I’m seriously irritated by the boundless, baseless optimism that emanates from the “if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” wing of the cycling world. By that I mean Sustrans, who tweeted this statistic from the 2013 Scottish Household Survey today:
Wow! Cycling is on the up! Yippee!
If you actually read the whole document, as I have done, you find a distinctly less favourable overall picture. While bike mileage is indeed up and car mileage has fallen by 2% in the last 5 years, the distance covered by car is still a hundred times greater than that covered by bike. Since 2012, the overall modal share of the car has increased 3 points to 64% and the modal share of cycling is stagnant at 1%. This is what the full modal split looked like in 2013:
12.9% of journeys to work were walked and 2.5% were cycled, and this was “not a statistically significant increase on 2012”. The headline reasons given for not cycling to work are distance (37.4%) and weather (19.8%). Dig below the headlines, though, and you find that many Scots believe that there are too many cars on the road (14.7%), that traffic travels too fast (11.6%), that dark/lonely roads are scary (9.0%), that there are inconsiderate drivers (8.9%), and that road surfaces are dangerous (5.6%). All of these really come down to the same thing: a low sense of safety, and when you add them all up you find that 49.8% of people are put off by these safety concerns. That safety is the most important thing isn’t exactly a newsflash and it’s a bit odd that this point isn’t made in the summary – but then, it would be embarrassing to admit that half the population are too afraid to cycle, would it not?
52% of journeys to school were walked and 1.2% were cycled. In a civilised country this combined figure would be in the region of 90%, but Scotland is not a civilised country. Here’s one example of why this is: my old school, located in the town centre (not in Glasgow), was demolished and relocated to the middle of nowhere. For my younger sister, the 5-minute walk to school became a half-hour walk to school. She could not even take the most direct route because there was no pedestrian crossing, and there still isn’t. She was driven more often than not. Most people in Scotland are overweight or obese these days, but nobody is interested in joining the dots.
The Scottish Government has publically stated goals to significantly raise the modal share of both walking and cycling at the expense of car use. This is what the modal split would look like if these goals were to be achieved:
The walking goal comes from the National Walking Strategy, in which we learned that Switzerland has a walking modal share of over 30% and that this is what the Scottish Government is aiming for. I’ve never been to Switzerland – it must be a lovely place if there are so many pedestrians. I’ve not been able to find any information about how the Swiss have achieved such a high rate of walking – I guess they don’t get much in the way of rain or snow over there, or perhaps it’s Just Part Of The Culture. Yes, that’ll be it. The cycling target is from the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. Neither of these goals will be met without a radical change in Government policy and spending, of course, but it will be interesting to see how long they keep up the pretence that they’re going to be in the face of evidence like this.
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