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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2012.

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Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

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.