people cycling has increased during lockdown

but, with roads expected to become busier again because of reduced capacity on public transport due to physical distancing, the public is being asked to play its part by “staying local” and embracing cleaner and greener travel.

Speaking after a visit to ScottishPower in Glasgow, a company which has embraced change and brought in a series of new practices to encourage staff to work flexibly and avoid peak travel, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson (inset) said: “Phase three sees more parts of our society and economy re-opening and will be one of the most challenging for the public, operators and employers. A combination of life slowly returning to some form of normality, the lifting of the five-mile travel rule, the retail sector fully re-opening,

more people returning to work and the tourism sector restart on Wednesday means demand on public transport will be significant.

“But even with public transport service increasing and physical distancing being relaxed to one metre for some services, capacity is still significantly restricted. This means people are being asked to continue to work from home if they can, and walk, wheel and cycle where possible.

“The obvious temptation for households with access to a car will be to take that option, but many journeys are less than a few miles and could be covered via active travel, especially over the summer and autumn.”

Matheson added: “Transport operators continue to take steps to improve confidence in public transport – this includes enhanced cleaning measures, more sanitisers, mandatory face coverings and screens.

“My visit to ScottishPower was a good example of how employers can embrace change in the current climate and adapt to changing circumstances. About three-quarters of staff were able to work from home and continue to do so.

“A series of safe working practices has been introduced and I was particularly impressed by a scheme to support staff to buy or repair bikes and e-bikes. Staggered and flexible start times for staff coming into the office is another good way to help manage demand on our transport network.

“The increase in cycling is supported by the £417 million invested in active travel choices since 2014/15. Through Community Links Plus and Places for Everyone, we’ve delivered 240 miles of new infrastructure.

“To specifically assist the increase in active travel over the lockdown period and enable physical distancing, we repurposed £30m from the Places for Everyone programme to support Spaces for People, which is funding councils to implement temporary pop-up infrastructure. As part of our green recovery, we will continue to fund high-impact permanent infrastructure and behavioural change projects.”