News was released on Tuesday that the Scottish Greens have negotiated a £15m per year uplift in the active travel budget – up from £100m (which would have been a real-terms decrease), and we welcome this.

It will, of course, come as no surprise that we don’t think that this rise is enough. The figures as ever are murky but £115m total brings the share for active travel up to at best  3.6% of the transport budget, up from 3.1% last year — or 3.5% by Spokes’ more cautious analysis. In contrast, we, and other organisations including Cycling UK Scotland and Walk Wheel Cycle Vote, are asking for a minimum of 10%.

However, it’s still a rise, and so we want to take a look at what that extra £15m per year could mean over the course of the next five years.
The South City Way in Glasgow isn’t perfect but it is cycling infrastructure of the sort of scale and ambition we need in order to bring about real change in cycling numbers across Scotland. It is 3km long and was expected to cost £6.5m. So £15m per year would be an additional 2.3 ‘game changing‘ South City Ways, or about 7km of urban segregated cycle tracks if they came entirely from Scottish government funds – more if match funding comes from elsewhere.
Low traffic neighbourhoods can be equally game changing. Their implementation require a potentially lower cost, although it’s difficult to accurately point to the figures for any in Scotland at the moment – any recent LTNs have been cheaper to implement because they are being put through as temporary measures through #SpacesForPeople funding.

Children cycling on empty streets
Low traffic neighbourhoods can make the quiet conditions of lockdown permanent – giving everyone space to cycle – photo Ewen Maclean

The good news is that any active travel budget for infrastructure should be money well spent. This comes with potentially massive returns on investment once you take the health benefits into account – something like £6 for every £1 spent, at a conservative estimate. Our friends in Walk Wheel Cycle Vote have put together an investment briefing that goes into some of the figures in more detail.

In contrast, building roads is a really poor investment, however you slice it. That £15m would have bought us about 0.6km of dualled A9 – with a return on investment of around 85p in every £ (unless you take ‘reduced driver frustration’ into account).

So is an additional 7km of cycle tracks per year enough to get us out of the climate hole we’re digging? No, unfortunately. But at least it’s a start, and it’s not digging the hole any deeper! If you want to see more investment, faster, then please join us on 24th April for our day (and night) of action to call for a real step change in investment.

#LightTheWay #TheTimeIsNow #TheMachineFightsClimateChange #PoP2021

Active Travel budget rise translated