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It is often the case that the public are ahead of the politicians. In our capital city, on certain routes and at certain times of day, up to 20 per cent of the vehicles on the roads are bikes. Cycling rates in Edinburgh are becoming respectable, but the picture nationally is more mixed. The official estimate of the percentage of journeys that are taken by bike is a lowly 1 per cent. However, if we can achieve promising cycling rates in this city of seven hills, there is no reason not to aim high across Scotland.
I welcome the Government’s target of 10 per cent of journeys being made by bike by 2020. However, as members would expect, Greens believe that we could and should be going faster and further towards sustainable travel, although we recognise the significant work that has gone into producing the “Cycling Action Plan for Scotland”. In the rest of my speech, I will focus on the specific calls that we make in our motion on issues on which we think Government action has fallen short of ambition.
All members will be only too aware when a tragic cycling accident happens in their region. Since 2000, there have been 16 cycling deaths on Lothian roads, almost all of which involved another vehicle. The ages of those who lost their lives range from nine to 75. On Monday, I met the parents of Andrew McNicoll, an experienced cyclist who lost his life in January on the way to work. In his memory, the McNicolls have set up a website, www.andrewcyclist.com, to raise funds for campaigning for safer cycling. As many cycling organisations do, they call for mutual tolerance and respect and greater safety on our roads to result from education.
At the start of this month, Bryan Simons was tragically killed following a collision and, in the past week, serious cycle accidents have been reported in Dumfries and near Elgin. In highlighting those tragedies, we risk fuelling the perception that cycling is a dangerous activity that is to be avoided, but I share the view of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, that it is essential that we learn from those tragic fatalities. My motion welcomes the gradual downwards trend in cycle casualties in the latest statistics, despite there being more cyclists on the roads. The benefits of cycling vastly outweigh the risks, and it cannot be repeated enough that the single biggest thing that we can do to build a safe cycle culture on our roads is to get more cyclists on them and, thereby, to build a critical mass in favour of active and healthy travel. However, I am sure that no one will argue today that we have a road network that is adequate for cyclists. It could be much improved for vulnerable users.
We must acknowledge, as the Government’s consultation has done, that safety issues and perceived safety issues are barriers to meeting the 2020 target. I acknowledge the minister’s action last week in dedicating a meeting to cycle safety and inviting representatives from cycling and walking organisations to meet transport experts to share experience and views on how we can greatly increase cycle use while reducing casualties. It is vital that those goals be seen in unity and considered together in every policy. In that meeting, there was much consensus on the need for mutual tolerance and respect among all users. In calling the debate, my hope and intention is that we keep up the momentum and convert the talk and plans into real street-level action. I was surprised to learn that the meeting was the first time that active travel champions had attended that particular road safety group in Government. I ask the minister to ensure that they have a permanent place on the group in the future.
Speaking of momentum, I give my full support for the pedal on Parliament event that is planned for 28 April. It is a grass-roots initiative that involves a diverse group of cyclists. I urge every member to read the group’s “Making Scotland a cycle-friendly nation: a manifesto”, which makes a set of well-researched demands and goes into far more detail than I have time to do here.
Alison Johnstone has thanked the pedal on Parliament campaigners. Will she join me in thanking Spokes and Sustrans for their recent work on raising the profile of cycling and for championing the needs of cyclists across the Lothians and Scotland?
Absolutely, I will. We all commend the work of Spokes, pedal on Parliament, and Sustrans. They have all played very important parts in raising the profile of cycling.
It certainly feels to me that the cycling community is raising its voice louder than ever. For example, The Times’s cycle campaign is bringing the issue into the national domain. I urge the minister and other members who are around on 28 April to attend the pedal on Parliament rally, if possible.
Last Friday, the speed limit for many streets in the south of Edinburgh was reduced from 30mph to 20mph, as part of a pilot zone that was first proposed by my Green council colleague Steve Burgess. Way back in 2003, the previous Scottish Executive cited research that showed that injuries fell by 60 per cent and child accidents fell by 48 per cent in areas where 20mph zones were introduced. Nine years later, the Edinburgh pilot is still the most ambitious in Scotland, which suggests that progress is far too slow. We need to move to a situation where 20mph is the norm in residential areas. I would also like a broader review of speed limits in urban and rural areas. The recent accidents happened on 40mph limit roads. Those roads had parked cars, pedestrians, traffic islands and cyclists, so we must ask why they are 40mph limit roads. We must also look at the rural situation. Cars travel at 60mph through Newlandrig and residents there are calling for a 30mph zone.
If we are going to have in Scotland the type of cycle culture that we see in a number of similar-sized European countries, we need to train every child how to cycle safely on the road. The number of off-road cycle routes is growing every year, thanks to the great work that is being led by Sustrans, but the reality is that most everyday trips will involve cycling on shared road space. Currently, around 30 per cent of Scots children receive on-road training, whereas the figure is around 60 per cent in England. I think that the cycle plan needs to be more ambitious on on-road cycle training. I hope that the minister will agree to introduce a plan and resources to give all children access to on-road cycle training by 2015.
My motion also calls for more training for other road users. Just as there are careful cyclists and careless cyclists, there are careful drivers and careless drivers. We must do all that we can to build more mutual respect and tolerance on our roads. We must ensure that roads are safe spaces. Education and awareness raising are essential. I urge the Government to develop more resources for cycle awareness training for all professional and fleet drivers. I mention Lothian Buses in particular, as an example of best practice in that regard. We should also investigate the use of mirrors and sensors for some of the large vehicles on our roads.
In our Parliament city, the number of air quality management areas has doubled in recent months: they are areas where the local authority is in danger of breaching European Union air pollution limits. Breaches of the limits carry a hefty fine, not to mention their having health implications and negative impacts on people who suffer from respiratory conditions.
Investment in active travel is savvy preventative spend of the best kind for any council and yet, according to Spokes—which is much-respected for its research—half of Scottish councils spend zero pounds of their budget on cycling investment. A number of parts of my motion would require working with local authorities, but this is not an opportunity to pass the buck: it is a call for stronger leadership from the Scottish Government. Pedal on Parliament is pedalling on Parliament because the campaign sees Parliament as having a leading role.
