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Head of Cycling Scotland calls for cycle superhighways

Infrastructure needed to reach 10 percent cycling target

The Scottish Government says it wants to see a bike boom that would increase the proportion of everyday journeys by bike to 10 percent by 2020. Can it be done? It's "ambitious but achievable" says Keith Irving, chief executive of Cycling Scotland, but it will need "a step change in the amount of effort required to help achieve it".

"There is undoubtedly a lot of work we need to do," Irving told Susan Swarbrick of Herald Scotland. "We are trying to reverse decades of decline. If you look at the 1950s, the best figures I've seen suggest Scotland had a mode-share for cycling of 15 per cent. That was the same as in Germany at that time.

"There is absolutely nothing to stop us getting more people cycling. Some change will take a long time and the Netherlands have been busy investing ever since the Kindermoord campaigns in 1972.

"You are looking at decades of investment in order to catch up but that's not to say that you can't see a lot of people cycling in a relatively short period of time."

Scotland currently has a cycling mode share — the proportion of journeys made by bike — of just one percent, a figure that hasn't budged since the 1980s.

The Scottish Government's Cycling Action Plan sets out a vision for that 10 percent target.

However, some cycling advocates have expressed scepticism about the achievability of the goal, and the Scottish Government's level of commitment. In a discussion on the City Cycling Edinburgh forum, poster Morningsider commented: "I'm certain the Scottish Government could ensure the 10% target was met. I'm sure they would like it to be met, just not enough to really do anything about it."

Irving thinks it can be done. "I feel it is ambitious but achievable," he told the Herald. "There is no doubt it does require a step change in the amount of effort required to help achieve it.

"What we have seen is that you can achieve change very quickly in some cities. Seville is the classic example of that. It has gone from less than one per cent to seven per cent of journeys by bike within six years.

"Change across Scotland will take longer but we are already seeing good progress made in Edinburgh, Inverness and Moray where around 10 per cent of journeys to work are regularly made by bike."

But he doesn't seem to expect that the program of education, promotion and training that makes up the bulk of the Cycling Action Plan will get Scotland to the target.

Scotland needs to follow London's lead and build cycling infrastructure.

"London has seen an incredible increase in cycling for lots of reasons and it shows there is demand out there," he says. "But with the best will in the world, Scotland doesn't have the available budget that London has.

"The crucial thing about the Cycle Superhighways is that it is re-allocation of road space, taking a lane currently for cars and giving it to people riding bikes. That is a brave political step to take and one we want to see happen in Scotland."

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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14 comments

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oldstrath | 8 years ago
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A joke. And not a very good one. The ruling party rejected a proposal to introduce presumed liability because they were scared of the motor lobby. Most of the transport money is going on roads, the token amount spent on cycling goes on idiocy such as NiceWay, promotional leaflets and tourist routes.

Of course the 10% target is achievable, if they had the foggiest notion of how to. But they don't. Not that the opposition are any better - if anything they are more obsessed by the moton vote.

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Gennysis | 8 years ago
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On a population level (almost) everyone agrees that they want more people to cycle rather than drive.

On a personal level (almost) everyone also secretly agrees that they don't want to do this because driving is easier.

Clearly there is not enough carrot in the plans for cycling in Scotland to tempt people onto their bikes, but there is also not enough stick to force people out of their cars.

Without both the vision is just a mirage.

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joebee9870 | 8 years ago
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Is that more talk I hear? Less talk and more action. That's the only way things change.

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Dnnnnnn | 8 years ago
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"London has seen an incredible increase in cycling for lots of reasons and it shows there is demand out there," he says. "But with the best will in the world, Scotland doesn't have the available budget that London has".

Actually, Scotland is the only part of the UK where government transport spending comes anywhere close to London levels. Look up table 9.15- http://is.gd/ER7xZT. And they don't have Crossrail and Tube upgrades to pay for.

The money is there. The political will isn't.

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harrybav | 8 years ago
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Closest thing we have to superhighways in Edinburgh is the Bus (and Bike) Lanes, terrific, enforced by cameras, brilliant. Currently being abolished at peak times. Back to the stone age, then!

Don't waste time imagining things are getting better.

And that Dutch 70s campaign looks like it'd translate as "Stop The Childkilling". I wonder what their infrastructure would look like now if they'd been less confrontational, maybe with a family-friendly day out "Pedal on Parliament".

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Das | 8 years ago
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Its all Pie in the Sky. Lets start by getting the roads up to a state of repair where they could be considered safe. Then lets start with educating Drivers and Cyclist on how to treat each other. The introduction of a 1.5m Law would go a huge way to making cyclists feel they have a bit of protection out there. Then if you want to go around spraying Blue Paint on the roads fine. And after that every single new road that is built(obviously other than motorways) or resurfaced includes as a bare minimum includes a 1.5m wide cycle lane.

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joemmo replied to Das | 8 years ago
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Das wrote:

Its all Pie in the Sky. Lets start by getting the roads up to a state of repair where they could be considered safe. Then lets start with educating Drivers and Cyclist on how to treat each other. The introduction of a 1.5m Law would go a huge way to making cyclists feel they have a bit of protection out there. Then if you want to go around spraying Blue Paint on the roads fine. And after that every single new road that is built(obviously other than motorways) or resurfaced includes as a bare minimum includes a 1.5m wide cycle lane.

a quick response:

Roads considered safe for who? Athletic cyclists who already ride or 7 year old kids?
Educating drivers - not really working so far that one.
1.5m law - enforced by whom?
Bluepaint - yes, its pointless.
New roads with cycle lanes - agree but lets start by fitting some of the existing ones with separate infrastructure.

I get your point but separate infra should be the absolute top priority, if we keep saying lets' do all the other things first because they are easier' then there will never be progress, just the same old excuses repeated ad infinitum.

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DavidJ | 8 years ago
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Don't forget that these people supported the Niceway Code

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djfleming22 | 8 years ago
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The first thing you should do is out some tarmac on the roads and you might see some more cyclists... the roads are a mess potholes all over the place the countryside like like a dumping ground between Barrhead and Irvine the councils just don't seem to care anymore... all the potholes are filled for cars and alike.... they don't seemed to care about 2 wheeled vehicles

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CarlosFerreiro | 8 years ago
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Official confirmation from parliament that 10% of all trips is a government target  3
http://www.spokes.org.uk/2013/02/1-by-2020-vision-or-target/

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a_to_the_j | 8 years ago
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doesnt matter if it south of the border or above (seeing as scotland government has full control of scottish roads it should not be the old Westminister argument)

anyway that 10% that was a target, then it became an aim, now an ambition, and soon it will be a distant memory...

apart from tourist route upgrades, this scottish country has done very little to help day to day cycling in cities and especially in rural towns and surrounding communities.

the whole cycling infrastructure and the promises of spending are a JOKE, above and below any border in the UK.

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PonteD | 8 years ago
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Can we have this positive attitude to cycling from politicians south of the border as well please? (or maybe move the border south by a few hundred miles).

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portec | 8 years ago
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Did I read that correctly? A ten-fold increase in 5 years? Wow, that's ambitious.

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Kim replied to portec | 8 years ago
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A ten-fold increase in 5 years? Roughly what the Dutch achieved in the 1970's after the Stop de Kindermort protests. Now if Cycling Scotland got fully behind the Pedal on Parliament protest it would be possible, but they are not there yet...

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