Which Scottish city will be the most cycle-friendly by 2020?

A cyclist tries out a new cycle path in George Street, Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams/JP Resell
A cyclist tries out a new cycle path in George Street, Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams/JP Resell
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With the latest figures showing cycling rates have fallen, there is a growing demand for Scotland’s cities to make themselves more bike-friendly.

The Scottish Government announced in 2010 its “vision” of 10 per cent of everyday journeys being made by bicycle by 2020.

Cycle paths through the Meadows in Edinburgh were upgraded in 2013. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL

Cycle paths through the Meadows in Edinburgh were upgraded in 2013. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL

But the current rate has remained below two per cent for a decade.

As the majority of major employers and universities are based in the four city council areas north of the border, much of the improvements required to help convince commuters to swap their cars for bikes falls on the shoulders of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Each city has built numerous cycle routes - both on and off road - over the past 20 years, but the numbers using them on a daily basis remain stubbornly low.

In Edinburgh, the council aims to see 15 per cent of residents cycling to work every day by 2020 - although estimates suggest only half that number do so at present.

The proposed Victoria Road section of South City Way in Glasgow. Picture: Contributed

The proposed Victoria Road section of South City Way in Glasgow. Picture: Contributed

City transport convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “More than half of our residents live in households that own a bike.

“In recognition of the many benefits of cycling to health, the environment and the city’s amenity in general, we have committed to increasing our spend on cycling year-on-year.

“We also continue to work with organisations like Sustrans and the Scottish Government to grow our extensive network of off-road routes and cycling infrastructure.”

READ MORE: Ministers drive to boost cycling backfires after rates fall

Ian Maxwell, of voluntary cycling campaign group Spokes, said Edinburgh offered the best environment for bikes at present - but added other cities “were catching up fast”.

“Edinburgh is clearly ahead of other Scottish places in terms of improvements that encourage cycling,” he said.

“It has a proud 30-year record of adding new facilities and thereby increasing the numbers of cyclists on city streets.

“But other places are catching up fast, with Glasgow installing lots of segregated on-street facilities in recent years.

“Edinburgh councillors are hesitating when it come to the more radical on-street changes that will provide more space for cyclists and pedestrians but take space away from cars and trucks.

“Bold moves are needed to make good safe links through Edinburgh city centre and join up the gaps in Edinburgh’s existing network. If this is done in the next few years Edinburgh will meet its 15 per cent target.”

In Dundee, the council said at least five per cent of its total spending on roads and transportation each year goes to cycling and walking, as part of a wider strategy to “improve the uptake and passion for cycling” in the Tayside city.

The local authority in Aberdeen is similarly committed to improving the Granite City’s cycle network in the long term.

Work began this month on a £160,000 project aims to create extra room for cyclists and pedestrians on the western side of South Anderson Drive, a key city centre route, between Ruthrieston Road and Garthdee Road.

One of the most ambitious cycle routes to be announced in recent years will eventually link Glasgow’s southside and the Merchant City.

Costing £6.5m, the two-mile “South City Way” will provide Copenhagen-style segregated bike lanes between Queen’s Park and the city centre.

The scheme will be Scotland’s “most ambitious street improvement project”, according to cycle path developers Sustrans.

Council leader Frank McAveety said: “Cycling is more popular in Glasgow than ever before; with the number of people choosing to travel by bike increasing by at least 200 per cent in less than a decade.

“I know from my own experience that the safer people feel in the saddle, the more they enjoy cycling – and that is key to unlocking huge health and environmental benefits for our communities.

“New investment in infrastructure – from safe, segregated cycle routes to traffic calming and 20mph limits – will bring the city’s spending on cycle initiatives to nearly £20 million over recent years.”

READ MORE: Glasgow to get £6.5m Copenhagen-style cycle route