Anyone who has tried to navigate central Edinburgh recently knows the disruption that road works can cause. We desperately need a long-term plan and money for segregated cycle lanes in urban areas, which are the norm in some European cities, and we must get better at improving our road infrastructure. Every time a road is dug up, a junction is changed or new signs are installed, let us seize the opportunity to make the area better for cyclists. If a road is being dug up, let us lay a cycle lane at that point.
Government action is needed to simplify the current traffic regulation order process. It can take a council months simply to remove a parking space for a cycle lane, which is a significant barrier to councils that want to respond by increasing cycling rates. We can address that kind of bureaucratic barrier now.
I could not open a debate about active travel without addressing funding. During the budget process, many members raised concerns and I acknowledge that the Government made last-minute changes. Yesterday, the Minister for Housing and Transport announced that the total cost of improving motorways in central Scotland will be more than £500 million, but the sums that are invested in low-carbon travel are tiny and will still be only 0.8 per cent of the transport budget in 2013-14. If we get this right, we will reap a long list of rewards in terms of health, air quality, jobs, carbon emissions, congestion and more. As a country, we need to shift up a few gears and match our words and ambition with action. I look forward to hearing speeches from across the chamber.
That the Parliament welcomes the growing number of cyclists in Scotland and the 12% drop in cycling accident casualties between 2000 and 2010; believes that investing far more in infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians will boost jobs, reduce business costs, cut congestion and climate-changing pollution and improve Scotland’s health by improving air quality and reducing obesity; recognises the central importance of cycling safety and the perception of safety on the road to encouraging more people to cycle; considers that active travel is a cross-cutting priority for central and local government and that active travel champions should be represented on relevant transport and land-use forums, and calls on the Scottish Government to place active travel at the heart of the planning system, to work with local authorities to implement a rolling programme to upgrade infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists as part of every road improvement, to expand the use of 20 mph zones in residential and shopping streets, to consider reviewing all urban speed limits and simplifying the Traffic Regulation Orders process, to provide the necessary support to ensure that all road users have access to increased cycling safety training and to work with local authorities to ensure that every child in Scotland has the opportunity to undertake on-road cycle training by 2015.
I thank Alison Johnstone for lodging the motion and for the way in which she has spoken to it. It is a comprehensive motion on cycling that provides us with a good opportunity to debate further what actions and partnership working are needed. As she suggested, Parliament is generally in agreement that cycling should be a safe, healthy and realistic choice as a mode of transport. There has recently been a focus on cycling, not least because of the four fatalities in Edinburgh in the past 12 months, which have led to the recent road safety operational partnership group meeting. That meeting provided an extremely fruitful discussion; it was well attended and there was participation from a wide range of cycling stakeholders, some of whom have been mentioned.
In Scotland, the growth in the number of cyclists has been accompanied by a 12 per cent drop in cycle accident casualties between 2000 and 2010. That was the result of a lot of activity by different partners. As Alison Johnstone said, we have a vested interest in trying to make it clear to the public—as far as we can and with the appropriate caveats—how safe cycling is and how much safer it has become, with fewer serious accidents happening. If we do that, we are more likely to encourage more cycling.
That said, we cannot be complacent. Everyone has been shocked by the cycling deaths in Edinburgh over the past 12 months. When such tragedies happen, we are all reminded that, although Scotland’s roads are among the safest in the world, one life lost is one too many.
I accept Alison Johnstone’s point that the Government has a leadership role to play in making use of our roads safer for everyone. We will do that by facilitating partnership working. At the forum that I mentioned, there were two excellent presentations from City of Edinburgh Council and Glasgow City Council, which showed stark results in the reduction in the number of cycling casualties—in one case going back 50 years and in the other case going back 60 years.
I declare an interest as a former chair of the north east of Scotland transport partnership. In the north-east, there has been an initiative to fit Fresnel lenses free on articulated lorries, which has led to a reduction in the number of accidents. Could that initiative be rolled out across the country?
At the road safety forum, we discussed several initiatives that are taking place in different localities, and the need to spread those out as best practice. Kevin Stewart mentioned one such initiative; others are happening elsewhere. The leadership role of the Scottish Government is to draw in those examples and to ensure that they are extended where that is possible. I commend Nestrans for having undertaken that initiative. A number of approaches to better cyclist safety are either being trialled or are in practice around Scotland, but people are not always aware of them. There is a role for Government in making people aware of them.
Currently, 98 per cent of Scottish primary schools offer cycle training and 70 per cent of pupils take up the offer. Of the eligible cohort of 55,000 pupils, 69.5 per cent receive some form of cycle training, but only 31.5 per cent are receiving on-road training to the national standard. That is why I have agreed a target with Cycling Scotland of 40 per cent of children receiving on-road training by 2015. I urge every local authority in Scotland to work in partnership with Cycling Scotland not just to meet that target, but to exceed it. We must reinforce the message that learning to cycle in a live environment is more beneficial than learning to ride a bike in a playground.
An immediate development from the operational partnership group meeting is that, following a representation from the sustainable transport team, which has responsibility for cycling, it will provide on-going feedback to the group on what the cycling action plan delivery forum and the national cycling interest group are doing, and on whether those fora have raised concerns about road safety. I hope that that will provoke wider discussion of the issues and improved communication in the established cycling groups, without unnecessary duplication of effort. There are quite a number of players, so we should co-ordinate our activities productively.
Funding has been mentioned. Over the next three financial years, £20.25 million will be provided for active travel projects, with a focus on cycling and walking infrastructure. That is in addition to £15 million for wider sustainable and active travel initiatives.
Sustrans was also mentioned. Its budget will increase from £5.5 million this year to more than £7 million, £8 million then £9 million in the next three years. We are retaining the ring fencing of the cycling, walking and safer streets grant, which is allocated to local authorities to deliver active travel projects. Alison Johnstone made the point that we rely on local authorities to play their part. Some—not least, the City of Edinburgh Council—do that substantially.
Does the minister agree that, by pledging to spend 5 per cent of its transport budget on active travel schemes, the City of Edinburgh Council sets a good example for the rest of Scotland, which other local authorities should follow if we are to meet our 2020 targets?
It is true that, over a long period—certainly even when I lived in Edinburgh up to the 1980s—the council’s leadership role has been evident. Other local authorities might have different priorities and different opportunities, but the example that the City of Edinburgh Council has set is worth being looked at by other authorities. Some authorities around the country are doing great work.
