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Scottish cycling commissioner pens scathing letter condemning the “frustrating and disappointing” lack of collaboration drowning active travel plans in “bureaucracy”

The former cyclocross and mountain bike champion said that she has seen “large sums of money” spent on bureaucracy while “inexpensive, creative projects that value people” were stifled

Former professional mountain biker Lee Craigie’s term as Scotland’s Active Nation Commissioner came to an end last week, but as she stepped down, she wrote a letter directly addressed to the Scottish Minister of Active Travel Patrick Harvie, condemning the Government's reluctance to focus on ensuring a modal and behavioural shift and obsessing over bureaucracy, which has resulted in many active travel projects failing to see the light of day.

Craigie wrote that in the last four years, while she had been inspired by the vision and passion behind the efforts to increase levels of walking, wheeling and cycling, there was a “frustrating and disappointing lack of collaboration and levels of bureaucracy” halting progress, which will need to be addressed in the future.

She said: “I have witnessed comparatively large sums of money being spent ensuring bureaucratic processes were adhered to while inexpensive, person-centered, creative projects that value people and might have better engaged younger or harder to reach audiences were drowned in procurement processes or dumbed down to avoid any possibility of debate or controversy.

> Convenience not weather keeping Scots in their cars says cycling commissioner

A former British cyclocross and 24-hour mountain bike champion, Craigie was appointed as Scotland’s Ambassador for Active Travel in 2019, before taking on a three-year role as the Active Nation Commissioner.

In the letter to the co-leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie, which Craigie also shared on Twitter, she emphasised the importance of a behavioural shift. She said that “active travel directly infiltrates so many other policy areas that it should be considered a Super Policy”.

“Transport is a social justice issue yet reducing our health inequalities and our carbon emissions should be at the heart of every policy made by every department of the Scottish Government,” she added.

Cragie also added that a vocal minority was hindering efforts to improve air quality and restrict cars, such as on pavements and where children played.

She said: “Unfortunately, it is still a well organised minority of people with the loudest voices who are given the broadest platform to express their views and this is undermining the individuals and institutions we know are in the majority and who wish to live by compassionate values.

“This, in turn, makes those people feel that they are instead in the minority and that upholding their compassionate values is pointless because everyone around them is simply out for themselves.

“This is why cultures of selfish values become self-actualising. It is the responsibility of our statutory services and political leaders to make bold. fair, health and environment-centred decisions based on fact and the carefully considered opinions of a broad range of our diverse population and not a privileged few.

> Cycling UK urges next Scottish Government to commit 10 per cent of transport budget to active travel

Scottish Conservatives’ Transport Spokesperson Graham Simpson told The Scotsman: “Lee Craigie’s frustrations are very clear in this damning letter which should be a wake-up call for Patrick Harvie.

“Her comments on the lack of joined-up thinking, bureaucracy and the failure to involve communities in planning for active travel should be acted on immediately.

“Her role was always more symbolic than anything. Perhaps if she had been given some authority then she would not felt the need to write such a polite but strong letter.”

Scottish Labour’s active travel spokesperson Mercedes Villalba MSP said: “The Scottish Government must prioritise active travel infrastructure and properly fund local projects designed to provide better access to walking and cycling – both of which are vital if we are to reduce traffic on our roads – rather than getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

“Access to and experience of active travel is impacted by our gender, our ethnicity, and whether we have a disability. Active travel options must be inclusive while seeking to redress social as well as economic inequalities, so that marginalised communities have access to walking and cycling.

“The Scottish Government must end the cuts to local authorities and invest in insourcing to treat active travel like the vital public service it is with well paid, unionised public sector workers at the heart of it.”

> Cycling's modal share in Scotland up fivefold during lockdown

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “We will take on board her comments as we continue our review of our approach to active travel delivery for 2024-25.

“Lee has offered and continues to provide a strong, trusted, and impartial voice in broadening the public conversation on active travel.

“We thank the ambassador for her time and commitment to increasing active travel in her role.”

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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14 comments

Avatar
Safety | 9 months ago
5 likes

In Scotland we have SNP in power for over a decade and delivered remarkably little on active travel.
Scottish Greens, out and out incompetents.
Conservatives taking hypocrisy to new levels.
Labour with an active travel spokesperson called Mercedes, unfortunate at best.
We're doomed Mr Mannering we're doomed.

Avatar
Gimpl replied to Safety | 9 months ago
1 like

Not just in Scotland but the whole of the UK. 

