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Cycling Scotland reports growth – but can 2020 target possibly be hit?

Government wants to see 10 per cent of all journeys made by bike

Cycling Scotland’s latest report indicates that more people are reliant on a bicycle as their main mode of travel and more are commuting to work on two wheels. However, it also shows that cycling levels vary considerably from region to region and government targets are still seemingly a long way off.

Cycling Scotland reports annually on a range of indicators to provide a picture of national cycling participation. It is part of 2013’s Cycle Action Plan for Scotland, a stated aim of which is for 10 per cent of all journeys to be by bike by 2020.

The percentage of people who cycle as a main mode of travel was 1.4 per cent in 2014, an increase from 1 per cent in 2013. The report also indicates that more people are cycle commuting. The bicycle was the usual mode of travel to work for 2.6 per cent of people in 2014, up from 2 per cent in 2013, with over 6 per cent of people cycling to work at least regularly.

However, the picture varies considerably across the four major cities. Although the level of cycling as a main mode of travel is highest in Dundee and Edinburgh at 4.2 per cent, it is just 0.6 per cent in Glasgow and less than 0.5 per cent in Aberdeen.

Similarly, while the proportion of people cycling to work regularly is 15.2 per cent in Edinburgh, that drops to 7.8 per cent in Dundee, 5.5 per cent Aberdeen and 4.8 per cent in Glasgow. In all, the proportion of people cycling to work regularly is over 5 per cent in 14 of 32 Local Authorities.

Another finding was that just 22.1 per cent of Glaswegians have access to a bike – the lowest in the country where the average figure is 34.4 per cent.

Last month, councillor Martin McElroy, Glasgow City Council cycling spokesman, commented: "Unfortunately in Glasgow the car is still king. It is going to take a lot of investment in infrastructure to change that.” As such, the city is currently bidding for £12 million to transform itself into a mini-Holland.

The recent International Comparator Study, commissioned by Cycling Scotland, supported McElroy’s view. Basing its recommendations on how the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain and Austria have increased cycling rates in recent decades, it concluded that greater investment in segregated cycle lanes is needed if Scotland is to achieve its stated aim of 10 per cent of all trips being by bike by 2020.

But is the money there? Scotland’s Spending Plans and Draft Budget 2016-17 appeared to indicate a slight reduction in funding. With cycling receiving less than two per cent of transport spending, campaigners say there are serious doubts about the government’s commitment to its goal. Campaign group Spokes reports that The Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Cycling Group has written to Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP this week supporting Spokes’ budget proposal which would see one per cent of the trunk roads budget transferred to active travel.

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