The roads budget was mentioned. Alison Johnstone might not have had a chance yet to see the detail of the M8 bundle that was discussed yesterday, which she mentioned. If she has the chance to look at that, she will see that it involves substantial investment in pedestrian and cycling activity, which have also been included in other projects, such as the M74 extension. The issue is always at the forefront of our minds.
The cycling, walking and safer streets grant will be just over £6 million in 2012-13. Our grant offer retains a request for at least 36 per cent, and preferably 50 per cent, of the grant to be spent on cycling.
We are committed to meeting the world-leading Scottish climate change targets and are on track to do so. In 2009, emissions had fallen by 27.6 per cent from 1990 levels, which is almost two thirds of the way to meeting the target of a 42 per cent emissions reduction by 2020. Substantial progress has been and is being made.
We are doing what we said in our manifesto we would do; we are developing the infrastructure to support electric cars, on which I said quite a deal at a conference yesterday. We are also increasing the proportion of transport spending on low-carbon, active and sustainable travel. We are investing £1 billion in public and sustainable transport.
When I sum up, I will say more on current activity across Scotland. I am keen to hear others’ views.
I move amendment S4M-02522.3, to insert at end:
“, and reaffirms the Scottish Government’s target of 10% of journeys made by bike by 2020.”
I, too, welcome the opportunity to discuss cycling. We have had debates on buses, ferries and railways in the past few weeks, so it is about time we discussed active low-carbon transport as well.
It is sad that there have recently been four fatalities within a month in Edinburgh. However, it is worth recording that accident levels have fallen since 2000, as the motion says. In a recent briefing, Cyclists Touring Club said that the risks of not cycling outweigh the risks of cycling by 77 to 1. I am not quite sure how that statistic was calculated, but it is fairly impressive.
We need to be clear that active travel should not be confused with sustainable or low-carbon travel. The minister referred to the budget for sustainable and active travel, which I understand will increase its budget share from 1 per cent to 1.4 per cent over the three-year spending review period. We need a separate budget line for active travel so that we can see whether the spending commitments on active travel are being fulfilled.
Much of Labour’s amendment is about 20mph zones. I understand from a press release from the transport minister on 21 March that such zones were among the initiatives that were discussed at the recent meeting of the road safety operational partnership group that focused on cyclist safety. The motion also refers to 20mph zones and traffic regulation orders.
I have recently been in contact with a campaign called 20’s plenty for us, which has been active around a constituency issue in Langholm. Rod King, the founder and national director, made me aware of the difference between 20mph zones and mandatory 20mph limits. Reduced traffic speeds in residential areas benefit pedestrians and other road users. The conventional way of doing that is to use self-policing measures, such as road humps, accompanied by advisory signage. However, speed bumps can present a hazard to cyclists. Cars weave around the bumps, stationary cars are sometimes parked on the bumps and cars and lorries that weave around them create potholes, which can be hazardous to cyclists.
Meanwhile, 20mph limits are mandatory and are advertised and policed in the same way as any other speed limit. They do not require physical speed deterrents, but they require policing. Although there are 20mph limits in parts of Scotland, including here in Edinburgh, some local authorities and police forces are reluctant to introduce them.
According to 20’s plenty for us, part of the problem is the guidance that we use here in Scotland, which differs from that which has been issued by the Department for Transport in England and Wales. The Scottish guidance was developed in 2001, but the DFT guidance was further developed in 2006. It states that
“the needs of vulnerable road users must be fully taken into account in order to encourage these modes of travel and improve their safety”.
It goes on to mention the importance of setting appropriate speed limits and states that
“speed limits should seek to encourage walking and cycling and to protect community life”.
The DFT guidance also crucially differs from our 2001 guidance by stating that
“mean speeds should be used to determine local speed limits as this reflects what the majority of drivers perceive as an appropriate speed”.
That is a change from the previous use of the 85th percentile speed, which I understand still applies in Scotland. For example, the DFT guidance recommends use of a 20mph limit in appropriate urban areas where the mean speed is 24mph
Changes-to-signage requirements are UK wide, as are the speed limits, but their use is determined by what is considered to constitute a traffic-calming device. Down south, the signage counts towards being a traffic calming device.
That comes back to policing, which is where some resistance comes in from local authorities and police forces. They do not want to have to police the 20mph limit, but we police 30mph, 40mph and 60mph limits, so we should also police 20mph limits.
The final part of my amendment encourages us all—ministers and the rest of us—to participate in active travel. I speak as somebody who took their bicycle home before the elections in 2007 and has not yet brought it back. That is something that all of us in Parliament can do to set a good example and to encourage other people to get involved in active travel such as walking and cycling.
I move amendment S4M-02522, to insert at end:
“; urges the Scottish Government to examine the guidance issued regarding the implementation of mandatory 20 mph limits to ensure that its policy meets the needs of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists and actively encourages walking and cycling, and further believes that the Scottish Ministers should set a good example by using active methods of travel whenever possible.”
I congratulate Alison Johnstone on using her party’s business time to bring this very important issue to the chamber. I think that it is the first time during my five years in the Scottish Parliament that we have had the opportunity to debate it.
To pick up on Elaine Murray’s theme, I should probably declare an interest, being a cyclist myself. Last summer I spent a week in the French Pyrenees and cycled more than 700km in six days, including 12 of the tour de France’s toughest mountain passes. I might not win all the debating points, but surely I will win that one.
The number of people who cycle in Scotland and across the United Kingdom has grown at an incredible rate in recent years. There has also been an increase in the public debate about cycling, following the successful cities fit for cycling campaign by The Times, which I fully support. About 30,000 people have now expressed their support for its eight-point manifesto. Perhaps more important is that the campaign has also been backed by organisations such as the Automobile Association and the RAC.
The benefits of cycling have been mentioned by others, but it is also important to recognise that
“Cycling is the most efficient form of transport in the world. ... A 2009 study by Professor David MacKay found that an average cyclist will use less than a third of the amount of energy required to walk, a sixth of the energy needed to travel by coach and an eightieth of the energy a car would use.”
“three quarters of our journeys in the UK are five miles or fewer”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 23 February 2012; c 343WH.]— it is clear that cycling could and should be promoted as one of our basic transport needs. It is clearly not suitable for all journeys, and there are additional challenges in rural areas such as those in my constituency. However, rural areas and towns can all do things to promote cycling, although the exact details will be different in each case.
