Annual Monitoring Report
2017 Annual Cycling Monitoring Report

Next month, at whichever PoP(s) you attend (and remember there are now FOUR to choose from!), you are likely to hear some fine words from politicians local and national about how cycle-friendly their policies are.

However, facts – and results – speak louder than words and it just so happens we have some results to hand, courtesy of Cycling Scotland’s latest Annual Monitoring Report .

It’s good news that this is being published regularly as, without any indication of progress, it’s impossible to know whether the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland is actually working. Handily, it also has figures for each local authority (although be aware that, because it’s based on the National Household Survey, the sample sizes are quite small  – so don’t pin too much confidence on any individual figure).

So, what do we find? Well, lots of pretty graphs and infographics, which is nice. And when you look at them closely, you get the sense that Cycling Scotland have worked very hard to squeeze some good news out of the figures – starting with some headline increases: a 47% rise in the distance travelled by bike since 2004:

47% increase in km travelled by bike
Increase in km travelled by bike – figure taken from the 2017 Annual Cycling Monitoring Report

And a 50% increase in the share of trips mainly taken by bike:*

Growth in mode share
Level of Cycling in Scotland – 2017 Annual Cycling Monitoring Report

There are also some pretty circles suggesting that primary school children are increasingly cycling to school (we’ll draw a veil over what is happening among secondary school kids):

Cycling to school rates
Cycling rates to school – figure from the 2017 Annual Cycling Monitoring Report


There’s just one tiny fly in the ointment. While a 50% increase in cycling modal share might seem good, it’s from an extremely low base. And the Scottish Government’s original vision was pretty clear: 10% of journeys by bike by 2020, which is now less than three years away.

So how does that growth in the share of trips by bike look when we line it up against that target?*

growth against target
The growth in cycling levels in Scotland, against the 2020 vision


This is not so much a mountain to climb, it’s a whole other planet.

To be fair to Cycling Scotland, they appreciate as well as we do that without commensurate investment in active travel, we’re not going to climb that mountain in time. They said as much in their own CAPS review, with which we fully agreed at the time. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government disagreed. That’s why we’re still Pedalling on Parliament, and this year on councils, to press for 10% of transport spending to go on active travel – the only way we’re going to get to 10% of journeys by bike in our lifetimes.


It has been pointed out that this graphic could be misleading as it’s not clear whether we’re looking at the area or the radius of the blobs and using the area – as the original Monitoring Report does – exaggerates the difference. Indeed, we did think about recasting the whole graphic to use the area, to be a bit fairer. However, the human brain isn’t good at comparing non-square shapes, whether we use areas OR radii – a cynic might argue that’s why the original report used them in the first place – so we have redone them as a bar chart instead:

bar chart of the data
Target and actual change, redone as a bar chart

We think that makes it crystal clear that, whichever way you slice it, we still have a mountain to climb here.

* Note: these use the radius of the circle, rather than the area, to represent the data, which isn’t considered best practice as it tends to exaggerate the difference, but we’re basing our figure on the Cycling Scotland original.

Still a mountain to climb