Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson was in Falkirk today to celebrate Falkirk Active Travel Hub’s 1st birthday (22nd February).

The project, run by charity Forth Environment Link, encourages locals to ditch the car in favour of more active and greener modes of transport such as walking and cycling.

Mr Matheson said: “It’s a privilege to join the Falkirk Active Travel Hub in celebrating their first year of successful operation. Almost 4000 people have benefitted from support and information to make more sustainable travel choices and I am pleased to hear how the Hub has helped support people back into walking and cycling.

“The success of the Falkirk Hub demonstrates the value of the Low Carbon Travel and Transport Challenge Fund, where targeted investment by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund is making a real difference to the lives of local residents by encouraging a more active lifestyle.”

Hub Coordinator, Ray Burr added: “The Hub has been extremely busy in its first year delivering a wide range of active travel activities and events, from organised walks to e-bike tasters. The fact that we have already engaged with almost 4000 people locally is amazing. We’re looking forward to continuing this work in 2019 with a programme of outreach activities designed to encourage even more people in Falkirk to walk and cycle more!”

One of the Hub’s most popular services is its free e-bike lending library. During the celebrations, Mr Matheson met Hub users who’ve become hooked on life in the fast lane including local artist and mum of two, Karen Van De Graaf.

Karen said: “As a family we love getting out on our bikes, my husband is Dutch so it’s in his blood. In fact, in the Netherlands it’s common for people to commute by e-bike. When I first tried out one of the Hub’s e-bikes, I was surprised to get comments like ‘aren’t they just for old people’. Having the turbo boost simply means that I can get to meetings faster and get all my chores done. You still need to pedal, so you get a workout without being totally puffed out! I’ve been so impressed, I’ve now bought one of my own.”

During the past year, the Hub has also been working closely with Central Scotland Regional Equality Council (CSREC) to tackle transport poverty in Falkirk. At the end of the birthday bash, a bike donated to the Hub and serviced by the team was presented to CSREC to be passed onto a local teen in need.

Arun Gopinath, CSREC manager said: “We are delighted to be working with Falkirk Active Travel Hub to create better outcomes for people facing inequalities. The partnership has allowed us to promote cycling amongst our service users and help them become more active through initiatives like the electric bike library and donation bikes.”