Why Scots are getting on their bikes

CYCLING is enjoying a renaissance in Scotland, its growing popularity driven by soaring fuel prices, increasing congestion and health concerns.

Figures reveal the number of cyclists using one of Edinburgh's main cycle paths has risen by more than half in just one year.

And the UK-wide survey released yesterday also found that nearly half those questioned used their bikes more than they did five years ago, and one-third cycled more than ten years ago.

Sustrans, which is developing the national cycle network, said 348,500 cyclists used a route junction in Leith last year, up from 226,000 in 2004.

Although the count was the only one taken in Scotland as part of a national survey of network usage, the group believes the increase was typical of usage across Edinburgh.

Sustrans said that although the capital was currently Scotland's leading city for cycling, Glasgow had the potential to eclipse it.

John Lauder, the national director for Scotland for Sustrans, predicted there had been similar increases in cycling across Edinburgh to that found at the survey point at Stedfastgate, near Gosforth Place, on the route between Leith and the city centre.

He said: "The survey figure proves all the anecdotal evidence that there are more people on bikes as they change their travel behaviour - they are voting with their feet.

"More and more people are cycling and walking because they want to take more exercise to improve their health.

"There are also increasing concerns over congestion and the rising cost of petrol and oil."

Mr Lauder said Edinburgh's success was down to years of spending by the city council on measures such as developing off-road routes using disused railway lines, and advanced stop lines for cyclists at junctions.

However, he said Glasgow had many cycle routes that could be developed, which could make it Scotland's cycling capital.

Scottish Executive figures show little change in cycling over the past few years, but Mr Lauder said these did not cover traffic-free paths, which many cyclists preferred to roads.

The survey, by insurance firm Churchill, questioned nearly 1,900 people. It found that just over one-third of respondents used their bike to keep fit, while 22 per cent said they cycled for pleasure.

Some 17 per cent said they preferred using their bicycle to a car or public transport as it was more convenient, and 6 per cent claimed they cycled because it was better for the environment.

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