The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) set the headline target that by 2020, 10% of all journeys taken in Scotland would be done so by bike.
The target is ambitious, especially when you consider that the current level is around 1%, but the experience of other European countries shows that it can be achieved.
As part of the monitoring of the implementation of CAPS, Scottish Cycling, the governing body of cycling sport in Scotland has published comments on progress made to date.
Scottish Cycling’s comments provide useful insight not only on where progress has been made, but also where they feel the action plan needs to be improved. In particular, the organisation comments on the need to consider a broad approach to cycling that cuts across the Government’s aims and highlights the benefits that could be achieved.
They argue that too much focus is placed on cycling to work, while ignoring the popularity of other cycling pursuits such as mountain biking, competitive cycling and cycle tourism. According to recent findings from Scottish Enterprise, mountain biking is worth £139m a year to the Scottish economy and supports around 3,500 jobs. The organisation states that wider cycle tourism makes a similar contribution.
The organisation is also keen to see greater consideration of how cycling can help to address other Scottish Government goals. They points to the Government’s physical activity targets and legacy planning for the 2014 Commonwealth Games as opportunities to set clear targets on cycling participation.
The publication of two reports – one in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity demonstrating a link between toddlers TV habits and later health and fitness and a second from the British Medical Association on the benefits of active travel – provide a timely reminder of the importance of this issue, especially for young people.
To achieve these sorts of goals, the organisation would like to see a more integrated strategy that looks beyond seeing cycling as purely a mode of transport. They want to see shared leadership across Scottish Government areas of responsibility including health, sport, transport, tourism and sustainable economic development.
By taking this approach, the Scottish Government could help ensure that the benefits of cycling are realised, not just in-terms of health and the environment but also in growing the Scottish economy through increased tourism, success at international events and opportunities for training and employment.
However, I am concerned by reports from local groups that Scottish Government funding for cycling is being cut and believe that this could have a negative impact on the ability to increase cycling. It is clear that a step change is needed to deliver the increases the Scottish Government want to achieve and I will continue to press for investment in facilities and initiatives to make this a reality.