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"£500,000 waste of taxpayers' money"...

The Scottish government today launched its the Nice Way Code initiative, a £500,000 campaign asking road users to all just get along and be lovely to each other. Scottish cycling campaign group Pedal on Parliament is not impressed.

According to Pedal on Parliament, research shows that the most effective means to reduce road deaths are changes to the road environment and lower speeds. Education campaigns, especially where not backed up by visible enforcement, do very little.

The campaign comes after government figures revealed that nine cyclists had died on Scotland’s roads so far this year, the same as the whole of 2012 and already more than twice the 2009 figure of just four.

Sally Hinchcliffe, one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, said: “While we don’t disagree that behaviour needs to improve between road users, simply asking us all to be nice to one another without backing it up with real changes and enforcement is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Most drivers don’t set out to harm anyone, whether they’re cyclists or not.  It’s the way our roads are designed and policed that put drivers and people on bikes into conflict.

“We’d rather see that money spent on cutting speeds, or improving known accident black spots. It’s a drop in the ocean, but it would be a start.”

In May, a claimed 4,000 people - led by former cycling Hour Record holder and national treasure Graeme Obree - rode to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood to demand that the Scottish Government allocate five percent of transport spending to cycling.

“Spending nearly £500,000 asking drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all to be nicer to one another offers poor value for money on its own,” says Pedal on Parliament. “Coming on top of the Scottish government’s last education campaign ‘Give me Cycle Space’, which did little to reassure parents that their children would be safe on Scotland’s roads, this ‘words rather than actions’ approach demonstrates  the government’s lack of commitment to saving the lives of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”

David Brennan, another of the Pedal on Parliament organisers said: “The government is keen to encourage more people on their bikes, and yet they are putting no effort into making the roads safer for these prospective new cyclists. 

“I know of no country in the world where cycling has become safer and more common place through advertising alone. There are however, many examples of countries with excellent road safety records for all road users where they have invested in cycling infrastructure. 

“With the government pushing on with a number of very expensive road projects with billion pound price tags, is it too much to ask for £100m a year to be spent on saving cyclists lives and on investing in a healthier more environmentally friendly Scotland?”

The recently-updated Cycling Action Plan for Scotland commits the Scottish Government to  increasing the proportion of journeys made by bike to 10 percent by 2020. Some feel that time is running out for there to be any chance of achieving that goal.

Government response

Quoted in The Scotsman, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Road safety is everyone’s responsibility and we make no apology for raising awareness of this issue or for seeking to improve behaviour.

“As Pedal on Parliament are acutely aware from our recent meetings, this campaign isn’t being run in isolation. Effective road safety relies on the three ‘E’s - education, enforcement and engineering.

“In terms of funding, an average of £3.80 per head is currently spent on cycling in Scotland - more than double the amount being spent in England outside of London. Promoting cycling needs to be a partnership endeavour and we are working across ministerial portfolios to identify opportunities to enhance funding where possible.

“We are currently investing almost £58 million on cycling infrastructure, training and road safety projects through Cycling Scotland, Sustrans and local authorities. Funding of £20 million goes directly to local authorities for cycling, walking and Safer Streets projects. Together, these three approaches can reduce casualties on Scotland’s roads.

“We also held extensive stakeholder consultations during the creative process for the Nice Way Code which is supported by the likes of the AA, the Bike Station, Cycling Scotland, IAM, Paths for All, Police Scotland, the RHA, and Sustrans, to name just a few.”

Pedal on Parliament’s 8-point manifesto calls for:

Proper funding for cycling
Design cycling into Scotland’s roads
Safer speeds where people live, work and play
Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
Sensible road traffic law and enforcement
Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
Solid research on cycling to support policy making

 

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.