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Dundee Travel Active

Dundee City Council's 'Smarter Choices, Smarter Places' programme uses transport interventions to address the poor public health of its residents.

Dundee Travel Active encourages residents of, or visitors to, Dundee to walk or cycle a little more to improve people's health and the environment.

The project is comprised of a co-ordinated package of investments promoting active travel.

How It Started

Dundee has invested significantly in its sustainable transport network in recent years. When the funding for the Scottish Government’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) programme was announced, Dundee City Council took the opportunity to use transport interventions to address one of the most pressing problems of the city; the poor public health of its residents.

The health issues prevalent in Dundee’s population have defined the key objectives of Dundee Travel Active (DTA). Dundee has several communities that are some of the most deprived in Scotland. Evidence shows that in the Tayside region, only 41% of men and 31% of women currently achieve the recommended minimum level of physical activity to maintain good health.

Dundee’s funding bid was successful and DTA was launched with the overall aim to “increase levels of active travel to improve the physical health and mental wellbeing of residents of and visitors to Dundee”. Complementing this core health-improvement theme are a number of additional benefits:

• Promoting social inclusion, by ensuring that people do not feel they need access to a car to access facilities and services;
• Improving perceptions of community safety through increased activity and natural surveillance;
• Reducing inappropriate car use, hence reducing CO2 emissions and traffic congestion and improving local air quality; and
• Encouraging people to make use of local facilities, supporting local economic growth.

Partners Involved

DTA delivered an integrated package of measures worth £2.2 million between 2008 and March 2011. Largely funded through the SCSP programme, significant contributions also came from Dundee City Council, Tactran, the Regional Transport Partnership for Tayside and Central Scotland, NHS Tayside and COSLA.

Dundee City Council engaged with a wide range of key local stakeholders during the initial planning phase; their knowledge and expertise helped shape the bid and refine its scope.

The components making up the overall DTA programme were selected by stakeholders specifically because this enabled the testing of a variety of types of ‘Smarter Choices’ measures.

The project deliberately trialled a broad range of interventions to identify which would offer best value (and which, if any, would not) for delivering benefits in Dundee, and to maximise the potential for later mainstreaming of this type of investment.


The DTA project area was selected by Dundee City Council to have the opportunity to work in communities with a wide variety of health and deprivation issues. The area comprised the city centre, plus neighbouring residential areas of Hilltown, Stobswell and the West End.

The project aimed to target everyone living in or visiting the project area through a number of different ‘pathways’ to encourage change:
• Local residents at their doorstep (13,500 households targeted over two years);
• School children;
• University students and staff;
• City centre employers;
• Members of community groups;
• City centre visitors (particularly shoppers); and
• Individuals with recognised health needs.

This was achieved through a co-ordinated package of investment to promote active travel, of which some of the measures are described below:
• Personalised Travel Planning (PTP), using a team of trained Travel Advisors
• The Network Rangers project which provides a volunteer opportunity for local people to maintain active travel networks
• Enhancements to the pedestrian and cycling environment and the public realm
• Expansion of the range and availability of led health walks, with a temporary full-time health walks co-ordinator post created
• A travel training scheme to provide supported learning for independent travel for people with recognised health needs;
• A community Bikeboost scheme providing discounted loan bikes for local residents and students and the Active in Dundee project offering cycle tryout sessions for adults with mental health problems;
• New printed and web-based guides of walking and cycling routes in and around the city and a new brand and mascot, local and city centre promotional events, poster and radio campaigns and creation of a Facebook fan page.

DTA has benefited from a strong relationship with a range of partners including establishing how best to integrate DTA with their own programmes and objectives. Stakeholders have been drawn from across the spectrum of health, education, community planning, outdoor access and transportation.

Results and Impact

The investment made in DTA is proven to have made significant contributions to physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental improvement and stronger communities.

In specific, there have been a number of successful outcomes from the behavioural change work.

The PTP component of the programme has actively engaged with around 9,000 residents of and visitors to the city since August 2009. More than 3,400 of these are householders who have received personalised active travel advice at their doorstep.

The approaches used have been successful in enabling a substantial proportion of the population of Dundee to get more activity as a result:
• 40% of participants have reported that they are getting more exercise, mostly by walking more.
• The average amount of increased activity is enough to improve the health of many people: more than 20 minutes per person per day;
• People noticed the benefits of getting more exercise: 68% of people have said they noticed physical health or mental wellbeing improvements;

Other successes include:
Around 3,000 primary school pupils have participated in classroom-based workshop and assembly sessions on active travel. Hands up surveys revealed that 81% reported understanding more about the importance of being active.

27 volunteer Network Rangers were recruited during the project. Volunteers check their routes regularly, with most volunteers monitoring their route between monthly to every 3 months. The majority of volunteers have reported that they feel they are making a useful contribution to the community and it has increased their awareness of the effects their actions on others.

DTA has proven that Smarter Choices interventions can contribute to outcomes beyond those for sustainable transport demonstrating that transport-led projects can contribute directly to public health.

Lessons Learned

From the very outset of the project there was a willingness by Dundee City Council to experiment and innovate with project streams; to take some risks to identify which approaches would deliver best value outcomes in the local circumstances in Dundee.

The project has drawn upon existing cross-sectoral partnerships, tapped into existing community support networks and has also generated new, effective networks between health and transport delivery agencies. It is the UK's first example of a project of this scale that looks to bring together a range of interventions from across the spectrum of transport and health.

The PTP element of the project has pioneered the use of social marketing techniques to promote active travel and active lifestyles. These techniques are well established within transport, health and other sustainable sectors. Drawing upon this best practice has enabled the development of a behavioural change programme that is entirely unique to Dundee, and is the first of its kind in the UK with a specific health improvement objective.

The PTP work has been successful in encouraging a large proportion of the population to get more physical activity, demonstrating that social marketing theory works in practice. This also serves to highlight that the approaches used can be applied to encourage change in a range of healthy and sustainable behaviours, whether this is active travel, healthy eating and diet etc.

What's next for the project?

Throughout the project, significant effort has been put in to providing a high-quality experience for as many participants as possible. Through this, it is hoped that this has left a lasting legacy amongst participants that active travel is fun, cost effective and relevant to them.

Through employment of local people and by providing volunteering opportunities, DTA has increased employability and has supported upskilling of local people in Dundee.

Through the close working with project stakeholders, it is hoped that they are better informed of transport’s ability to contribute to public health outcomes and of Dundee City Council being at the forefront of innovative transport delivery in Scotland.

Although the main tranche of work is now complete, Dundee City Council is committed to keeping the Dundee Travel Active brand alive and to continue to promote the benefits of active travel through its Sustainable Transport Team.

One of the key learning points arising out of the work is that social marketing theory can be successfully put into practice, encouraging individuals to increase their activity levels, at a level that can improve health.

Overall, DTA has provided a valuable set of experiences that will be relevant to other projects that seek to influence healthy and sustainable behaviours. The work provides extensive evidence of what works well to enable people to change behaviour towards more active choices. Those involved in managing the DTA programme will continue to disseminate the positive outcomes from the project through relevant professional networks.

DTA has also shows that there are opportunities for mainstreaming Smarter Choices measures into local, regional and national transport, healthcare and land use planning policies. It also demonstrates how health and transport professionals can work together to achieve a common aim, that of improving public health.

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Lead Contact Name

Neil Gellatly


Head of Transportation


Dundee City Council


City Development Floor 16 Tayside House Dundee DD1 3RB

Phone Number

01382 433116

Email Address


City Development Floor 16 Tayside House Dundee DD1 3RB

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