Thanks for posing these questions.
I am committed to leading the development of a stronger culture of cycling for Scotland. I have been a co-conveyor of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Cycling and am still a member.
I hope the responses below to your Manifesto points are of interest and look forward to continuing dialogue with you on cycling issues in order to contribute to the significant changes which need to take place in order for us to become a nation of cyclists.
If elected leader I would want to ensure that Labour embraced the ambition of promoting cycling from 8-80 to support healthy lifestyles and to promote cycling for leisure, tourism and transport objectives.
1) Proper funding for cycling, with a high and rising share of the transport budget committed to cycling nationally, and locally, aiming for a minimum of 5% of the transport budget to go to cycling, within an overall share of 10% for active travel.
There are good examples of political will to take forward the essential shift which is needed to reach our national target of 10% by 2020. Edinburgh City Council has made a robust incremental funding commitment. As a regional list MSP for Lothian I’m a strong supporter of Edinburgh Council’s 7% year on year target as I believe that part of the challenge is to ensure consistent and steady investment in cycling infrastructure with staff employed with the right knowledge and expertise. Edinburgh’s local strategy has enabled priorities to be set as a result of local consultation. My commitment to cycling can be seen by my establishment of the Safer Streets Walking and Cycling Fund as Transport Minister.
Scottish Labour is now going through our Scottish Policy Forum process so while it would be wrong for me to pre-empt our decisions I would be keen to support a proper funding for cycling and an increasing share of the transport budget to be spent on cycling and active travel.
2) Design cycling into all of Scotland’s roads and junctions, with improved and strengthened national design guidelines in line with best practice internationally, and in particular drawing on the experience of the Netherlands.
The example of the Netherlands is significant in demonstrating how political leadership can combine with citizen determination to bring about a change of culture in the transport system.
I’d want to see improved and strengthened national design guidelines so that all new roads, junctions and housing developments must have cycling provision designed in. With many new housing developments including flats it’s particularly important that there are places for people to park and store their cycles securely under cover.
The National Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Project is a positive indication of will. A number of councils such as South Lanarkshire, have committed incremental funding to filling in extensive gaps.
3) Safer speeds where people live, work and play, with 20mph the norm in residential areas and 40mph on unclassified rural roads.
It makes clear sense in terms of research about the effects of collisions at 20 as opposed to 30 mph, that residential areas should have a 20 mph speed limit. Pilots across our cities and towns have set the example and make sense. It is important to identify areas around schools also.
As the Transport Minister who included 20’s plenty legislation in our first Transport Act this is an area I’d be keen to see progress on in our residential areas.
In relation to unclassified rural roads we need research to assess the success of new pilots such as in Clackmannanshire where 40mph restrictions have been combined with signs to indicate ‘cycle friendly road’.
I’d like to see local authorities consider these in cycling strategies so that priorities could be set in conjunction with local and national cycling organisations to prioritise roads as key to cycle networks.
4) Build increased cycling into local transport strategies, giving local authorities clear targets to increase cycling in their areas in line with the national target of 10% of journeys to be by bike by 2020.
Many local authorities have increasingly robust commitments to cycling within their local transport strategies. South Lanarkshire is a good example of this with year on year commitments to urban projects such as in East Kilbride and commitments to the national cycling network.
I’d like to see the Scottish Government support local authorities with sharing of expertise and the development of clear targets to ensure local cycling strategies contribute to our national ambitions.
5) Improved road traffic law and enforcement, with a proper investigation into the introduction of ‘strict liability’ for civil cases and strict enforcement of parking on pavements and bike lanes.
You ask about strict liability. I think that presumed liability is probably better suited to our culture in Scotland. There is, of course, already health and safety law in this area. I await with interest the findings of the research commissioned by the [RoadShare Campaign] steering group, supported by Cycle Law, into European models and their effectiveness, after the start made by Scottish Government research. While I believe there is much merit in presumed liability, this is a proposal, which would need to be considered to by our Scottish Policy Forum in the deliberations leading to our Manifesto commitments for 2016.
6) A comprehensive package to eliminate the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians, from requiring better training, mirrors, sensors and warnings to limiting movements of large freight vehicles during peak times.
Several firms and a number of public bodies already have cycle signage and appropriate mirrors on vehicles. This should, in my view, become mandatory.
I also think it would be worth reviewing the Scottish Government’s strategy on freight transport generally to see what more can be done to support moving freight onto rail and supporting local companies to improve their logistics particularly in town centres where our roads struggle to cope with the increasing size of lorries.
7) A strategic and properly funded programme of road user training, with cycling part of the school curriculum, training offered to adults, and bike training made part of the requirements for licensing professional drivers.
Cycling should be part of the school curriculum. There is much to learn from the example of swimming in schools. At present, Bikeability schemes are excellent but only 38% of these include on road experience for pupils. This can be safely arranged and I think it is essential in order to develop road awareness and confidence at an early age and promote cycling as a lifelong option to promote public health.
8) Solid research and statistics on cycling with comprehensive cycle counts (including off road facilities) and more public counters of cycle numbers.
Cycle counts such as at the Meadows in Edinburgh have shown that cycling is becoming increasingly popular. These should be placed at a range of sites and could be alternated to save cost and collect data samples. The gathering of statistics is important where there are new projects to evaluate their merit. For instance, where there are proper on road segregated cycle lanes.
We need to understand that safety fears are a major obstacle for cyclists of all ages and develop safer cycling strategies informed by research and investment in cycle routes and infrastructure which creates a new safer environment for cyclists alongside other road users.
Thank you Sarah, we also look forward to hearing from your collogues and will add their replies as they arrive. So watch this space.