The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland – three wins out of four isn’t bad

There are some good initiatives and actions in CAPS3, but not enough money to meet the target of 10% of journeys by cycle
As the Scottish Government publishes the third version of the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland this week, Cycling UK sifts through the detail to see what the plans to reach 10% of everyday journeys by cycle within the next four years entails.

While remaining ambitious and offering a good collection of initiatives and interventions - including a new task force to improve local authority delivery of infrastructure - the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland's (CAPS3) challenge is the lack of additional financial investment to ensure that the vision of 10% of cycling journeys becomes a reality. With the last Scottish Household Survey recording cycle trips at 1.2% of journeys, CAPS3 has a big hill to climb. 

CAPS3 on leadership

A key CAPS3 action is an Active Travel Task Force, which will tackle barriers to more ambitious cycling infrastructure delivery by local authorities. Recent local authority setbacks across Scotland seem to thwart national policy of achieving 10% of journeys by cycle with Holmston Road and the Bears Way as two recent examples. The task force should improve community consultation and communication amongst other things, to ensure that evidence-based infrastructure projects designed to increase cycling will actually happen. We feel this is a very positive inclusion in CAPS3, as the Scottish Government is clearly realising national policy runs of the risk of getting bottlenecked by local delivery (or lack thereof) and is aiming to fix the issue. 

It is also good to see actions from Transport Scotland that aim to improve cycling policy and delivery. This includes a review of the Trunk Roads Cycling Initiative and an update to Cycling by Design. The review of the 20-year-old Trunk Roads Cycling Initiative should help to improve cycling infrastructure along transport arteries, while an improvement to Cycling by Design should ensure better quality cycling infrastructure is delivered by default. 

CAPS3 on behaviour change  

Working with planners, designers and engineers to improve their knowledge of cycling design, behaviour and best practice will continue with CAPS3. This is good news and when coupled with improvements to Cycling by Design, it should help to advance cycling infrastructure planning and delivery.  
Making cycling more accessible via cycling development projects is also positive. As a cycling development organisation, we know that good quality interventions like the Big Bike Revival help to encourage more people to ride bikes for utility as well as leisure.  Cycling should be an inclusive activity, and the CAPS3 action to ensure there is support to make cycling accessible to more people is important.

Cycling UK is looking forward to contributing towards achieving the 10% vision through our activities. Not only will these activities support people to get cycling but they will also enable people to see how much more they could cycle if the infrastructure was better. 

CAPS3 on infrastructure and road safety  

It would have been preferable for the Scottish Government to have set a default limit of 20mph in built-up areas across Scotland, but it is still positive to see CAPS3 includes an action on more promotion and encouragement for the adoption of 20mph zones in local communities. We hope to see more local authorities listening to Scottish Government guidance on lower speeds, which ensure safer walking and cycling environments. 

Public transport integration is also given a focus, which is important for rural communities in particular. More emphasis will be given on integrated journeys involving cycling, with improved bus and rail provision for cycle carriage and storage. A deeply unpopular recent decision by Scotrail to reduce on-carriage cycle space can hopefully be addressed with this CAPS3 action.  

While it is positive to see the Community Links and Community Links + infrastructure initiatives given the thumbs up, this neatly segues into the challenges for CAPS3.  

CAPS3 on investment 

The Community Links and Community Links + initiatives are excellent schemes to promote best practice cycling infrastructure that will encourage modal shift to cycles, but there is no additional funding to realise the many exemplary projects brought forward by local authorities. 

While it is important to note that the Scottish Government has committed to record levels of active travel investment, this looks likely to remain at an annual £39m static investment until 2021. CAPS3 makes it clear there is no additional money to meet the Scottish Government’s vision of 10% of everyday journeys by cycle.

To put it another way, the 2017/18 draft transport budget puts active travel at 1.6% of the overall total spend and it is unlikely to increase without external pressure (such as people who vote). 

Despite recommendations from Cycling Scotland to increase levels of active travel funding to a sustained 10% allocation of the transport budget, the Scottish Government’s position is: 
 “… that levels of transport spend cannot simply be based on percentage allocations for each transport mode. The overall transport budget must reflect existing contractual requirements, planned maintenance and upgrades and it would be wrong to arbitrarily allocate definite amounts to any one mode”.

Put simply, despite some good initiatives and actions contained within CAPS3, there is not enough money to meet the Scottish Government’s vision of 10% of journeys by cycle. 

Take action! 

We all have the power to help overcome the challenge of funding for the next CAPS, as well as future transport budgets. As a voter in Scotland, you can help to influence future cycling investment and policy. This applies to both local and national priorities, so here are some actions to take. 

  • Working locally with the collaborative campaign We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote will demonstrate to local government that active travel is a priority for voters, and there is a great opportunity to influence change with the local council elections this May.  
  • Get involved with the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaign in advance of the local elections on 4 May 2017 – follow on Twitter, like on Facebook.   
  • Email your MSPs and ask for an increase to active travel investment before the transport budget is finalised in mid-February for 2017/18.  
  • Respond to this survey on the renewal of the Transport Scotland National Strategy, highlighting the importance of increased active travel investment and how transport policy should help underpin other strategic aims within the environment, health, sport and physical activity, equalities and economic portfolios.  
  • Write to your council candidates to ask them to commit to the Walk Cycle Vote asks in their local manifesto, namely increased investment, better infrastructure and the reduction of local barriers to walking and cycling. 
  • Share this post with your friends, colleagues and family and ask them to contact their MSPs and get involved with Walk Cycle Vote too.