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Published: 27th JUNE 2024

New report highlights walking and cycling habits in Orkney

An all-new report has revealed for the first time how many people are walking, wheeling and cycling in Orkney, as well as bringing to light the barriers preventing more Orcadians from using active travel.

Young person cycling through Arcadia park

The report reveals the potential for many more local journeys in Orkney to be made by active travel. Credit: ߣߣƵ/McAteer Photography, 2023

Orkney Travel Matters, which is published by ߣߣƵ in partnership with Orkney Islands Council and supported by funding from Transport Scotland, has found that 54% of residents walk or wheel at least five days a week, making it the most frequent mode of travel in the islands, with driving at 48%.

The pilot report is the first of its kind carried out by ߣߣƵ Scotland in an island setting, and the charity hopes to support partners in carrying out similar assessments in other islands and rural areas.

The report reveals the potential for many more local journeys in Orkney to be made by active travel, as 41% of residents living in villages said they do not currently cycle but would like to.

People using shared-space in Kirkwall centre

70% of residents identified the provision of more footpaths, pavements and walking routes between towns and villages as the most helpful infrastructure measures to help them walk, wheel or cycle further. Credit: ߣߣƵ/McAteer Photography, 2023

Report findings

70% of residents identified the provision of more footpaths, pavements and walking routes between towns and villages as the most helpful infrastructure measures to help them walk, wheel or cycle further, while 63% of residents said they would find improving the behaviour of people driving cars useful to help them start cycling, or cycle more.

Results also show that most people in Orkney (53%) would like to see more government spending on walking and wheeling in their local area, while 55% would like more investment in cycling.

Parents and child travelling actively in Arcadia Park

Adele Lidderdale has found that switching to an active school run has had a positive impact on her family. Credit: ߣߣƵ/McAteer Photography, 2023

Real-life experiences

The report partners have collected real-life stories from people across Orkney who choose to walk, wheel and cycle for their everyday journeys.

One such contributor, Kirkwall-based Adele Lidderdale, explained how switching to an active school run has had a positive impact on the family:

“Our child has additional support needs, so that active journey into school really helps him in his day because once he has done that bit of moving around first thing it makes it easier for him to concentrate.

“During the school run, there are other families who are walking and cycling as well. That time on the way to and from school to catch up with other parents and friend groups is another big benefit for us. So, there are loads of advantages to making these journeys by bike or on foot.”

Aerial shots of people using Papdale East Park

Papdale community park opened in 2023. Credit: ߣߣƵ/McAteer Photography, 2023

Working towards a safer, better-connected community

Karen McGregor, Director, ߣߣƵ Scotland, said:

“I’d like to thank the people of Orkney who gave us their time to take part in this, the first ever assessment of walking, wheeling and cycling on the islands.

“The evidence of this pilot report is clear - Orcadians want to see investment in safer choices which give them more freedom to walk, wheel and cycle more often.

“They want to improve the behaviour of people driving cars, making the roads safer for their young people to travel along; and they want better links with public transport links.”

She added: “Orkney has already made progress towards making this a reality. In the last two years, the Arcadia Park and Papdale Park developments have provided active travel routes and green space for residents in Kirkwall to enjoy.

“The data presented by the report, and the success of these projects, shows that Orkney Islands Council has the backing of the public to deliver on their vision of a safer, better-connected community for everyone to walk, wheel and cycle around.”

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In the last two years, the Arcadia Park and Papdale Park developments have provided active travel routes and green space for residents in Kirkwall to enjoy. Blockquote quotation marks
Karen McGregor, Director, ߣߣƵ Scotland
Man using adapted bike in Arcadia Park

Arcadia Park is a place where local users can walk, wheel, cycle, and spend time outdoors. Credit: ߣߣƵ/McAteer Photography, 2023

Unprecedented understanding

Councillor Kristopher Leask, Chair of Development and Infrastructure committee at Orkney Islands Council said:

’m delighted to introduce our Orkney Travel Matters report. The data in this report gives us an unprecedented understanding of what the Orkney public think about walking, wheeling and cycling – and what needs to be done to make things better.

Active travel, which involves getting active for our everyday journeys by walking, wheeling or cycling supports good physical and mental health, offering both an accessible and convenient form of exercise. In turn, it plays an important role in reducing the burden on our health services.

Enabling more active travel will also help connect people across Orkney. Accessible and safe active travel routes change how we interact with our local places and each other, fostering a greater sense of local ownership and pride, whilst helping to boost social connection and the local economy.

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Enabling more active travel will also help connect people across Orkney. Blockquote quotation marks
Councillor Kristopher Leask

Where do the findings come from?

The findings are based on data collected by Orkney Islands Council, national data sets and an independent survey of 600 residents. Respondents are representative of all residents, not just people who walk and cycle. They were asked a range of questions related to their travel behaviours, perceptions of walking and cycling and what they would like to see happen.

The survey was conducted from February to April 2023 by independent consultant agency Eyland Skyn. ߣߣƵ’ own Research and Monitoring Unit collected and analysed the findings.

This follows on from the Orkney Matters consultation in 2021. The Orkney Matters consultation highlighted the importance of transportation across the County.

A separate publication covers the methodologies used in Orkney Travel Matters.

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