The health benefits of cycling are significant, and my colleague Nanette Milne will cover them in her speech. Cycling is good for the environment: even if one takes into account the food that a cyclist has to eat, where it comes from and how it was produced, carbon dioxide emissions are a fraction of those from other vehicles.
If we hope to encourage cycling—I think that we should—we must ensure that the safety of cyclists is improved. One way to do that would be through improved training. One training organisation suggested that two hours of training, costing £70, would transform the safety of cyclists on the road. We must also look at what our schools are doing to ensure that our children are introduced to the benefits of cycling at a young age, that they are encouraged to cycle to school, and that they are given training to do so safely.
However, it works both ways. Some cyclists ignore red lights, thereby endangering themselves. Many others do not use proper lighting on their bikes either at night or when visibility is poor. That is not the responsibility of Government or motorists; it is up to the cyclists to behave properly.
When cycling in Europe, I am always struck by how considerate other road users are towards cyclists. Indeed, I understand that in most other European countries the law states that the less-vulnerable road user causing harm is deemed to be responsible or culpable, unless evidence is produced to the contrary. Similarly, other countries often insist on minimum passing distances.
Local authorities need to do more to improve the safety of cyclists. Some councils have very good cycle-friendly schemes, but others have been found wanting. We must do more to invest in cycling infrastructure, not least to ensure that our roads are up to cycle quality. As a cyclist and a car driver, I know that what might be a relatively small hole for a car often becomes a more serious problem for a cyclist.
We will support the Scottish National Party and Labour amendments. I lodged my amendment simply because I feel that the motion is slightly too prescriptive and does not recognise the potential involvement of the business and third sectors in developing and promoting cycling.
With the Olympics and the Commonwealth games fast approaching, the next few months and years will give us a huge opportunity to transform cycling in Scotland. If our cyclists are as successful as we hope, many more people—particularly youngsters—will get on their bikes.
Finally, I will be taking part in the Galashiels triathlon in about nine days. I encourage Alison Johnstone—or any other member who wishes to join me—to take part, because cycling is very important.
I move amendment S4M-02522.1, to leave out from “considers that active” to end and insert
“; commends the Cities fit for cycling campaign by The Times, which has led to cycling being given more prominence in public debate; supports greater business and third sector involvement to boost infrastructure development, and notes the potential that the Olympic and Commonwealth Games can have in contributing to an increase in the number of people taking up cycling.”
I will not even try to follow that with my cycling record.
I am grateful to the Green party for bringing this timely debate to the chamber. Cycling has been a huge feature of my mailbag for the past few months, mainly in relation to funding, but more recently to the safety aspect, as many people are concerned about the four tragic deaths of cyclists in Edinburgh.
I am sure that other members welcome, as I do, the summit that was held on March 21 and the Scottish Government’s repeated recognition that, although it does not always have a role in delivering cycling funding or cycling schemes, it has a leadership role that applies not only to cycling but to all aspects of road safety.
A strong argument that has been made by cycling groups, and by Alison Johnstone today, is that one of the best ways to ensure safety among cyclists is to create a critical mass on the roads, so that cyclists are seen as partners and equal road users rather than as unwelcome intruders. That stands alongside all the technical road-safety improvements that were set out in the eight-point manifesto of the pedal on Parliament campaign, which I commend to members. It proposes a number of practical changes to planning, speed limits and other traffic laws, transport strategies, training and—above all—funding.
A good starting point in the discussion on active travel funding and the effect on cycling uptake is the excellent “Civilising the Streets” report by Transform Scotland. It looks at 13 cities around Europe and how they have substantially increased safe cycling. The report consistently argues that the key drivers that increase safe cycle use are material upgrades in three areas: dedicated cycle lanes, parking spaces and reduced speed limits.
One of the issues around dedicated cycle lanes that has been articulated to me by cycling campaigners is that they can make cyclists seem like the “other” by segregating them. I have also had constituents firmly make the case that, if large numbers of cyclists are to be encouraged, people have to know that they will be protected by something more than a line of paint. That is my view, as well.
An interesting section in the Transport Scotland document says:
“In all cases, the investment in active travel was coordinated and implemented by ... local government ... The study also found that financial support from the national government could be a vital factor”.
That is a useful interaction. It is similar to the situation that we have at the moment, with central funding through the CWSS grant scheme and Sustrans, which is matched by local authorities, and a strong emphasis on the actions of local government.
Transform Scotland highlights Stockholm as being a particularly illustrative example, because it faced many of the challenges that we face, including its geography, a low starting base and—a perfect parallel with Edinburgh—the medieval design of its city centre, which restricts flexibility.
Although the setting aside of a percentage of money and its being put in a pot for cycling is welcome, the greater prize—as illustrated in the part of the Transport Scotland report that focuses on Stockholm—is to ensure that all transport planning mainstreams the needs of cyclists, whether on general-use roads or new developments. That is the second point of the pedal on Parliament manifesto. That is not easy, and no one should pretend that it will be. However, it is not distinct from funding and it is a core part of what must be done.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s reaffirmation of its commitment to ensure that 10 per cent of journeys will be made by bike by 2020, since that is clearly highly desirable in terms of health and climate change. However, being realistic, I do not think it looks like we will achieve the target given that—late increases in the budget process notwithstanding—the active travel budget is still less than 1 per cent of the total transport budget.
It seems to me and, I am sure, to others in the chamber that safety is the key to reaching the target. Alison Johnstone highlighted the sad and tragic fact that 16 cyclists have died on Lothian roads this century. Cyclists desperately need more space on roads and more 20mph limits in residential areas. In that regard, I emphasise the importance of the Labour amendment and I hope that the Scottish Government will consider the guidance that appears to discourage some local authorities from introducing such zones.
Of course, cycle paths are important—there are many good ones in my constituency, which will encourage me to return to cycling in due course—but action on cycle training is also required. Alison Johnstone and I attended a recent cycle training event at Leith primary school, but we would agree that action on cycle training of that sort is to no avail if the other safety measures are not taken.
