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Head of Cycling Scotland calls for cycle superhighways

Infrastructure needed to reach 10 percent cycling target

The Scottish Government says it wants to see a bike boom that would increase the proportion of everyday journeys by bike to 10 percent by 2020. Can it be done? It's "ambitious but achievable" says Keith Irving, chief executive of Cycling Scotland, but it will need "a step change in the amount of effort required to help achieve it".

"There is undoubtedly a lot of work we need to do," Irving told Susan Swarbrick of Herald Scotland. "We are trying to reverse decades of decline. If you look at the 1950s, the best figures I've seen suggest Scotland had a mode-share for cycling of 15 per cent. That was the same as in Germany at that time.

"There is absolutely nothing to stop us getting more people cycling. Some change will take a long time and the Netherlands have been busy investing ever since the Kindermoord campaigns in 1972.

"You are looking at decades of investment in order to catch up but that's not to say that you can't see a lot of people cycling in a relatively short period of time."

Scotland currently has a cycling mode share — the proportion of journeys made by bike — of just one percent, a figure that hasn't budged since the 1980s.

The Scottish Government's Cycling Action Plan sets out a vision for that 10 percent target.

However, some cycling advocates have expressed scepticism about the achievability of the goal, and the Scottish Government's level of commitment. In a discussion on the City Cycling Edinburgh forum, poster Morningsider commented: "I'm certain the Scottish Government could ensure the 10% target was met. I'm sure they would like it to be met, just not enough to really do anything about it."

Irving thinks it can be done. "I feel it is ambitious but achievable," he told the Herald. "There is no doubt it does require a step change in the amount of effort required to help achieve it.

"What we have seen is that you can achieve change very quickly in some cities. Seville is the classic example of that. It has gone from less than one per cent to seven per cent of journeys by bike within six years.

"Change across Scotland will take longer but we are already seeing good progress made in Edinburgh, Inverness and Moray where around 10 per cent of journeys to work are regularly made by bike."

But he doesn't seem to expect that the program of education, promotion and training that makes up the bulk of the Cycling Action Plan will get Scotland to the target.

Scotland needs to follow London's lead and build cycling infrastructure.

"London has seen an incredible increase in cycling for lots of reasons and it shows there is demand out there," he says. "But with the best will in the world, Scotland doesn't have the available budget that London has.

"The crucial thing about the Cycle Superhighways is that it is re-allocation of road space, taking a lane currently for cars and giving it to people riding bikes. That is a brave political step to take and one we want to see happen in Scotland."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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