Alison Johnstone: Roads must be made friendlier for our cyclists

Our roads may be dangerous for cyclists. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Our roads may be dangerous for cyclists. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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MAYBE cycling on the road for a week should be part of the driving test?” wondered The Scotsman editor John McLellan in his column last week. Far-fetched? Far from it, writes Alison Johnstone

Cyclists and motorists are often forced to share limited space, so it’s in everyone’s interests to get along. And it’s not just in city centres that conflicts arise, but on Scotland’s extensive rural and trunk road network.

Today MSPs will have a chance to discuss the issue for the first time. The Greens have been offered debate time at Holyrood – the first since last May’s election. I dearly hope we see action as a result of today’s words.

The recent deaths of two cyclists in Edinburgh on 40mph speed limit roads underline the importance of reducing speed limits in built-up areas. South central Edinburgh now has a 20mph zone on residential streets and I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to share the evaluation of this scheme with other local authorities.

The proportion of cycle accidents on Scotland’s roads has been decreasing in recent years, which is welcome, but we cannot ease up on our efforts to embed cycling in our day-to-day activities. Increasing numbers of people are swapping four wheels for two.

What we need is a radical approach to how we design our roads, and we should seize any opportunity as soon as it arises.

Every time a road is dug up, a junction is changed or new signs are installed we should improve the layout for walkers and cyclists.

We should make it easy for councils to create cycle-friendly streets by removing parking spaces, and we must be more ambitious about on-road cycle training for our children. At the moment, only 30 per cent of Scots schoolchildren receive such training – half the rate of children in England.

The Scottish Government says it’s committed to increasing the number of journeys by bike to 10 per cent by 2020 – the current rate is estimated to be a lowly 1 per cent.

It’s time we stopped paying cycling lip service and shifted our commitment up several gears.

• Alison Johnstone is the Green MSP for Lothian