Local community-led campaigns, such as the we love Leith campaign by the Greener Leith organisation, are important. I pay tribute to the Scottish Government for providing much of that campaign’s funding through the climate challenge fund. It involved community consultation, behaviour change work and efforts to tackle the barriers to active travel that were identified by local residents. The first consultation, involving 450 residents, put the behaviour of other road users at the top of the list of reasons for people disliking cycling, along with danger and vulnerability in general. That is perhaps not surprising because, as I was alarmed to read in a newspaper report a couple of weeks ago, Leith Walk has been flagged up as one of the 10 most dangerous streets in the United Kingdom for cyclists.
When residents were asked what would encourage them to cycle more, 49 per cent said that infrastructure improvements would be the main thing that would get them back on their bike. A second consultation flagged up dedicated cycle lanes on main arterial routes as the top cycling priority.
Greener Leith has also highlighted the need to reduce traffic growth in general in order to encourage cycling, as well as for many other purposes. In particular, it flagged up the social cohesion of neighbourhoods, the sense of ownership of public space and mental and physical health. Therefore, I am alarmed that traffic trends tend to be going in the opposition direction. I have lodged some parliamentary questions about that this week.
Edinburgh has been referred to quite a bit. We must acknowledge that a lot of good work has been done, but I think that the 5 per cent of the budget for active travel schemes next year is not matched by this year’s budget for them, which is 1 per cent of revenue spend. Edinburgh Labour has emphasised the separation of bikes and road traffic, the safe storage of bikes, possible cycle hire schemes, school cycling training and 20mph speed limits. I re-emphasise that last point. It seems to me that the widespread use of 20mph speed limits in residential areas would benefit cyclists and pedestrians alike.
I join other members in welcoming this Green party debate.
It seems to me that there are three strands in this debate about cycling. We are talking about cycling as transport and cycling for leisure, and underpinning it all is introducing children to safe cycling. I want to give three examples from those areas from my Strathkelvin and Bearsden constituency. I will talk about East Dunbartonshire’s Cycle Co-op, which is based in Bishopbriggs, the rebound initiative in Lennoxtown, and pedal on Parliament, which has already been mentioned. I thank Dr Brennan, who is a constituent of mine, for his work in making that happen next month.
East Dunbartonshire’s Cycle Co-op is a not-for-profit social enterprise team led by the redoubtable Mark Kiehlmann. It is a team of certified bike ability tutors and cycle mechanics. Those people have done many things. Among them, they set up the East Dunbartonshire bike library to assure parents that, when their children start to learn to cycle, they cycle on a bike that is fit for purpose.
Over the team’s few years of working, the most remarkable achievement it has seen has been Bishopbriggs becoming the first town—indeed, as far as I know, it is still the only town—in which every primary school has received a Cycling Scotland cycle-friendly school award. That achievement is even more remarkable in light of the fact that only 2 per cent of children in Scotland cycle to school. At St Matthew’s primary school in Bishopbriggs, 20 per cent currently cycle to school daily. Double the 2020 target is being achieved in Bishopbriggs in 2012. It is therefore not surprising that when the BBC and other media outlets are looking for someone to go to to highlight the benefits of cycling, they go to East Dunbartonshire’s Cycle Co-op. As a result, Bishopbriggs has received a lot more publicity than a small town of its size would perhaps normally expect to receive. I thank the many MSPs who supported my motion S4M-01910, which highlighted the work of East Dunbartonshire’s Cycle Co-op.
I turn to cycling for leisure and the rebound initiative in Lennoxtown. The plans are ambitious for a not-for-profit social enterprise. We want to see a cycle tourism hub in Lennoxtown that utilises the Forestry Commission tracks around it, and—most importantly—taps into the central Scotland cycling route network and uses the Forth-Clyde canal, which goes through my constituency. A community consultation was held in March, which more than 80 people attended. There were nothing but positive comments from the questionnaires and the ideas board that day.
I know that we are short of time, so I will conclude. I hope that those examples of local initiatives in my constituency show what can be done across Scotland.
I congratulate the Green party on choosing to use its parliamentary time to highlight cycling and call on the Scottish Government to improve the offering for cyclists. That is a welcome development and I hope that ministers will listen to and act upon the call. I also congratulate John Lamont on his 700km cycle ride and on his forthcoming endeavours.
The motion in Alison Johnstone’s name highlights the increase in cycling, which is something that the whole Parliament should welcome. If we want a fitter, healthier population, active travel should be a cornerstone of our approach to improving the lives of Scots. The cycling boom of recent years, which has no doubt been fuelled by the success of Britain’s track and road cycling squads, is making a difference, even away from the context of competitive cycling.
I am delighted that the UK’s blue riband endurance cycling event, the mille Alba, will have its headquarters in my constituency, at Fordell near Dalgety Bay, which is very near my home. Cyclists from throughout the country will ride 1,000km around Scotland in just 75 hours, starting on 22 June—John Lamont would be up for that. I am sure that the Parliament wishes the participants the best of luck and the best of weather for their endeavours.
If the cycling boom is to become the cycling revolution that we all want, we must make the necessary investment as well as the necessary attitudinal changes. As convener of transport in Fife Council and former vice-chair of Sustrans, I campaigned and worked with officers, and the team secured £3.5 million as Fife’s share of the cycle route around the countries that border the North Sea. The North Sea cycle route is still open. Many cyclists use it for recreation and commuting, and some hardy souls do the entire route—I am looking at John Lamont; I will be glad to see him cycling past my window. He will be sorry that he talked about his prowess.
I also campaigned strongly for better cycle parking at railway stations, to encourage cycling. I am pleased to say that a legacy of that work is the better parking for bikes that still exists at many stations in Fife.
However, much needs to be done. We must get serious about providing facilities for cyclists. The cycle path from Fife to Edinburgh along the A90 is a disgrace. It is no wonder that many cyclists refuse to use it and instead take their chances on the roads. The cost of upgrading the path would not be too onerous for the Scottish Government to meet. No public body, including City of Edinburgh Council, appears to be willing to take responsibility for the path, but it is time that someone did so, because many of my constituents cycle regularly from Fife to Edinburgh—indeed, my son-in-law did so.
Alison Johnstone’s motion mentions the welcome decline in cycling accident casualties during the first decade of the 21st century in Scotland. However, we should not be complacent. In Fife, the news is bad. The proportion of accidents that involve bikes is higher, at 4.76 per cent, than it has been in any year since before 2007. Some people might put that down to higher bicycle use and others might look for other explanations, but the accident figures are too high and work needs to be done to drive them down.
