Drivers in Edinburgh are turning to cycling to get to work in record numbers, but at the same time across Scotland, there’s a five year high in sales of motor vehicles.
New figures show that the number of people cycling into the city centre grew by a quarter between 2009 and last year. There was also a seven per cent increase in people walking to work in the same period.
The research released by Edinburgh council’s Active Travel Action Plan saw 1600 cyclists entering the inner city limits by bicycle between the hours of 8am and 9am in November last year.
Ian Maxwell, spokesman for the cycling campaign group Spokes, told the Scotsman that although the figures were encouraging, there was a lot more that could be done to encourage cyclists.
He said: “We’re aware that if the politicians don’t see more bikes as a result of more money, then that’s not going to help. But there’s a direct relationship between the spend on cycling and the proportion of cyclists. Also, the safety arguments are that the more cyclists there are on the road, the lower the rate of accidents.
“The hills, the weather, the poor road surfaces are deterrents and if you ask people questions, that’s some of the reasons they give for not cycling, but we’re gradually working away at them.”
One major hurdle has been overcome though with the announcement that the city is to roll out 20mph speed limits across the Scottish capital following a pilot scheme in the south of the city.
Last week we reported how Transport Scotland said that inital trialling on the south side of Edinburgh showed fewer collisions in the target areas.
The new plans will see all residential streets, main shopping streets, city centre streets, and streets with high levels of pedestrian or cyclist activity made 20mph zones, making Edinburgh the first city in Scotland to have such wide measures.
City transport vice-convener Councillor Jim Orr said: We’re trying to make Edinburgh permeable for cyclists so that you can get from one part of the city to another part and usually find a route that’s quiet.
“It’s not a case of making every road quiet – it’s more a question of targeting our resources.”
But across Scotland more generally, Scottish Government figures have shown that vehicle sales are at their highest level in five years, and driving was on the increase.
According to the research, 216,000 new vehicles were bought last year and traffic increased by 0.4 per cent in 2011 to 43.5 billion vehicle kilometres.
It’s a return to pre-economic crisis levels, which were 260,000 in 2006, and the news has been hailed by motoring groups as a sign of increased confidence in a recovery.
Kevin Delaney, head of road safety for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, told the Scotsman: “This is good news - a sign of the economy picking up, or at least a reflection of optimism and rising levels of confidence.”
The mixed picture has led Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and co-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on cycling, to accuse Scottish ministers of making the wrong choices about transport in the country.
Cycling still only accounts for two per cent of journeys to work, which is significantly behind on the Scottish government target of 10 per cent by 2020.
Alison Johnstone told the Edinburgh Reporter: “A rise in vehicle traffic and no rise in rates of walking and cycling. Can there be a clearer sign that Scottish ministers have utterly failed to make the right choices?
“Instead of shovelling billions towards dual carriageways, bypasses and bridges, and frittering precious funds on ill-conceived adverts, the Scottish Government should be investing meaningful sums in dedicated cycle infrastructure, clearer junctions and safer streets.
"There is some small hope as Edinburgh pushes ahead with more 20mph zones; I’d urge other local authorities to do the same as it is clear we cannot expect any action from Scottish ministers.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.