Scotland’s Transport Minister, Keith Brown, will meet with road safety campaigners within the next fortnight to discuss the safety of cyclists and discuss what measures can be implemented to help protect riders on the country’s roads. The news follows the death of a cyclist in Edinburgh earlier this week, the second such fatality this year. Meanwhile, cycle campaigners are organising a mass ride in Edinburgh at the end of April to call for action.
Cyclist Bryan Simons, aged 40, died after being struck by a taxi on Monday morning on Corstorphine Road, one of the main commuter routes into the city. In January, 43-year-old cyclist Andrew McNicoll died on another major route into the city centre, Lanark Road, again during morning rush hour.
“My thoughts are with the families and friends of those whose lives have been lost in Edinburgh in recent months,” said Mr Brown in a statement announcing that the next meeting of the Road Safety Operational Partnership Group on March 21 would focus on cycling. Representatives of cycling and road safety organisations will be present at that meeting.
“For my part, I will continue to work to make sure that tragedies like these become a thing of the past,” Mr Brown continued.
"The rates of serious injuries and fatalities on our roads continue to fall but concern remains about vulnerable road users such as cyclists and we are looking closely at this issue.
"Cycling is a healthy, green, cost-effective way to travel and it is vital that we ensure those choosing to do so are protected," he added.
While the issues raised by The Times newspaper’s Cities Fit For Cycling campaign apply across the UK and have moved up the political agenda at Westminster, devolution means that road safety north of the border are the responsibility of the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government aims to reduce the number of road traffic fatalities in the country by 30 per cent by 2015, and by 40 per cent by 2020.However, politicians and campaigners say that action is urgently needed to help ensure the safety of cyclists.
Ian Aitken, Chief Executive of Cycling Scotland, told The Herald: "Better infrastructure to protect cyclists at junctions and more segregated and on road cycle lanes are certainly what prospective cyclists say they want to see more of."
John Lauder from Sustrans Scotland added: "I don't think we need roads in city boundaries that are 40mph."
Reacting to the death of Mr Simons, Green MSP Alison Johnstone told STV: "It’s all very well having off-road lanes but the reality is often you need to share road space with other users.
“We need to take more action to look at segregated pathways or shared pathways when it’s appropriate and introduce substantial training for everyone. I think that would be a huge step in the right direction."
Ian Maxwell of Lothian cycle campaigners Spokes said that lessons could be drawn from the Continent. "In places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen there is space set aside for cyclists on all main routes so it’s easy to get from A to B by bike,” he explained.
"The cyclists know where to go, the motorists know where you are and they have built up a cycling culture over many decades."
City of Edinburgh Council insist that they are doing as much as is possible to improve road safety in the city, including putting almost £750,000 aside for the cycling budget.
Transport Convener Councillor Gordon Mackenzie said: "We have got safety lenses for HGV drivers to cover the blind spot, we are improving the lanes and the white boxes to try and make it clear where cyclists can go and drivers should keep away. We’ve got training for cyclists and targeted training for professional drivers where we can."
Meanwhile, cycle campaigners in Scotland are planing a mass ride similar to flash rides held in London in recent months. The ride, billed as ‘Pedal On Parliament,’ is very much in the planning stage at the moment, but will be followed by a picnic.
It is due to take place on Saturday 28 April, the same day as the London Cycling Campaign holds The Big Ride in support of its Love London, Go Dutch initiative.
The idea originated in a post by blogger Dave Brennan, who is now organising it together with campaigners including members of Spokes, Glasgow-based Go-Ride, and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. A website, Facebook page and manifesto will be launched next week and in the meantime you can find more information about the proposed ride on Brennan's blog.