A member of the Scottish Parliament has called for Scotland to increase its spending on cycling to near-Dutch levels.
Writing one her official website Alison Johnstone, the Green Party MSP for Lothian, says: “The call from the Pedal on Parliament campaign for five per cent of the transport budget to be spent on cycling is perfectly reasonable.”
Alison Johnstone’s comments come in the wake of the deaths in collisions with lorries of two members of Edinburgh triathlon club in the last month. Douglas Brown, 79, died of his injuries on Sunday after being hit by a truck last Thursday morning, and Andrew McMenigall was killed by an articulated lorry in Cornwall on July 2.
Andrew McMenigall was the vice-president of Edinburgh Triathletes, while Douglas Brown had been a member of the club in its early days in the 1980s and had continued to ride almost every day despite retiring from racing.
“My heart goes out to the families and friends of both men,” says Alison Johnstone. “Both were victims of a transport system which treats cyclists as second-class citizens.
“The Scottish Government has admitted much needs to be done to reduce cycle fatalities and injuries on our roads but I fear very little will change unless we see serious funding put in place.”
Cycling in Scotland currently comprises just one percent of all journeys, and the Scottish Government spends 0.7 per cent of its transport budget on cycling and walking infrastructure.
Last month, the Scottish Government’s updated Cycling Action Plan for Scotland reiterated its desire for 10 percent of all journeys to be undertaken by bike by 2020. However, the designated funding for cycling projects in the 2012-15 spending plan comes to around £3 a head.
A substantially larger figure, the 5 percent demanded by Pedal on Parliament, “would help us towards the ten per cent journey target,” says Johnstone.
She writes: “The overall Scottish transport budget for 2013-14 is £2billion. Five per cent would be £100million or £20 per head. By contrast the Netherlands is already spending around £25 per head.”
Johnstone believes that a good start would be to deliberately fund a piece of high-quality cycling infrastructure. Such an “an exemplar project” would allow “local authorities [to] see how good cycle infrastructure works.”
As well as directly saving lives, the health benefits of a more active population would reduce pressure on the Scottish health service, Johnstone says.
“The money’s there; it just needs the political will to reprioritise it.”
Latest Scottish fatality
Alison’s Johnstone’s comments were published the day after the latest death of a cyclist on Scotland’s roads.
Connor Shields, 14, of Ellon in Aberdeenshire died after being hit by a car on Wednesday evening on the A975 Cruden Bay to Newburgh road. He was riding home with friends.
Residents of the village had previously expressed concern over the safety of the road.
Nicole Bell, 37, told the Herald: “There are so many kids riding in on their bikes every day to play here. We’ve been on at the council about that junction for ages. It’s hard enough to see what’s coming when you are in the car.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.