Ministers drive to boost cycling backfires after rates fall

Cycling in Scotland fell to 1.2 per cent of journeys last year. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Cycling in Scotland fell to 1.2 per cent of journeys last year. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Cycling rates in Scotland have fallen, in a setback to ministers' ambitions to quadruple them by 2020.

The proportion of journeys by bike fell to 1.2 per cent last year from 1.4 per cent in 2015, Scottish Government figures showed today.

The rate has also stayed below 2 per cent for a decade, in stark contrast to ministers' "vision" of increasing it to 10 per cent within four years.

Cycling to work fell too, from 2.6 per cent to 2.2 per cent.

An alliance of 14 groups, including environmental and health campaigners and the children's watchdog, called for spending on cycling and walking to be increased significantly.

In a joint letter to finance secretary - and former transport minister - Derek Mackay, they demanded the budget for such "active travel" to be boosted to 10 per cent of transport spending by 2020.

The claimed only 1.9 per cent of the transport budget went towards building walking and cycling paths last year.

Friends of the Earth Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna, said: "Walking and cycling would be realistic alternatives to the car for millions of trips every year if only the Scottish Government were to provide the desperately-needed investment in high-quality walking and cycling paths which make people feel safe.

"If investment rates don’t change, then cycle rates won’t change."

Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland Tam Baillie said: "We call on the Scottish Government to invest a greater share of its transport budget in walking and cycling infrastructure, in order to create safe, convenient and viable ways for people to travel by pollution-free modes.

"A shift from car traffic towards cycles and walking will create cleaner air and a healthier environment, benefiting our children and future generations.”

The Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency said that despite the year-on-year fall in cycling, the long-term trend was increasing.

Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf said: ‘The vision will be challenging and will involve all stakeholders coming together to continue the long-term trend of rising numbers of people choosing to cycle or walk, and which will be supported by new initiatives such as Community Links Plus [new cycle routes] and the recently-launched Big Bike Revival [to encourage former cyclists to get back in the saddle].

“Compared to 2013-14, we have increased investment in active travel by over 80 per cent.

“We made a commitment in the Programme for Government to match this record level of funding over the course of this Parliament.

“In addition, we are providing a further £5 million in 2016-17 to develop behaviour change aspects of the Smarter Choices Smarter Places programme.

"This focuses on locally-designed initiatives, including travel planning, and has attracted £6.5 million in local match funding.

"In 2016-17 [cycle route developers] Sustrans will distribute over £18 million of Scottish Government funding to help deliver 180 cycling projects across Scotland through the Community Links Fund. This programme has attracted over £23 million in match funding this year."