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Lack of safe routes a barrier to cycling, say six in 10 survey respondents

“A network of dedicated cycling lanes, separated from traffic, is the biggest priority” to get more people riding bikes says Cycling Scotland

Six in 10 people have said that the lack of safe cycle lanes or traffic-free routes is a barrier that puts them  off cycling, or stops them riding bikes for everyday journeys.

The finding, from a survey carried out every two years by the charity Cycling Scotland, is consistent with previous research highlighting that lack of safe infrastructure is one of the biggest obstacles to getting more people cycling, selected by 61 per cent of respondents.

The survey of 1,029 adults in Scotland found that the major barrier to cycling for everyday journeys, as in previous editions, was that it was perceived as being impractical for carrying things, which 72 per cent of respondents said they considered important or very important in acting as a deterrent (although as the #carryshitolympics hashtag on Twitter highlights, there is no end to the type of items that can be carried by bike).

That was followed by not feeling safe on the roads, on 65 per cent, and poor weather, chosen by 64 per cent of respondents to the survey, which was funded by Transport Scotland.

Other major barriers included journeys being too far, selected by 47 per cent, and not being practical due to travelling with others, on 45 per cent, while 20 per cent said they have nowhere to store their bike.

The survey found that more than one in three people in Scotland – 35 per cent – use a bicycle for everyday journeys or for leisure.

Among all respondents, 12 per cent use a bicycle for everyday journeys at least once a week – up by a third on the 9 per cent recorded in 2017, the first time the survey, which is carried out every two years, was conducted.

In particular, there has been strong growth in the proportion of 18 to 24 year olds cycling, up from 27 per cent when the survey was last done to 39 per cent this year.

By gender, 28 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women reported ever cycling for everyday journeys in the latest survey.

Walking remains the most frequent mode for everyday journeys, with 74 per cent doing so at least once a week, and 43 per cent walking most days.

Meanwhile, 53 per cent of respondents reported ever driving, and 34 per cent do so most days.

Keith Irving, chief executive of Cycling Scotland, commented:  “The world has changed considerably since we last carried out this tracker research in 2019.

“With 35 per cent of the population cycling for transport or leisure, it’s encouraging to see cycling becoming a much more common way of getting around and getting exercise.

“As well as helping people feel healthier and happier, swapping the car for the bike remains key in tackling the climate emergency.”

He said that the number-one priority to get more people cycling was to provide them with protected cycle lanes, and that efforts should also be made to reduce the amount of motor traffic.

“We can see in our research that roads being too busy is one of the biggest barriers to cycling, we need to reduce vehicle traffic in shopping and residential streets, in line with the welcome Scottish Government commitment to reduce vehicle kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030,” he explained.

“To make our roads safer, particularly for children, a network of dedicated cycling lanes, separated from traffic, is the biggest priority.

“And every journey cycled will make a difference in cutting emissions in a just transition to Net Zero,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government announced it was investing £150 million in active travel in its budget for 2022/23 – an increase of £34.5 million on the current year, and equivalent to £27 per head.

Some 1,029 people were questioned in August and September this year for the survey, which was funded by Cycling Scotland.

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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