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10 per cent cycling in Scotland – a target or a vision?

Scottish Government’s long term vision for active travel unveiled but critics demand more immediate action

Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown has unveiled A Long Term Vision for Active Travel in Scotland 2030. While its aim of encouraging more people to walk and cycle for everyday shorter journeys has been welcomed, critics are questioning whether enough is being done to achieve that.

Brown explained:

“This vision sets out how we hope Scotland will look in 2030 if more people are walking and cycling for short, everyday journeys allowing us to reap the benefits of active travel.

“It goes without saying that cycling and walking benefits the individual by improving their physical health, but also their mental health, and keeps their transport costs down whilst also benefiting the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and pollutants.”

The document depicts a future Scotland in which people are walking or cycling for the majority of shorter journeys. Main roads into town centres all have either segregated cycling provision or high quality direct, safe and pleasant alternatives; pedestrian and cycle paths are in place; and rural and suburban minor roads have low speed limits. Transport is integrated and there is a culture of active travel.

However, critics have questioned whether enough is being done to make these dreams a reality. Speaking to The Scotsman, Colin Howden, Director of Sustainable transport lobby group Transform Scotland, said:

“A long-term vision for walking and cycling is all very well but what we actually need is action now, not at some vague time off into the future.

“What we do know is the Scottish Government’s investment in active travel falls in this year’s budget despite the overall transport budget again rising. Some short-term action to tackle that situation would be more helpful than platitudes about long-term priorities.”

Referring to funding, Brown said: “During this year and next we are increasing our expenditure on cycling and walking infrastructure by a further £27 million to deliver projects that promote active travel for everyday journeys.”

Last year’s updated Cycling Action Plan for Scotland called for 10 per cent of everyday journeys to be made by bike by 2020. David Middleton, chief executive of Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland, is said to have told Cycling Scotland’s annual conference last week that this figure was a target, while his officials later described it as merely a “vision”.

Either way, campaigners question whether sufficient progress is being made with Middleton admitting: “We have stated the aspiration. Clearly, if there is no movement in the percentages as we move through the decade, we will have to look at it.”

Ian Findlay, chief officer of development body Paths for All, welcomed the 2030 vision, but added: “This can only happen if Scotland prioritises improving the infrastructure and environment for people to walk or cycle, as well as encouraging people to change travel behaviours.”

John Lauder, national director of Sustrans Scotland, expressed similar sentiments, welcoming the ambition but placing the emphasis on how this can be realised: “The challenge now is to translate this vision into action on the ground. Work needs to start on developing a long-term delivery plan, with appropriate funding mechanisms, to deliver not only the vision set out in this document but also the visions identified in the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and the National Walking Strategy.”

Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign tweeted: “New @scotgov #2030 cycling 'vision' improves on #2020 #CAPS vision but will stay 'vision' without funded action plan!”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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