Scots have abandoned public transport and choose to drive to work instead, census figures reveal

Tiny increase in numbers cycling to work north of the border, but campaigners say infrastructure improvements desperately needed

by Sarah Barth   January 6, 2014  

Scottish Parliament Bike Stands (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Scots are leaving public transport in their droves - choosing to drive to work instead.

Numbers walking have also fallen, while cycling is up just 0.1 per cent to 1.6 per cent of all workers .

Only one in ten now walk to work.

Around 1.3 million Scots - two thirds of those in work, use car or van to commute. The number has risen by about 100,000 to 1.3 million between the last census in 2001 and the most recent comprehensive nationwide survey in 2011 – up from 59 per cent to 63 per cent.

In Edinburgh less than 41 per cent drive, but it’s a different picture elsewhere in the country.

The proportion taking the bus has fallen from 12 per cent in 2001 to 11 per cent in 2011 and the same drop has been seen in those walking to work.

Train use is up a small amount from 3 per cent in 2001 to 4 per cent in 2011.

“It’s not an encouraging picture, but the results aren’t a surprise,” Green MSP and transport spokeswoman Alison Johnstone told The Scotsman.

“Edinburgh has seen progress because the council has been prepared to invest in cycling infrastructure. Currently they are spending 5 to 6 per cent of their transport budget on cycling, but in lots of other local authorities nothing is being spent.”

“If we want to see progress nationally we need to have a joined-up safe cycling network,” Johnston said.

“But there’s a perception that this isn’t a safe activity, which puts people off.”

She went on to say: “It’s not at all surprising. The Scottish Government sees investing in transport as investing in motorways. It constantly has not invested in walking and cycling. It’s currently spending one per cent of a big transport budget on active travel – they’re getting what they’re paying for.”

A spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “If the Scottish Government are serious about getting people out of their cars then they need to invest in serious improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure.

“More support for active travel is a bit of a no-brainer. It’s not just good for the climate, people’s health and wellbeing, but it can also help boost local economies and save money for the public purse.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to making it easier for more people to incorporate active travel choices into their daily routines by cycling and walking.”

Only three months ago we reported that cycling was on the up and up in Scotland, according to a new report from Sustrans Scotland, which says that last year saw a record 26 million trips on National Cycle Network routes north of the border - although whether these are leisure rides as opposed to commutes was unclear.

Sustrans and other active travel groups have recently been pushing the health benefits of getting out of your car.

Sustrans Scotland reckons the  34.3 million cycling trips and 28.3 million trips on foot made on the network were worth an estimated £71.5 million in health benefits.

The UK Chief Medical Officer recommends 150 minutes of activity a week for general health. According to

Sustrans, 60.5% of users on the National Cycle Network in 2012 completed 30 minutes or more of physical activity on five or more days in the previous week.

Cycling and walking routes pay back between 2 and 9.5 times more than they cost, says Sustrans. The organisation claims that’s a much higher return on investment than for other forms of transport.

Last year we reported how Scotland’s Transport Minister, Keith Brown, was already urging his fellow Scots to leave the car at home and embrace alternatives such as cycling, walking and public transport

The SNP politician, who represents Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, made the call in his New Year Message.

However, Mr Brown was accused of “breathtaking hypocrisy” by Labour’s transport spokeswoman Elaine Murray.

She said that Scotland’s active travel budget had been cut from £25.1 million in 2011/12 to £13.9 million in 2014/15.

8 user comments

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I didn't read it all, but the cost per mile up here by car compared to bus is almost the same, so many take the car because it gives them the freedom and not be stuck to a crap time table that takes two hours to travel 42 miles Devil

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8139 posts]
6th January 2014 - 20:10

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“If the Scottish Government are serious about getting people out of their cars...."

+

“The Scottish Government is committed to...."

=

"1.6% of workers cycling."

Lets imagine you actively tried to make cycling unpopular, disincentivized people from taking this mode of transport and neglected to take it seriously when planning transport strategies.... you would probably still get the determined 1.6% who will do it anyway.

posted by paulmcmillan [71 posts]
6th January 2014 - 20:58

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The quote at the top says

"Tiny increase in numbers cycling to work north of the border, but campaigners say infrastructure improvements desperately needed"

Does that mean your going to fill in the potholes first because that would make a great difference and fill them properly not just throwing in tarmac and hoping it flattens out..... eventually

posted by djfleming22 [8 posts]
6th January 2014 - 21:08

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A local bus company in the West of Scotland now dominates the bus network. This same company is now cutting out routes or shortening them. That combined with the fact that councils would rather put money into 'leisure cycling' rather than biting the bullet and sorting out infrastructure for commuting. Is it little wonder that folk are turning to their cars.

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posted by giff77 [958 posts]
6th January 2014 - 21:40

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paulmcmillan wrote:
“If the Scottish Government are serious about getting people out of their cars...."

+

“The Scottish Government is committed to...."

=

"1.6% of workers cycling."

Lets imagine you actively tried to make cycling unpopular, disincentivized people from taking this mode of transport and neglected to take it seriously when planning transport strategies.... you would probably still get the determined 1.6% who will do it anyway.

A really accurate way to look at it. Too true which is sad

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
6th January 2014 - 22:40

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Hmmm. I work in Glasgow. In 5 years we've gone from 1 half empty 16 bike rack to 2, and are overflowing, even in winter... In summer it's early start to get parking.

Not so much a six pack as a barrel!

posted by Bigfoz [56 posts]
7th January 2014 - 17:47

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Now would that local bus company be the one which is retrenching in the face of 4 significant other players on their patch - one competing strongly in the NW quadrant of the major conurbation, a second covering the SW quadrant, and a third the SE quadrant and some NE. The fourth also being a major National group is less aggressive, but runs in from the South and East - mostly from the South.

The competition has pushed out the dunny money outfits, runs new vehicles, and responsible operations, and the selection of routes is substantial. With less than 35% of city centre households owning a car, and some of the schemes with even lower levels of car ownership, we have substantial use of public transport, but a massive congestion from cars used by those travelling in from outside the area - fuelled by the ridiculous over-provision of car parking in the city centre.

Or am I thinking of somewhere else in the West of Scotland.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [429 posts]
7th January 2014 - 21:41

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And I suspect that you are not using a public bike rack there. In 1995 we had 5 Sheffield hoops at Glasgow Central station not that greatly used - now over 50 spaces on 2-tier racks... No-one cycling - pull the other one.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [429 posts]
7th January 2014 - 21:46

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