Europe’s best Green Active Travel routes highlighted in new case studies

Copenhagen Green Cycle Route
Copenhagen Green Cycle Route

Five new green active travel case studies are available to download from the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) website.

The case studies, which cover routes in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Belfast, Edinburgh and across the UK, offer a flavour of how active travel and green infrastructure can be integrated within different worldwide contexts.

Green active travel routes represent the deliberate choice to combine natural planting, greenery or water systems together with paths for people on foot or on bike.

These routes can be created by either adding new travel routes to existing infrastructure or by adding new green infrastructure to existing travel routes – or by integrating both from the start.

The addition of green infrastructure to active travel routes provides multiple benefits. These include flood mitigation, climate change adaption, increased biodiversity, connectivity and a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

The case studies - available on the CSGN website - include examples of both newly integrated green active travel routes and those that have been the result of long-term masterplans.

The studies provide both inspiration and key learnings for others aspiring to implement their own green active travel routes.

The first of these case studies details the Copenhagen Green Cycle Routes programme. The ‘Grönne Cykelruter’, as it is known locally, work towards Copenhagen’s aim of becoming the world’s best cycling city and stems from almost a century of large-scale urban planning.

The city’s active travel network consists of over 58km of individual cycle routes which connect green parks, lakes, the harbour and university. The green routes have focused on the integration of quieter, greener, natural habitats with traffic-free active travel routes.

The next case study, the Connswater Community Greenway, provides an example of how community engagement and partnership working can create a community asset and leave a legacy for future generations.

Opened in April 2017, the greenway has become a living landmark for east Belfast, joining Belfast Lough to the Castlereagh Hills with a 9km wildlife corridor.

The greenway aims to create a vibrant and accessible space for community events, including key public spaces such as the C.S. Lewis Square, while improving the biodiversity of the city and reducing flooding for at risk residents.

The case study of the Little France Park development in Edinburgh demonstrates how to integrate active travel and green infrastructure from the outset as part of a master-planned project.

By providing connections for communities, commuters and hospital patients, Little France Park has formed an important part of the wider regional green network.

Another master-planned project, the Hamburg Grünes Netz, provides the inspiration for a further case study, available on the CSGN website.

The Hamburg Grünes Netz – or Green Network – is a city-wide urban masterplan based around green active travel, which aims to eliminate the need for cars in Hamburg over the next 20 years. Utilising a large-scale phased approach, the Hamburg Green Network aims to provide safe, pleasant, car-free routes that are accessible for all city residents.

Looking beyond the citywide scale of the other case studies, the Greener Greenways project aims to improve the biodiversity of 38 traffic-free walking and cycling routes in Scotland, England and Wales.

The initiative – managed by Sustrans - was designed to increase biodiversity by integrating green infrastructure with existing active travel corridors. The project also aims to improve the routes for the people who use them, with volunteers providing much of the groundwork.

The full suite of Green Active Travel Routes case studies is available to download here





Celebrate Street Trees

We take trees for granted in our modern urban societies.

For decades, town and city planners have recognised the importance of nature and green spaces in urban areas. Many have planted trees in city centres, along motorways and residential streets. But in more recent times, local authorities have been forced into taking drastic measures to maintain essential public services and the environment and trees are suffering as a result.

Trees in urban areas are being neglected and removed to save money for other services. But whilst it can take hundreds of years for a tree to grow to maturity, when it does the benefits it provides are staggering and far outweigh maintenance costs.

We need to protect the trees we have and plan for the future

With funding from supporters of the People's Postcode Lottery, we're launching the Street Trees Project and working with communities, partners and local authorities in Leeds, Wrexham and Glasgow to promote good practice, good communication and appreciation for street trees.

There are, of course, some genuine conflicts between people and trees in the urban environment and we must absolutely address these sensibly but as far as our city trees are concerned, once they’re gone, they’re gone - along with all the benefits they provide.

Planting more trees is a big part of improving our urban spaces but it could be hundreds of years before we see the benefits and it doesn't help the street trees that may be threatened now.

The Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit

If you're in one of our pilot areas of Leeds, Wrexham or Glasgow, you can be the first to take part as we've created a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit to help you build community relations, ensure that your trees are valued by everyone and celebrate these precious members of society.

The kit includes lots of great resources, advice and plenty of creative and impactful ways to get your urban community as well as local authorities thinking differently about street trees.

Find out more and apply for a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit today

Edinburgh's Living Laboratory

Part of a project which won almost £40,000 funding from NERC last year has turned Edinburgh's coastline into a Living Laboratory, with pupils making a short report for Newsround.

The project, being led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s (RBGE) Urban Biodiversity Project Officer, Leonie Alexander, over it's lifetime will promote awareness of coastal climate change, risks in urban coastal areas and naturalisation of sea defences as part of Edinburgh’s Living Landscape partnership.

The education strand of the project has worked with primary and secondary schools in North Edinburgh to explore coastal biodiversity combining art, ecology, engineering and biogeomorphology – interplay between nature and rocks. Leonie, who is the Principal Investigator, explained: “The pupils have had chance to get down on the beach, learn about coastal wildlife and processes and have used this knowledge to design and make structures from concrete on the beach with Artecology, making a film about the work as they did it. 