Cycle paths and sensible road and traffic planning make a positive contribution, but we also need attitudinal change. Cyclists are vulnerable road users and we need to ensure that motorists treat them with care and respect, rather than skimming past them. That does not cost money; it is a question of common decency.
I declare an interest; I am an executive member of the Scottish Accident Prevention Council.
I welcome the debate and endorse the comments about the health and environmental benefits of cycling. I will talk mainly about safety. I have no doubt that if we want to make cycling in Scotland safer, we must ensure that cycling informs and is integrated into transport planning. I welcome what Alison Johnstone said about the need to consider what safety measures can be implemented when we are digging up roads and therefore already incurring costs.
In 2005, the Scottish Government commissioned the comprehensive report, “Extent and Severity of Cycle Accident Casualties”, which tried to get to grips with why there had been so many accidents in Scotland. The research exposed interesting facts about gender. Many more males than females were involved in cycling accidents—the ratio of males to females presenting at hospital accident and emergency departments as a result of such accidents was 3:1. That gender imbalance was observed across all age groups, although it was least obvious in children under 10. Staggeringly, among 16 to 18-year-olds, 91 per cent of the casualties were males. I suggest that that follows a pattern of risk taking among young male drivers that is well recognised by the insurance industry. If we are to tackle such issues through education, we must examine risk taking. That might improve some of the accident statistics.
The pattern of accidents does not reflect cycling participation rates, as the study showed that 55 per cent of cyclists were males and 45 per cent were females. John Lamont mentioned night-time cycling. The study also showed that males tended to cycle more in the evening and that women tended to cycle more during the day, which might be a reason for the imbalance in the accident rate. We must fully understand what is happening on the roads if we are to make progress.
People are more likely to become casualties as a result of cycling accidents in childhood—in the study, 54 per cent of all casualties were under the age of 16. When it comes to such accidents, our children and young adults are extremely vulnerable. Safety is paramount and improvements can still be made. Much can be done to improve safety for cyclists, especially our children.
I am still a member of North Lanarkshire Council, which used to have a very poor record on general road safety. I commend the council’s leadership, which, over the years, has made a determined effort to reduce the number of road accidents. The council has achieved the national road safety targets and has reduced the number of fatalities and serious casualties by 74 per cent—information published by Strathclyde Police shows that it fell from 276 in 1999 to just 72 in 2010. At the same time, the total number of people who were injured reduced significantly.
I put those reductions down to the council taking some key steps. Notably, it introduced a 20mph speed limit not just outside schools in North Lanarkshire—that was done as a pilot—but in all residential areas. That is a significant step that can greatly reduce the number of accidents on our roads.
I have enjoyed listening to the debate and I commend Alison Johnstone for giving us the opportunity to focus on the benefits of cycling and active travel.
I am glad that pedestrians feature in the motion because, in sharp contrast to my colleague John Lamont, I am not a proficient cyclist, although I do quite a bit of walking. I was not allowed a bike of my own as a child, because we lived on a busy main road, and I regret that as a result I have missed out on a lot of the enjoyment that competent cyclists experience, so I sympathise with the calls to make cycling safer for and accessible to all children.
We have heard much about the many benefits of cycling and it is encouraging that an increasing number of people are taking it up because, in a busy modern world, it is all too easy to become less and less active physically and to suffer the health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
As recently as 2010, the Scottish health survey found that 61 per cent of adults and 28 per cent of children did not meet the recommended physical activity level of 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. That is simply not good enough if we are to tackle obesity and its attendant risks of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, to name but a few long-term conditions that are prevalent in an underactive population. Cycling can aid weight loss even in the absence of dieting and, as well as having physical benefits, it has been proven to assist in preventing and overcoming depression. Indeed, statistics show that people who undertake regular moderate activity, such as cycling to work, enjoy the wellbeing of people a decade younger, as well as being more alert, more self-confident and better able to cope with stress and anxiety.
I find walking an excellent way to enjoy our beautiful countryside, and cycling enables people to see even more of it—that is particularly true of cycling on mountain bikes, which allows people to go on fairly rough terrain. Such activities are a great attraction for tourists, and it is good to see mountain biking tracks being developed at Glenshee, the Lecht and other ski centres, which have, of course, suffered from a lack of snow this winter.
Studies done last year reckoned that mountain biking contributes £139 million to the Scottish economy, which is expected to rise to £155 million by 2016. So, it is an activity to be encouraged.
The minister may be interested to know that yesterday I met the chief executive of Glasgow 2014 Ltd, the organiser of the Commonwealth games. We discussed a range of issues, including the role that cycling will play in the games and the possible benefits from the games in terms of a physical activity legacy. In that regard, I note the caveat from Ramblers Scotland that such benefits will be achieved only if there is a massive increase in the proportion of the population who spend much more time walking or cycling.
I was interested to learn that the stunning new Sir Chris Hoy velodorome is scheduled to open in Glasgow in October, which will allow members of the public to use it for almost two years before the games take place. Given the intention to encourage people to cycle and walk during the course of the games, it would be no bad thing if ministers were to lead by example and get on their bikes instead of into their expensive ministerial cars.
No debate on cycling would be complete without a mention of the nation’s favourite cyclist: the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Boris bikes have now become as much a feature of the capital city as red buses and Big Ben. His groundbreaking initiative of introducing 6,000 sponsored bikes for hire around London and 400 docking stations is, as he himself has said,
“a glorious new form of public transport”.
Therefore, I was pleased to learn that there are plans to extend the scheme across the east end of the city. That is one reason why members on this side of the chamber look forward to seeing Boris re-elected for another term as mayor of London. We might do well to pick up on some of his ideas.
I am delighted to close this debate for Scottish Labour. Before I begin, though, I would like to share the sentiments of members across the chamber and take a moment to remember all those who have been seriously injured or have lost their lives as a result of cycling accidents on our roads.
No matter what level the accident rate drops to it will be too high, and I am glad to have the opportunity today to debate what we can do to reduce the number of accidents and encourage more people to engage in safe cycling. I thank Alison Johnstone for her broad-ranging motion.
