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Cycling

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

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Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

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.