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5 per cent of Scots commute by bike - but country set to miss 2020 cycling target by miles

Cycling Scotland has published its 2019 Annual Cycling Monitoring Report

Five per cent of people in Scotland commute by bike regularly, according to new figures – but with less than three months to go before the year 2020 is rung in, the data confirm that the Scottish Government is set to fall woefully short of its target of cycling making up 10 per cent of journeys in the country by the start of the new decade.

The figures come from the Annual Cycling Monitoring Report, compiled by Cycling Scotland using feedback from local authorities and produced in partnership with Sustrans and Living Streets.

While some progress has been made in recent years in increasing the proportion of journeys made by bike – modal share averaged 0.9 per cent from 2008-10 and rose to an average of 1.3 per cent in 2015-17 (and 1.5 per cent in the final year of that period), campaigners such as Pedal on Parliament have criticised the Scottish Government for not making enough funding available to help achieve its target.

The percentage of people who say they “usually” commute by bike has risen from 2.3 per cent in 2010 to 2.8 per cent in 2017, while the proportion of those who agree that they “regularly” do so is up from 1.8 per cent to 2.1 per cent, giving a combined total of 4.9 per cent. However, that reflects a fall on the combined totals of almost 6 per cent seen four or five years ago.

Edinburgh, at 11.9 per cent, has the highest percentage of people who usually or regularly get to work by bike. Highland comes next at 11.7 per cent, then Moray on 9.1 per cent, Dundee City at 8.5 per cent and, with 6.4 per cent, the Orkney Islands.

The report also revealed a sharp rise in cyclist casualties, and a spokesperson for Cycling Scotland, quoted in a recent article in The Scotsman, said: “It is great that the number of people cycling in Scotland is steadily increasing - for environmental, health and economic reasons.

“Unfortunately, while good progress has been made on reducing road casualties over the past ten years, serious injuries to people riding have increased in parallel with the rise in cycling.

“The need for further action to tackle the increase in serious injuries is recognised in the current Road Safety Framework and should be a key priority in the new framework for 2020-2030.

“The only way to improve cycling safety is comprehensive action across the 4 Es of road safety: engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement.

“The investment in new dedicated cycling infrastructure, more cycle training and enforcement like Police Scotland’s Operation Close Pass are all critical steps in ensuring the safety of people cycling.”

You can find the full report, which also ranks individual local authority areas on a number of metrics including the presence of cycle-friendly workplaces and schools, here.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Kim | 4 years ago

Note that original Cycling Action Plan for Scotland target was 10% cycle modal share, but it soon became clear that this was not going to be hit, so it was changed to a "vision" of 10% commuter journeys. There is a very real difference between modal share (the share of ALL journeys undertake by a particular mode of transport) and commuter journeys which are a small sub section mostly undertaken by adult males. The Scottish Government has totally failed to show leadership on this. It has also been aided and abetted by Cycling Scotland who failed to honestly report the lack of progress towards the target, and make clear why the policy was failing. We all know the causes of the failure, a total lack of investment.

Pedal on Parliament, in it's early days, did successfully bring pressure to reverse the cuts to active travel budget and also an initial increase in funding. However, the level of investment remains well below the minimum of 5% of transport spending (followed rises of 1% per year until 10% of transport budget is used for active travel), an idea borrow from the City of Edinburgh Council.

Currently Edinburgh is commenting 10% of transport budget to active travel, the results of which are shown by the relatively high levels of commuter cycling in the city. However, cycle modal share in Edinburgh remains low due to the poor quality of infrastructure which was initially built and the archaic planning system which is holding up further improvements in infrastructure. This is an issue which the Scottish Government has totally fail to address and is causing public money to be wasted in the development of second rate infrastructure.

There is cause for hope, in that the Scottish Government have now declared a Climate Emergency which should help set the scene for really positive change. If the will is there then change is possible, it is possible to achieve a rapid change in modal share, and 10% within five year is entirely feasible, if the investment and good quality infrastructure are put in place. The result of which would also mean that Scotland could achieve it's CO2 targets and improve its woeful record on health (among other things).

CyclingInBeastMode | 4 years ago

Is that how it works, you add up two groups to get your total, I've not seen that before, counting journeys is more reliable as an indicator of increases or decreases. in any case 'usually' and 'regularly' are the same thing.

On top of that 

Here's an interesting document re Scotland's vision re active travel, they've got a hell of a long way to go given that the cycling in numbers mantra is not working to reduce injury numbers, or are there other factors having a hand in matters?

It all sounds good particularly the bit under the heading "WHAT SCOTLAND WILL LOOK LIKE IF WE ACHIEVE THIS VISION" achieving it is another matter altogether!

mdavidford replied to CyclingInBeastMode | 4 years ago

CyclingInBeastMode wrote: any case 'usually' and 'regularly' are the same thing.

No they're not.

If I cycle to work once every fortnight (but drive every other day) I'm doing so 'regularly'. Even if you assume the slightly laxer understanding of the word as being a synonym for 'frequently', you could still describe it as 'regularly' if you're cycling, say, about 25% of the time.

On the other hand, if I 'usually' cycle to work, it implies that at least half of my commutes, and probably more, are by cycle.

I imagine this was taken from a survey question that said something like 'How often do you commute by cycle': Never; Hardly ever; Occasionally; Regularly; Usually [select one]. In this case, there's nothing of about adding up the numbers to give what you might consider to be the group of cycle commuters.

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