I often seem to begin my speeches with a quote from ministers and today is no exception, as I will quote from the ministerial foreword to the “Cycling Action Plan for Scotland”, in which the then Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, stated his vision, saying:
“By 2020, 10% of all journeys taken in Scotland will be by bike.”
He went on to say:
“We just need more people to cycle more often and in so doing, develop a cycling culture in Scotland.”
There used to be such a culture, certainly in rural Clydesdale, where I stay. My old neighbour and the first person I met when I moved there was ex-miner, Jim Simpson, who also used to play in a dance band. He used to tell me of many times making late-night rides home by bike with his fellow band members from as far afield as Moffat, instruments strapped to their backs. His village of Douglas Water had its own cycling club, as did many other villages.
There is perhaps a renaissance in popular cycling; certainly, there is an interest in it. I whole-heartedly support the Scottish Government’s vision for cycling, but like many of the SNP’s visions it lacks detail about how we are going to get there. I am concerned that without the financial support for infrastructure development, access to safety training and the creation of schemes to encourage more people to take up cycling, we will fall short of the 10 per cent target. Today’s new national travel survey shows that only 1 per cent of journeys were completed by bicycle in 1985 and that today that figure is the same, so a step change is definitely necessary if we are to reach the 10 per cent target.
Malcolm Chisholm highlighted the value of community-led initiatives. I, too, commend Spokes, Sustrans and other cycling organisations. The pedal on Parliament campaign group has some very positive suggestions in its manifesto. Some of its proposals inform the wider debate and are certainly worthy of consideration. I will attend its rally, but despite Alison Johnstone’s kind offer, I will not bring my bicycle. It sits in my basement, because I am a rural cyclist and not an urban one, and I was made even more nervous about urban cycling by Malcolm Chisholm’s remarks about the dangers of Leith Walk.
How do we ensure that cycling infrastructure is incorporated into the planning process for new roads and other projects? There is an example of that working well along the Airdrie to Bathgate rail line. However, as we heard from Helen Eadie and others, there are many poor examples. Also, cycle paths are often put in as an afterthought, with painted lines taking the place of safe and dedicated cycle tracks, as Marco Biagi highlighted.
I have spoken before about the great example set by the Netherlands, where a remarkable 25 per cent of journeys are completed by bike. We should look to incorporate infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists into planning guidance for rural and urban local authorities, and Scottish Labour supports that element of the motion. We also call for support for safer speed limits, which Elaine Murray highlighted.
I hope that the minister will consider more than 40 per cent of children having on-road training.
Scottish Labour supports the Government in its target of having 10 per cent of journeys completed by bike and supports the motion. In Alison Johnstone’s words, we need to move up a gear or two.
We have heard a number of views on making cycling safer and more appealing. It is worth saying that we cannot insist that people cycle. We must do what we can to encourage cycling and focus on making it as easy and safe as possible—I understand that—but if people prefer to walk, for example, as Nanette Milne said, they are perfectly entitled to do that.
I will return to some of the points that have been made in the debate and make some points that I did not get the chance to make earlier.
We plan a refresh of the cycling action plan for Scotland following the first progress report from Cycling Scotland in June. At that point, we will update all 17 of the actions in the plan, completing some of them and, potentially, adding some more.
Mention was made of the need for behavioural change. That is a crucial point. We just heard from Claudia Beamish about the Netherlands. The situation there, particularly in Amsterdam, has grown up over many years and benefits from a very flat environment, so a cycling culture exists. We must do all that we can to encourage such a culture, but that will not happen overnight; it will take some time to achieve.
The behavioural change towards mutual respect that Alison Johnstone first mentioned must take place. Many cyclists come to speak to me because they are unhappy with the behaviour of other cyclists, just as drivers of vehicles sometimes do not show appropriate respect for more vulnerable road users.
The need to improve the perception of the safety of cycling among parents has not been mentioned. If we want to encourage more children to take up cycling, parents must feel more able to say yes to children who want to cycle to school or cycle recreationally. There are some excellent examples of that happening in Edinburgh, but there is more that we can do on the matter.
We must also develop awareness of cyclists and their needs on the road. That is why we will launch the give me cycle space campaign in May.
We also try to reward organisations that promote safe cycling and safe driving. For that reason, we have the cycle-friendly schools awards and various employers awards, which result in certificates being awarded.
We heard different examples of infrastructure being very good in some cases and not so good in others. That is often a matter for the local authority and its partners. The Scottish Government can be one of those partners and has tried to focus the funding that it has—as all members appreciate, there is not a bottomless pit—on ensuring match funding by local authorities and others. The investment that we plan over the next three years will allow more infrastructure to be developed.
Everyone else has used a local example, so why should I not? The old Menstrie branch line in my constituency is now being used as a cycle path to good effect.
There are events that recognise people’s efforts and encourage them to walk and cycle safely. A number of members mentioned the pedal on Parliament event. Unfortunately, I cannot take part in that, but I will take part in the pedal for Scotland bike ride, which will happen on Sunday 9 September. I invite John Lamont—if I can keep up with him—and anybody else who complained about having a bike secreted away in a cupboard to come to it. It is a chance to come into Edinburgh on a safe cycle route, which is a tremendous experience. I did it last year but only as far as Kirkliston, not all the way from Glasgow. I will try to extend that this year.
I welcome the fact that the minister will be on the pedal for Scotland event this year as well.
I request that he look at the trunk roads budget, because there are massive opportunities in it. It is a huge budget and he could use it to do a lot more to improve long-distance cycle routes and beef up the work that needs to be done by our local authorities.
The point that Helen Eadie made about getting from Fife to Edinburgh was absolutely right. Long-distance commuter routes are a nightmare for cyclists.
As I have said, we have tried to incorporate what the member has suggested into most of our major projects, including not only the M8 and the M74 but the Forth replacement crossing; indeed, that is how we intend to use the existing Forth road bridge. We have told officials that we should make what we are doing clear to the public. The Airdrie to Bathgate line has been mentioned in that respect but, in other road projects, the public might not have been made as aware of that aspect as they might have been and I will be encouraging that to happen.
We also fund Sustrans, which, as has been mentioned, is rolling out with Fife Council 20mph zones in parts of Kirkcaldy and as part of its street design project is redesigning streets with the support of local communities. The same initiative is happening in Moray Council. There have been many references to the City of Edinburgh Council, whose road safety team launched its 20mph zone last Friday.
