For those who don’t like to wade through budget documents (and who does?) here are the edited highlights: if we in Scotland want to achieve our target* of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020 then now is our absolutely last chance. We have six years to increase cycling tenfold, and we have so far barely increased cycling rates at all.
A tenfold increase in six years seems impossible – but there is one place which has managed to do just this, Seville. It built a €32m integrated network of traffic-free cycle tracks and went from a cycling rate of 0.5% of journeys to 6%. That cost them around €45 a head, but it was still just one fifth of the cost of building their underground system – and it serves more than twice as many people a day.
So can Scotland ‘do a Seville’? The answer is we don’t know – there are too many differences between changing a whole country’s cycling habits and changing a city’s. But what’s certain is that we can’t do it at all without serious investment – starting now. Failing that, then we will surely fail in our ambitions to be a cycle-friendly nation.
And no, a few commemorative cycle racks are not the answer.
If you would like to see real, sustained investment in the form of transport that pays back £19 for every £1 invested, then write to your MSP. Write to your party’s leadership candidates if you’re a member of the SNP or Scottish Labour. And tell them they’re drinking in the last chance saloon when it comes to Scotland’s health, climate and wellbeing.
* yes, we know that the government likes to call this a ‘shared vision’ or even an ‘aspiration’, but the fact is that it is building its own carbon reduction and public health strategies on this figure, and unless it wants to admit that it’s building a house of cards it needs to get serious about achieving it.