Malcolm looks at how cycling can be made easier and more popular
Debate on Cycling Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
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.
March 29th 2012