Ages ago – just after the last Pedal on Parliament in fact – we wrote to the minister following up on some questions that had arisen from his speech at POP. You may have been wondering if he ever replied. Well, as it happened he did, and not too long after we emailed him (we’ve been a bit behind with our admin). For your interest, here is his response below, exactly as received (except that we have added in our questions in square brackets for clarification). We’ll be posting our response to him shortly
Thank you for your email of 15 May regarding questions you raise in connection with cycling in Scotland
First, thank you for your congratulations on the recent general election result. I was also pleased to be able to attend the Pedal on Parliament rally at Holyrood Park in April and address those gathered in the park
I would like to reassure you that Scottish Ministers are fully committed to promoting sustainable and active travel and getting more people making active travel choices for both recreational and everyday journeys wherever possible to improve health and reduce carbon emissions. That is why we are working in partnership with our stakeholders such as Sustrans Scotland, Cycling Scotland and local authorities to ensure infrastructure is delivered to the highest standard to make cycling a safe and realistic travel choice for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
As you have asked specific questions I have answered these in turn.
1. [What was spent on cycling last year (by this we mean cycling only, not combined active travel spending or active travel and sustainable transport)?]
As I have explained before to stakeholders, and which I reiterated at the recent Walking, Cycling, Communities conference, investment in cycling has a wider benefit for all, and so we measure that investment as “active travel”. In 2014/15 this Scottish Government invested almost £40 million in cycling and walking projects across the country. This at a time when the overall capital budget from Westminster has decreased by 26.6%. Indeed, this is the largest funding allocation ever – a significant step-change in funding levels. Of this, £19 million was allocated to Sustrans Scotland for Community Links projects creating cycling and walking infrastructure for everyday journeys. This funding has generated £25 million of match funding by local authorities and partners throughout Scotland.
Included in the £40m, £8.2 million went to local authorities for Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets (CWSS) projects. The grant offer to local authorities requests that a minimum of 36%, and preferably above 50%, is spent on cycling projects. Local authorities are also able to add to this funding from their own resources, if cycling is a priority in their area.
Cycling in Scotland also benefits from wider investment in the transport network. For example, road maintenance work supports improved conditions for all road users including
cyclists. In addition, major transport infrastructure projects make provision for non-motorised users, upgrading and developing active travel possibilities.
2. [What is the planned cycling budget for this year?] On current spending plans, the total budget for active travel in 2015/16 is almost £36 million. Indeed, I pledged at the Pedal on Parliament rally that I would at least match last years’ spending on active travel and I intend to do this.
3. [How much extra investment do you expect to see next year?] At the beginning of the 2014/15 financial year the budget for active travel was almost £32 million. This year, 2015/16 will see that investment increase to almost £36 million – a 12% increase on the budget for 2014/15 at this time last year.
4. [Where might the additional funds come from?] Currently cycling and walking projects also receive funding from Education, Environment, Health and Wellbeing and Local Government. There are also commitments to support cycling and walking from The Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage, albeit primarily for leisure pursuits rather than for transport, but nevertheless contributing to the physical activity agenda. I have also publicly committed to putting forward a robust case for any underspends in other transport projects or a share of any UK Barnet consequentails which might be available, to be reallocated to active travel.
5. [What are the government’s future expenditure plans for cycling, in particular the next budget which will establish the budget framework for the next 2 or 3 years?] Once the budgets for the next few years are known, they will continue to be administered through working in partnership with our stakeholders, to support and deliver a wide range of projects that promote and make active travel a realistic daily option for cyclists and walkers of all ages and abilities. This will help us achieve our shared vision of 10% of everyday journey made by bike by 2020.
6. [What measures do you mean to take to make it easier for councils to implement large scale 20mph zones?] We are committed to protecting vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. In order to help reduce speed on Scotland’s residential streets, which are often used by children and other vulnerable road users, Transport Scotland published a Good Practice Guide on 20 mph speed restrictions for local authorities in January 2015.
The Guide was written in conjunction with the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) and aims to ensure greater consistency on setting 20 mph speed restrictions throughout Scotland and encourages local authorities to introduce them near schools, in residential areas and in other areas of our towns and cities where there is a significant volume of pedestrian or cyclist activity.
Whilst providing greater clarity on options available to local authorities, the Guide also recognises that Scotland’s residential road network is diverse and as such there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why the Guide reflects that local authorities are best placed to give assessments based on specific circumstances and needs on the ground and highlights the flexibility they have through the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) when they are considering introducing 20 mph zones or limits.
Also, under the current proposals to devolve more powers to Scotland, the default speed limits of 30 mph could be reduced in future. There are currently no plans to pursue this. However, Transport Scotland is taking the opportunity to carry out a mid-way review of Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020 with partners this year and will consider the use of these powers in that process, in order to ensure they best meet the needs of Scotland’s people.
7. [What progress has been made in delivering the CAPS target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020?] As for the CAPS vision, currently, 2% of everyday journeys are made by bike and this
is a figure that all stakeholders and I would like to see increase. It is also clear that we still have a way to go to achieve that vision, however, it is both a challenging and ambitious goal – yet achievable if we work in partnership nationally and locally.
Indeed Seville is an example of a steep increase in cycling being possible, going from a modal share of 0.5% in 2006 to 7% today. And there are encouraging trends with cycling to work levels in parts of Scotland approaching 10% in some areas including, Edinburgh (9.8%), Moray (8.8%) and Dumfries & Galloway (7.9%). And it is to these areas that we must look for inspiration, by sharing and adopting innovative measures and good practices to achieve these levels of cycling. I hope to attend the CAPS Delivery Forum in the Autumn and the Cycling Summit again later this year to discuss how we can bring about the step change that is needed to progress.
8. [What plans do the government have to replace “Cycling by Design” with new standards reflecting international best practice?] Transport Scotland’s Cycling by Design document was last updated in June 2011. Discussions will take place later this year about updating the document further and I have asked Transport Scotland officials to ensure that all active travel stakeholders are involved in this process to ensure that the document reflects the most up to date and innovative practices.
I hope this will reassure you that cycling, and active travel in the round, will continue to be a priority for this Scottish Government and we will continue to work in partnership with all our stakeholders in delivering better facilities for all.