They're all incompetent lying scumbags!

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Safety | 9 months ago
1 like

Scotland is particularly doomed with the SNP it must be said

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giff77 replied to Safety | 9 months ago
1 like

To give them their due they have invested heavily in leisure cycling projects. When it comes to commuting they have failed dismally in most parts of the country.  The ambitious 10% modal share by 2020 was never met and the lockdowns only pushed it up to 3.4%. I'm sure that it has dropped back down to below 2% since 2021. They've also consistently not committed to other issues that would make utility cycling so much more attractive. 

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giff77 replied to Safety | 9 months ago
0 likes

To give them their due they have invested heavily in leisure cycling projects. When it comes to commuting they have failed dismally in most parts of the country.  The ambitious 10% modal share by 2020 was never met and the lockdowns only pushed it up to 3.4%. I'm sure that it has dropped back down to below 2% since 2021. They've also consistently not committed to other issues that would make utility cycling so much more attractive. 

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mjcycling replied to Safety | 9 months ago
0 likes

Heres a bit of good news/balance. Funding levels for Active Travel are 10% of the Scottish Government transport budget. Edinburgh has high levels of cycling at peak times even in the city centre which is a rather unfriendly environment. Traffic counts show high levels of cycling - Check out http://www.spokes.org.uk/2023/05/city-centre-traffic-count-bike-numbers-...

However Local Authorities struggle through years of underfunding and lack of skilled staff to implement any plans or projects. We are 30 years behind (northern European cycling nations) in the UK generally. Sustrans are a delivery vehicle with a degree of inflexibility on standards of new infrastructure.

Need to keep our representatives mailbags bulging with encouraging missives when Active Travel schemes are built and are successful. 

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chrisonabike replied to mjcycling | 9 months ago
0 likes

The good: while the % budget share of the transport budget for active travel represents a remarkable thing in the UK
... and certainly Edinburgh has a fair bit (for the UK) of cycling in certain locations, at certain times (clue - take the city as a whole and it's not much above the UK's 1-2% IIRC)
... and some Edinburgh councillors "get it" and there have been some half-way "correct" new active travel schemes (ignoring the Leith Walk tram mess, there's e.g. CCWEL and Roseburn to the Canal which will probably be good enough for Scandinavia - although not current NL quality)

...it's still unclear exactly how that is getting spent.  It's very definitely not all cycling - nor "transport cycling" either!  Rumours were that this could be interpreted to allow the money to e.g. go to buses or other public transport!  The motoring lobby is still strong and Scotland missed the chance to do a 30 to 20 default change like Wales.

There's hope.  I'm still not sure we're at the beginning yet though, never mind the end of the beginning.  And if Scotland takes its cues from south of the border, or Labour make great headway it's quite possible they'll reverse and implement an "end to the war on the motorist" (which Starmer seems to want to copy from Sunak).

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Midgex | 9 months ago
0 likes

More about government procurement or spending of public money and use of shared resources  than cycling. An alternative would be peers and councillors ringing up friends.  Done0 right the few things persist.

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chrisonabike | 9 months ago
3 likes

TBH I imagine anyone coming into close contact with government - especial at the national level - will be shocked at the inefficiency and the bureaucracy. Or they should be. That's the nature of the beast.

I think Patrick Harvie gets cycling - at least he personally gets about by bike and seems to get it more than eg. a Johnson. But the Greens are the minor partner (7 vs. 63 for SNP). The SNP has a... mixed record.

We're still very much car-dependent in Scotland, even in the cities.

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dreamlx10 | 9 months ago
0 likes

There are no such parties as Scottish Conservative or Scottish Labour, they are Conservative and Labour.

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dubwise | 9 months ago
1 like

Lee had better watch out, Harvie will have jailed just for being a female and having an opinion.

As for the labour and tory people, how do you sleep at night with the untruths you speak.

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Boopop | 9 months ago
0 likes

Please can "Scottish Conservatives’ Transport Spokesperson Graham Simpson" have a word with Rishi Sunak?

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jaymack replied to Boopop | 9 months ago
5 likes

Two words surely? 

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polainm replied to jaymack | 9 months ago
7 likes

Lee hits a few nails on the head with her parting letter. Voting Range Rover drivers brandishing a rolled up Daily Mail 'paper will continue to vote for a self-centred culture until their worthless pension can't pay for their flooded/burnt home without power, and obeseogenic health disorders. Certainly no carers available in their time of need. 

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