We note with interest that the Scottish Government has just announced plans to spend £3 billion on dualling the A96 by 2030 – on top of £3 billion already announced to dual the A9 by 2025 (and we’ll remember that next time we sit in a meeting with our Transport Minister Keith Brown and hear how tight money is). But that’s not all – add in the proposed new Forth Crossing (£2 billion) plus the Aberdeen bypass (a mere half a billion) and the total comes to £8.5 billion. As you know, our manifesto calls for a minimum of 5% of transport spending to be spent on cycling – so what would 5% of that £8.5bn buy us?

Costs of infrastructure vary, of course, but Sustrans’s Connect 2 guidelines suggest the following figures for urban cycling infrastructure (rural paths tend to be a bit cheaper)

  • cycle track: £116,500 – £933,000 per km
  • segregated path: £116,500 £466,000 per km
  • kerb segregated lane: £116,500 – £933,000 per km
  • home zones / cycle streets £350,000 – £933,000 per km
  • traffic calmed / managed streets £116,500 – £350,000 per km

We don’t want any old rubbish, so let’s assume we go for the top of the price range here. That means £1 million buys us just over a kilometre of cycle track or kerb-segregated lane or home-zone streets – or just over 2 km of segregated path or nearly 3 km of traffic calmed or managed streets. 5% of £8.5 billion is £425 million; in other words, for just a fraction of the cost of these mega road projects we could invest in 455 km of safe, separated cycle tracks. To put that into perspective, the entire Edinburgh traffic-free network is just 70 km long.

And if you’re thinking that’s a lot of money to spend on a few cyclists, then we’re not the only ones to benefit. New York’s recent evaluation of its investment in protected bike lanes found that retail sales along the route went up 50%, while injuries to all road users were 38-58% down. Drivers, pedestrians, shoppers and shopkeepers win too.

So what are we waiting for, Mr Brown?

What would you buy?