The film is available here:

Vertical Meadows by Arup


Vertical urban surfaces and building facades remain a largely untapped resource for green infrastructure as they pose specific installation and maintenance challenges. These challenges are being address by Arup, whose Foresight team have developed design solutions for both permanent and temporary green facades.

Vertical Meadow (formerly known as Living Wall Lite) is an innovative and cost effective living wall system for temporary applications such as construction site scaffolding and hoardings. It has been developed by Arup in partnership with Green Fortune, a living wall provider with a track record of over 300 living walls across Europe. Plants and flowers are grown from seed in-situ on a temporary mat that is easily fixed to any scaffolding or hoarding. Within two or three weeks the first shoots start to appear, before growing into a verdant vertical meadow. The species-rich wildflower meadows that grow are a haven for biodiversity, attracting bees with a high pollen flower mix as well as other insects such as ladybirds and spiders. Wild strawberries also help to produce food for other fauna such as local birds.

Like the trees and parkland in cities, the wall’s aesthetics will change with the seasons. In the spring and summer it will be lush and verdant and in the winter it will brown-off and die back a little, only to bounce back the following spring. This seasonality creates ongoing interest - a dynamic visual impact that constantly evolves.

Rainwater can be channelled through the system, both minimising the mains water irrigation for the plants, and reducing pressure on the mains drainage system. When connected to a re-circulation system water usage can be optimised for the whole system.

There are also positive impacts on local air quality and noise. Plants capture dust and particulates, and release them via precipitation into the drains. This can help to reduce dust and pollution by up to 20%. Studies show that people with views of greenery have a lower perception of noise. Moreover, plants help to attenuate street noise by reducing reverberation, and the wall helps minimise noise breakout from the work. Initial tests show a reduction of 13dB - comparable.

The Vertical Meadow system can be applied as a hoarding or scaffolding wrap. The mat arrives to site in rolls for installation by the site team, with Green Fortune overseeing the process and installing the irrigation system. A broad and adaptable seed mix ensures that each Vertical Meadow thrives in a range of varied site conditions. Basic monitoring and maintenance is quick and simple, and the site team can be trained to carry it out themselves. The system uses materials with low embodied energy, and because plants are grown from seed in-situ, there is none of the energy usage associated with growing plants in greenhouses off-site.

The Vertical Meadow System is currently being deployed by Grosvenor over scaffolding at the St Mark’s building, a Grade I listed property in London.

Arup’s permanent green façade, Living Wall, has been designed in partnership with DesignLaw and utilises similar techniques and has all of the ecosystem benefits provided by the Vertical Meadow. The permanent installation is modular system of aluminium foam tiles, backed with a pre-seeded root mat. Water and nutrients are delivered through a hydroponic systems and the tiles can be attached via a standard façade backing cassette.

It is hoped that these innovative systems developed with Arup and partners will promote greening, increase biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services of our current and future cities.



A Rumble in the Urban Jungle?

February's blog comes from the chair of SGIF, Neil McLean:

I think there’s a rumble in the jungle! The green jungle, or rather the green infrastructure jungle. The world of green infrastructure (GI) has been making steady, positive progress into our awareness. You are reading this blog, so it’s likely that you have an interest in GI anyway, but the gathering momentum of GI into the wider world of normal, public life is encouraging - if a little frustrating when the two-steps-forward, one-step-back advance slows from time to time.

I recently became aware of what I consider to be a significant and exciting step forward once again. Not a giant step for mankind, but a really encouraging progression and one that has been brewing for a while. The Scottish Government is keen to be green – as the recent announcement of an updated carbon target of 66% cut in emissions in the next 15 years testifies. This announcement, by the way, is “one of the world’s most ambitious climate strategies” and one that comes after a previous target of 42% was met 6 years early. The drive from the top feeds to local government where local initiatives are being attempted and implemented.

Funding from the Scottish and Westminster Governments provide funding via the City Deal mechanism and several such awards have been made to Scottish local authorities. This fund can be used to address local issues as identified in applications made for funding. The Glasgow and Clyde Valley won a large award amounting to many millions of pounds. Great! But as you can imagine there must be tight controls on how each award, and indeed each part of each award is spent.
Another strong bid has been submitted by Stirling and Clackmannanshire, and others include Inverness and Aberdeen.

Without giving too much detail – I don’t know it and it’s not all public – it is apparent that there is

genuine desire and, importantly, understanding for sustainable measures to be installed into our cities’ and towns’ urban landscapes. GI; Great Isn’t it?

With our changing climate we must start acting now to overcome imminent the consequences of weather extremes and GI can be used as an excellent approach to integrate so many functions of urban improvement all to the benefit of the community, the economy and the environment. City Deal money, supplementing other more normal funding streams is to be used to install what is almost certainly going to be GI, at least in part. GI; Good Indeed!

The hope is that sensible, innovative design will be used to create real networks throughout our built up areas that will link habitats to each other within, between and beyond existing green spaces that are all too often otherwise isolated and therein, unnatural.

A recent intention for two schemes has been introduced with genuine intent to have sustainable connected green infrastructure across a large area of one our urbanised areas. It’s likely that not all will be connected and from my experience that compromises will be inevitable, but the really exciting bit is that the two schemes together have a total of £9million set aside for the purpose of flood management – but, and here’s the exciting bit, in as sustainable an approach as is possible – in line with government policy. GI is very likely to play a strong part in this.

A proverbial rumble in the urban jungle and it’s about to happen. GI? Get In!