Leader comment: Segregated cycle routes can benefit motorists too

As we strive to build a transport infrastructure that reduces pollution, encourages health and well-being, and removes congestion, the funding of five new travel schemes around Scotland yesterday ticks those boxes. All five projects seek to create cycle-friendly routes to encourage people to give up the car and go by bike instead.

Minister of Transport and Islands Humza Yousaf MSP joins pupils of Blackfriars Primary in Glasgow as they participate in a cycle lesson with a Sustrans Scotland, who ran the design competition for five new cycle-friendly transport routes.
Minister of Transport and Islands Humza Yousaf MSP joins pupils of Blackfriars Primary in Glasgow as they participate in a cycle lesson with a Sustrans Scotland, who ran the design competition for five new cycle-friendly transport routes.

To achieve environmental targets, thus improving our quality of life, we have to promote sustainable forms of transport.

As ever, the measures are controversial. Any degree of change will always meet with opposition, and some will say that too much is to be spent on segregated cycleways which will be underpopulated and their intrusion into the roadway will inhibit the flow of traffic to the extent that congestion is worse than before (naysayers applied much the same argument to the tram system in Edinburgh). But the cycle “superhighway” along Embankment in London met with the same response before its introduction, and yet has resulted in cycle numbers increasing by 50 per cent.

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The one factor that could deliver a step-change in cycling habits in any town or city is safety. Many potential cyclists will not attempt to negotiate a bicycle through an urban area because they feel vulnerable in areas dominated by motor vehicles. By delivering segregated routes, that threat is virtually eliminated.

There are benefits here for motorists as well. If cyclists have their own route, separated from cars by a kerb or pavement, motorists should no longer have to worry about an uncertain rider, or giving a bike enough space when overtaking without sailing too close to oncoming traffic.

Of course, these benefits only apply to a handful of routes. Segregated routes can be a success, but they must be evaluated and then, if appropriate, rolled out elsewhere. A couple of dedicated routes will make a difference, but only a network can deliver transformation.