The Scottish Government published its vision for transport strategy back in 2010 aiming for 10% of everyday journeys to be by bicycle by 2020. While it is a year etched in everyone’s memory, it has long since passed and we fell well short of that target! By June of 2019, it was calculated that the figure was only at 4%.

So, what changes have been made to proactively increase that figure and make cycling an attractive mode of transport? Well, in April 2023 a ‘new vision’ for increasing everyday cycling across Scotland was published. We are now looking at a 2030 Active Travel Vision.

Following its publication, Patrick Harvie said; “We are already investing record amounts in active travel and will continue to do so, with the active travel budget almost £200m this year and rising to £320 million or 10% of the overall transport budget by 2024-25. That investment will help us build an active nation – delivering on our vision of helping more people choose walking, wheeling and cycling for journeys than ever before.”

However, the issues remain the same. It was just last month that we highlighted the new road layout around Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. It seems no one was too sure of the purpose and what/if any risk assessment had been carried out in advance of its installation. While it may not be a designated cycle lane, the council have used the same lane dividers that are used to mark out a cycle lane. It is obvious there would be confusion.

Confusing infrastructure off Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Furthermore, cycle related incidents continue to occur on the extended tram network across Edinburgh, but no improvements have been made or considered. Billions of pounds of public money have been spent on the network, review of its failings, legal costs and personal injury actions, yet the infrastructure remains the same.

What message is that sending to the cyclists of Edinburgh? I suggest it shows that it is easier to pay them off after they have have sustained injury, rather than make changes to keep them safe in the first instance.

Moving outside of our capital, a nationwide issue is the poor state of our roads. Not a week goes by at Cycle Law Scotland where we do not receive a call from an injured cyclist who has come off their bike due to the poor state of repair of our roads. And before anyone raises the issue of Road Tax (more correctly termed VED (Vehicle Excise Duty), it is in fact Council Tax that contributes towards the upkeep of the road network!

The injuries sustained when a cyclist hits a road defect can be life changing. I have sadly seen instances of brain injury, spinal fractures and significant dental injuries. The poor quality of our roads affects us all. Whether you drive, cycle, walk, wheel or ride a motorcycle, potholes cause injury, damage and loss.

We cannot possibly consider ourselves to be a safe cycling nation while the government just pays lip service to what needs to be done. We need to see real change.

This is further evident when we look back at the City of Edinburgh Council’s ‘Major Junctions Update.’ I wrote about this back in January – Edinburgh must take cyclists’ safety seriously – Jodi Gordon (scotsman.com). There are similar updates across the country. While these updates ought to be welcomed, it seems we are far too slow to implement any real change and the concern is always, how many more cyclists need to be injured or killed before change is deemed a priority?!

By comparison, all we have to do is look across the water to Paris. This month it was announced that the number of people opting to cycle has overtaken those that choose to drive. It was reported that 11% of journeys are now by bike. Yes, the weather is most likely a contributory factor, but safe infrastructure also plays a huge part.

After the Covid lockdowns, there was a total transformation in Paris. The government pledged €2 billion to build more cycle lanes. Bicycle use was also promoted with incentives for companies that encouraged staff to cycle to work.

A recent study looking at the increase in journeys by bike in Paris showed that only 33.5% of Parisian households have a car. This is compared with 81% of people in Scotland. In fact, 36% of households have access to two vehicles in Scotland.

An increase in cycle numbers benefits us all in so many different ways. It decreases traffic congestion for those that require to use a motorised vehicle, it reduces pollution and helps us to become fitter and healthier to name just a few. Cyclists and funding on cycling infrastructure should not be seen as a nuisance. It is simply a mode of transport that should be accessible to more.

Jodi Gordon – Partner

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