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Cycling's modal share in Scotland up fivefold during lockdown

Growth comes from small base but there are hopes that increased infrastructure will encourage more people to cycle

A twice-annual cycle counting survey by Cycling Scotland has found that the modal share of cycling rose fivefold in the country during lockdown, jumping from 0.67 per cent in May 2019 to 3.44 per cent a year later, although the organisation cautions that the increase has come from a small base.

Carried out at 97 locations throughout Scotland, automatic cycle counters established that other than for vans and lorries, modal share of other types of motor vehicles analysed – cars, taxis, buses and coaches – had fallen during the 48-hour monitoring period.

Modal share of cars fell from 83.26 per cent to 78.8 per cent, for taxis from 2.14 per cent to 0.85 per cent, for buses from 1.74 per cent to 1.10 per cent and for coaches from 0.17 per cent to 0.14 per cent.

Meanwhile, the modal share of HGVs increased from 2.27 per cent to 3.48 per cent, while that of vans increased from 9.49 per cent to 11.69 per cent.

Natalie Cozzolino, monitoring and development officer at Cycling Scotland, said: “It’s encouraging to see such a dramatic increase in modal share, albeit from a low base.

“Although this is a nationwide picture and there are variations by area, this rise in cycling’s modal share is in line with the increase we’ve seen in people cycling throughout lockdown, which has been sustained to date.”

Cycling Scotland said that further monitoring in June showed that nationally, the number of people cycling was 62.75 per cent up year-on-year, with some areas recording growth of up to 300 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

Cozzolino added: “Less traffic is one of the reasons more people are cycling and to sustain this change in travel habits long term, it’s essential we increase our network of dedicated, separate, inclusive cycle lanes. 

“Supporting access to bikes and places to store them is also key to enabling more people to choose travel by bike, helping us address the climate emergency we face and creating a healthier, sustainable future for everyone.”

The news comes as the Scottish Government confirms that it has allocated its entire £30 million emergency Spaces for People fund to boost cycling and walking as the country gradually eases out of lockdown.

Further funding of £8.65 million may also be made available for bids still under consideration, reports the Evening Express.

Sustrans Scotland is allocating the award of the funding on behalf of the Scottish Government and the charity’s chief executive, John Lauder, said: “Giving people safe space in which to physically distance while they get about their day by walking, wheeling and cycling is vitally important as we look to normalise the increasing rate of people travelling actively.

“The fast pace of delivery and the quick uptake by local authorities and other statutory bodies in utilising the Spaces for People funding is testament to the appetite in Scotland to make walking, wheeling and cycling as safe as possible.”

Transport secretary Michael Matheson added: “From the outset, this programme was all about pace, urgency and protecting public health – creating space to enable people to walk, cycle and wheel whilst physically distancing.

“At the same time, however, it has provided an opportunity to re-imagine and indeed experience our towns and cities as places not dominated by cars but by people.

“The steps local authorities have taken in our towns and cities have been ambitious and widely welcomed – and I’m confident will re-energise demand for permanent active travel infrastructure as we think collectively about Scotland’s green recovery.

“Walking, wheeling and cycling protects our climate, improves our air quality and brings profound benefits to our physical and mental health. In terms of our Covid-19 response, active travel is a critical component in helping to manage demand on our public transport network.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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