The Scottish Government has pledged to double its investment on active travel from £40 million to £80 million from 2018/19 – which based on the country’s population of 5.4 million people equates to almost £15 a head.
It also said that it intends to appoint an Active Nation Commissioner to deliver “world class active travel infrastructure across Scotland,” and to develop a new long-distance cycling and walking route as well as connecting the major trunk route, the A9, to the National Cycle Network through 21 miles of new cycleways.
Other measures included within a document published today called A Nation With Ambition include encouraging Scottish residents to use electric bikes “to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from active travel.”
“We will continue to tackle the challenge of poor public health, matching our actions on smoking and alcohol misuse, with bold new initiatives to reduce obesity, boost active travel, improve mental health and tackle air pollution,” commented First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
John Lauder, Sustrans Scotland Director, said the initiative represented a “bold statement of intent in the new Programme for Government,” which had the “potential to really change how delivery bodies work in Scotland, and massively increase people’s health and wellbeing.
“It also sets an example for the rest of the UK,” he continued.
Lauder added: “This new funding investment is building on the successes to date in programmes for walking, cycling and improvements to local communities.
“The challenge for the future is to build on the creative partnerships already working to make cycling and walking easier, particularly local authorities, regional transport authorities, Scottish Canals, the two national parks and Community Trusts taking active travel to the heart of their communities.
“Walking and cycling is delivering a whole range of benefits across health, environment, transport, education and rural and urban economies. Sustrans Scotland is ready to work with partners across the board to help Scotland realise its potential as an Active Nation.”
With the notable exception of Edinburgh, Scotland has been falling well short of its stated goal of achieving 10 per cent modal share for cycling by 2020.
However, the charity Cycling UK welcomed today's announcement and contrasted it with the money being spent in England and Wales on cycling and walking.
Projected spend of £1.2 billion in England outside London during the next four years equates to £6.50 a head, while Cycling UK estimates annual active travel spend in Wales at between £3 and £5 per capita.
Suzanne Forup,the charity's head of development Scotland, said it was fantastic news for Scotland and cycle campaigners.
"The return on investment will be massive and wide reaching, as the economy, public health and environment are all set to benefit from this news.
“This is an excellent step towards allocating 10 per cent of transport spending on active travel, which Cycling UK campaigns for through the collaborative Walk Cycle Vote campaign.," she added.
Cycling UK’s chief xxecutive, Paul Tuohy, commented: “What a move from Scotland! This unprecedented level of investment into active travel from a national government clearly shows the First Minister means business when she talks of addressing Scotland’s environmental and health commitments.
“Once again, we’re seeing Scotland setting the bar high, and this time on Active Travel. Cycling UK would urge England, Wales and Northern Ireland to look to their own public health and environment commitments, and follow in Scotland’s tyre tracks," he added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.