Friday 11 November 2011

Just in case you think you're safe in Scotland...

Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, has produced a handout about the upcoming transport budget cuts in Scotland.

Oh, hang on. Did I say cuts ? It's only a cut for walking and cycling. The total budget for transport is being increased from £1804m to £1884m, while the part of that budget which is for walking and cycling combined is being reduced from £20m to £15m.

There are 5.2 million people in Scotland, so the budget for cycling and walking combined is being reduced from £3.84 per person per year to £2.88.

In other words, the budget is being reduced from 1% of the transport budget to 0.7% of the transport budget. That's not investing in cycling, it's fobbing off cyclists.

Scottish politicians who promised to "increase the proportion of transport spending on ... active and sustainable travel" would seem to have gone back on their word. Another broken promise.

You can read more on the handout itself (click and it gets bigger) or on the Spokes website.

It's a long way from the level of expenditure which is required for growth to a significant rate of cycling. The Dutch spend about €30 per person per year on cycling.

However, some local authorities in Scotland remain bullish: In Dumfries and Galloway, where the cycling modal share is approximately 3%, the new local transport strategy says "Overall, cycling and walking infrastructure is considered to be of a good standard and the council consequently considers that only incremental improvements to existing networks will be required in the short term".

Clearly they're not aiming very high. If the infrastructure was truly good, the modal share would be higher. There is pent up demand in Scotland just as anywhere else, but people don't cycle as much as they'd like to due to a lack of subjective safety.

The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland says that 2% of children in Scotland currently cycle to school. Cycling Scotland say it's 1% of primary school children and 2% of secondary school children. Like many organisations which despite lots of hard work still don't manage to increase the school cycling rate significantly, they are both placing more emphasis on training than on infrastructure improvements. That's why you don't see scenes like this every single day around every Scottish school.

£2.88 per person per year isn't enough to change the infrastructure so that cycling becomes something that people want to do. It can't be achieved on a shoe-string, and it certainly can't be achieved when budgets shrink rather than grow. When the transport budget in Scotland is growing, what can possibly be the excuse for shrinking the budget for cycling and walking ?

July 2013 update. D & G council talks to the press
In Dumfries, the BBC reports that "Plans to extend a sustainable travel project have been put on hold until firm evidence is produced to prove its effectiveness".

Less than two years ago, as you can read above, I pointed out that their boasting of already having "a good standard" of cycling infrastructure was premature. Considerably more investment is required to produce conditions in which people feel safe to cycle. Building just a few scattered and half-hearted pieces of infrastructure has never worked. A comprehensive network with very high quality is required.

Dumfries and Galloway could have sent representatives on one of our Study Tours two years ago in order to find out what was required, but they didn't. We would still like to welcome people from Dumfries and Galloway in the future. There is much to learn. Assen is town not much larger than Dumfries and we experience far harsher winters winters than does Dumfries but people cycle here in numbers which are unknown anywhere in the British isles. Come and see how this was achieved.


James Avery said...

But that £1.8bn is before you add in the costs of the Forth 'Replacement' Crossing.

Anonymous said...

Cycling Scotland is a cancer on the face and vast nether regions of Scottish cycling.

Its fatous prediction of 10 per cent cycling modal share by 2020 is a meaningless absurdity.

Cycling Scotland no more understands the logic behind a mass cycling culture than does the CTC, CycleNation, or all the other clowns who claim to represent cycling.

Go Dutch.

End of.

Colville-Andersen said...

Funny how the report from Transform Scotland in 2008 has been swept under the tarmac.

The country could benefit by up to £4 billion annually if they moved from their 1% modal share to Danish or Dutch levels of cycling. Towards a Healthier Economy

townmouse said...

Mikael - thanks for that link, will be lobbying our MSPs hard to get this decision reversed and this will help

Chris Cooke said...

Thank you for this - you've just persuaded me to overcome my feelings of betrayal and of utter futility (where writing to politicians is concerned), and I've now contacted my MSPs about this.
Thanks also to Mikael - I mentioned
the report for which you provided
the link.

I've recently stopped cycling in Edinburgh because of the terrible contrast between the cycling facilities I see blogged about in civilised countries and those I
encounter on the streets
of Edinburgh - cycling was making me so angry I could hardly sleep. Now I just walk, and I sleep somewhat less badly; but I know now that in this matter at least, my country, Scotland, is in the third world.

Peter Clinch said...

Small changes in infrastructure can have a profound effect. When my kids started at their primary school, cycling to school was at about 1 pupil, on a kidback tandem. That's 0.5%. Our kidback triplet boosted numbers to 1.5%...
Shortly after a new cycle parking shelter was opened and numbers bloomed: all they'd needed was somewhere to park. There is minimal cycling to high schools here. At present there seems to be a lack of parking, but that seems to be changing.

One thing that seems to boost numbers too is kids seeing other kids cycle. So when P7 does training and that pushes numbers up, lower years start to ride in more too. All this from one small shelter.

I wouldn't object to Dutch style infrastructure here, but you can boost numbers with far less effort than that would take. The first step is just people seeing it's possible and reasonable

Anonymous said...

Cor, £15m is less than some Dutch towns have spent on a single route .

Kevin Love said...

Meanwhile, here in Toronto, even the outer suburbs are opening car-free "walking only" schools. See:

Clark in Vancouver said...

I did a calculation and Vancouver, BC, Canada spends $21.63 CAN (€15.62) per person per year on new cycling infrastructure so approximately half. (A half cent per day. Totally worth it.)

I wonder if that would ever increase though. The political climate, whilst changing all the time, is a problem.

I wonder if it would it be better if it was made a percentage of the amount for transportation infrastructure instead of an fixed figure. Then as the economy grows and shrinks it can as well.