Scots cycling more since lockdown but walking less

Walking fell by 30 per cent last week.

Cycling is proving more popular. picture: Neil Hanna.

There has been a significant increase in cycling since the coronavirus near lockdown was introduced, Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland revealed today.

It said bike riding had gone up by 8 per cent last week.

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However, there has been a major reduction in walking, which has fallen by nearly one third up to Sunday.

For the last two weeks, Scots have been told to stay at home other than for food and medicines, essential work, helping the vulnerable and exercise.

It is thought a 75 per cent cut in traffic on the roads may have encouraged more cyclists to venture out.

They may also have chosen the activity as their daily exercise during the coronavirus outbreak.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “Similar to the declines we have seen in car use and public transport use, rates of walking are down across Scotland.

“With many shops being closed and people working from home, this is to be expected.

“Cycling rates have increased slightly, albeit from a much lower baseline.

“It is also expected, in terms of people getting on their bikes for exercise after a day of working at home.

“Exercise is of course encouraged, once per day, as long as people keep social distancing in mind and stay more than 2m from others.

“It is critical that people follow guidance to work at home and are making essential journeys only - and importantly, that social distancing principles are correctly followed, whether you are walking, cycling or taking public transport.”

Transport Scotland said the figures were calculated using Glasgow and Edinburgh councils’ cycle counters and development body Cycling Scotland’s data for the rest of the country.

It said Cycling Scotland advice on cycling during the Covid-19 outbreak was available at https://www.cycling.scot/news-article/covid-19-information

Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said the actual rise in cycling was likely to be significantly greater than the official figures.

Spokesman Ian Maxwell said: "If counter data shows cycling up by 8 per cent, the actual increase is probably much larger.

“Many people are cycling because the roads are so quiet.

“Health workers are being offered bicycles to help them get to work and organisations like Spokes, Bridge8Hub and the Bike Station in Edinburgh and Bike for Good in Glasgow are providing support for this."

GoBike, the Strathclyde cycle campaign, said action must be taken to keep new cyclists cycling.

Co-convener John Donnelly said: “This increase in cycling numbers demonstrates the underlying demand for cycling in Scotland.

“The quieter roads, as motor vehicle numbers have decreased, has enabled many people who would not venture out on the road to do so.

“People are also finding the benefit of combining a visit to the shops with a cycle, rather than making an unnecessary journey with their car.

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“It again highlights the need for safe segregated cycling infrastructure to enable those who are cycling now to be able to continue to do so in the future.

“We are also calling on the Scottish Government and local authorities to follow the lead of New Zealand in expanding public recreation space through the re-allocation of roads to people walking, cycling and running.”

Cycling Scotland chief executive Keith Irving said: “It’s encouraging to see cycling numbers increasing, albeit under circumstances no one would want.

“Cycling has huge benefits for physical and mental health, and we hope to see people continue cycling as we emerge from this crisis.

“It’s critical that anyone cycling continues to follow public health guidance, especially on social distancing and hygiene.

“It’s also more important than ever for anyone driving to obey the speed limit, drive to the conditions and give space to people cycling and walking.”

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