A PACKAGE of new measures to improve cycle safety has been approved by MSPs.
Every child will be offered cycle training on roads within three years compared to 30 per cent currently, with more courses available to adults.
The Green Party proposals, accepted by ministers, also include extending 20mph zones in residential and shopping areas, and a possible review of urban speed limits, such as 40mph zones.
Road improvements to boost cyclist and pedestrian safety were also backed.
The moves, backed by MSPs without a vote, come amidst a continuing boom in cycling, especially in Edinburgh, and increased safety fears following the death of four cyclists in the capital in the last year.
However, city council figures provided to The Scotsman show that while cycling has more than doubled over the last decade, the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured has remained virtually unchanged.
The provisional combined total for last year is 30, compared to 31 in 2001, with annual deaths varying between zero and two over that period.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who spearheaded the plans in the Scottish Parliament, said: “Today’s debate has pushed the need for greater cycling investment and training to the top of the agenda, where it now needs to stay.”
Ms Johnstone told MSPs 20mph zones could lead to a 60 per cent drop in injuries and a 40 per cent reduction in child accidents. A new 20mph zone was launched across a swathe of southern Edinburgh last week.
Ms Johnstone said: “We need to move to a situation where 20mph is the norm in residential areas. We must do all we can to build more mutual respect and tolerance on our roads.
“Education and awareness-raising is essential. I urge the government to develop more resources for cycle awareness training for all professional drivers, for fleet drivers.”
The Scottish Government-funded umbrella body Cycling Scotland said it would propose how cycle training for children could be accelerated in June.
Chief executive Ian Aitken said: “We support the calls made by MSPs today to provide better infrastructure for cyclists, more speed restrictions and 20mph zones and increased delivery of Bikeability Scotland cycle training for young people, delivered on-road.”
Commenting on the casualty figures, Edinburgh City Council transport convener Gordon Mackenzie said: “The underlying message is that cycling in Edinburgh is growing rapidly and becoming safer.”
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “We welcomed this morning’s debate and look forward to working on ways to ensure cycling is a safe and enjoyable option for all.”
List of dos and don’ts to protect bikers
DRIVERS have been urged to pay special heed to cyclists to improve their safety.
The Scottish Government-funded bodies Cycling Scotland and Road Safety Scotland advise:
•Give cyclists plenty of space when passing. The Highway Code recommends at least as much room as you would give a car.
•Look out for cyclists at all junctions – they are not easily seen.
•Watch out for cyclists filtering down the side of other vehicles at junctions before turning left.
•Don’t stop on advanced stop lines at junctions, which are often coloured or marked by a cycle symbol – they are for cyclists.
•Don’t drive or park in cycle lanes.
•Be patient and courteous to cyclists. They have the same right to be on the road as any other vehicle.
The Green Party said it would ask the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency to bring together professional driver groups to share best practice. A spokesman said: “We want to explore whether fleet drivers could spend some of their training time on a bike, experiencing the road from the perspective of more vulnerable users.”