At this point, I should make it clear that councils themselves can introduce—and have introduced—such zones. Alison Johnstone’s motion asks the Government to make that process easier; however, I am not sure that the Labour amendment quite addresses the same issue, because the “guidance” that it refers to is issued by the Department for Transport and is based on United Kingdom primary legislation. We are talking about Scottish Government-issued traffic regulation orders and, although we will look at how we can streamline that system, members must bear in mind that public consultation forms a large part of that process and we do not want to minimise any of that.
We have said many times that we can best achieve this aim by working in partnership with others, including those involved in climate change, to push these particular policies. As the report on proposals and policies makes clear, this is not solely about Government funding; many other financial and non-financial contributions are needed from local authorities and—as John Lamont pointed out—business.
We cannot support the Conservative amendment, as it removes a substantial part of the Green party motion. Although the Labour amendment is well intentioned, it presents certain problems, in that the guidance that it mentions is not strictly applicable to the Scottish situation.
That said, I am happy to support the motion.
First of all, I should mention that I am a new member of Spokes.
I thank colleagues for taking part in the debate. Clearly there is much that the chamber agrees on and I welcome members’ recognition of the fact that active travel is well worth the investment.
The minister referred to the provision of active travel in the M8 project. However, I am sad to say that the same kind of provision has been omitted from the development of the Forth replacement crossing, and cycle path provision en route to the bridge requires urgent investment. I ask the minister to consider the latter point in particular. I echo Helen Eadie’s point about the need for good cycle infrastructure between Edinburgh and Fife.
I welcome the minister’s positive input, particularly his commitment to look at streamlining and simplifying the TRO system. I also agree with Claudia Beamish that we could do a bit better than the current target of 40 per cent of children having on-road cycle training. I ask the minister to revisit the target.
Elaine Murray focused on twenty’s plenty, the campaign to reduce traffic speeds, which provides so many benefits for vulnerable users and encourages walking and cycling.
We also heard about John Lamont’s athletic prowess. I take my hat off to you—your passion for cycling is obvious. It is certainly the world’s most efficient form of transport and has so many benefits. For example, it reduces obesity and cuts congestion—which in turn can cut business costs. You also talked about the culture of respect in other countries and the considerate behaviour shown by some of our European neighbours. As a qualified athletics coach, I agree that we should try to gain as much as we can from the Commonwealth and Olympics games. I have to say that I like the Conservative amendment; I just do not like what it seeks to delete.
Marco Biagi recognised the leadership role that Government can play and the need to normalise cycling. You pointed out the great work that Transform Scotland has done with its document “Civilising the Streets”, and you referred to the need for cycle lanes. Such provision would have an impact. Clare Adamson touched on the underrepresentation of women in cycling, and I think that we would see more of both genders on the roads if we had more segregated cycle lanes. Malcolm Chisholm was right to put safety at the heart of a successful cycling culture, recognising some of the excellent paths that we have in the city, but also the overwhelming support for more segregated paths and better infrastructure.
Fiona McLeod touched on the impact that social enterprise has in increasing cycling confidence and referred to the excellent work that is going on in Bishopbriggs. Here in Edinburgh, The Bike Station has done much to boost cycling. It takes in old bikes, refurbishes them and sells them at a reasonable price. It has queues round the corner in south Edinburgh on a Saturday morning. You also pointed out the tourism-boosting potential of cycling and the opportunity to attract tourists and locals to use forest tracks.
I look forward to John Lamont taking up Helen Eadie’s challenge to join competitors in her constituency. I am certainly going to take up the challenge and join the minister and others at the pedal for Scotland event in September.
The importance of better cycle parking at railway stations was also raised.
Clare Adamson focused on the fact that many young people—often males—are involved in cycle accidents. Cycle training and education have a big part to play in improving the situation. You also referred to the impact that the introduction of 20mph zones has had on accident rates.
I say to Nanette Milne that the Association of Directors of Public Health has called for far greater investment in active travel, notably for public health spend reasons. It is calling for 10 per cent of transport budgets to go to active travel. Its report is endorsed by more than 110 specialist and professional bodies, from the Institute of Highway Engineers to the British Heart Foundation.
I do not share Nanette Milne’s view that Boris Johnson is the nation’s favourite cyclist. I will perhaps keep my views on my favourite cyclist to myself.
I do not intend the motion to be prescriptive. I am simply seeking focus on the issues.
Claudia Beamish was right to point out that any fatality and accident is one too many. We could have a look at Sweden’s zero fatality approach. You spoke about people cycling home with guitars and so on on their backs. It is important that we normalise cycling as part of everyday life. It is notable that, in 1950s Britain, the cycling rate was 15 per cent, which is higher than Germany’s current 9 per cent. Perhaps that is because the roads were less congested. We can take heart from that.
Cycling has so much to offer. It is cheap, it is healthy and it benefits local economies. Parts of the United States have not just business improvement districts but bike-friendly business improvement districts. They have sussed out that one car parking space can take 10 to 20 bikes. In that way, they get more people in the shops, and people on bikes are more likely to stop and engage with their local independent stores. I would not often think of looking to the United States for green initiatives, but some excellent things are happening across the water.
As Nanette Milne pointed out, cyclists are less prone to the western diseases that afflict far too many Scots. I just think that cycling has so much to offer us as a nation. It does not all have to be about big investment. Small-scale local interventions can be highly cost effective. Confidence is delivered by safe routes to school projects, and workplace travel plans can reduce peak-hour congestion in a way that new large-scale road projects will never be able to compete with.
When a committee held an inquiry into active travel in the previous session of Parliament, there was cross-party agreement on the need to increase funding and resources to make our ambitions for cycling a reality.
Members might wish to know not only that the bicycle is generally agreed to have been invented by Kirkpatrick Macmillan but that the first cycling offence, which was recorded in 1842, was by the same man. He knocked over a girl in the Gorbals area and was fined 5/-. It is my hope that, long before 2042—200 years since that dubious milestone—Scotland will be able to stand tall and compare itself to those countries that have already turned their vision into reality.
I hope that, at decision time, we will show again that all parties in the Parliament are serious about and committed to transforming the way in which we travel in Scotland.
That concludes the debate on cycling. Before we move on to the next item of business, I respectfully remind members that they should speak through the chair in debates and not directly to each other.