Transport Choices

Green MSP, Alison Johnstone, finds lessons not learned in transport statistics.

This week saw the publication of the Scottish Household Survey, which gives us an interesting yearly snapshot of our society.

For the first time since 2007 and the downturn, the volume of traffic on Scotland’s roads has begun to rise, with 43 billion vehicle kilometres driven.

This is a small increase on the previous year and a 10 billion kilometre increase since 1993, bringing with it all the pollution, congestion and health problems that result from our dependence on cars.

Meanwhile, rates of walking and cycling to work and school have remained stubbornly low. Cycling accounts for two per cent of journeys to work in this survey, a long way from the Government’s target of ten per cent of journeys by bike in seven years.

To me, this shows that Scottish ministers have failed to make the right choices for investment during a period where money is tight. Instead of shovelling billions towards motorways, bypasses and bridges, they should be investing meaningful sums in cycle infrastructure, clearer junctions and safer streets.

Edinburgh is doing pretty well compared to other councils, pushing ahead with more 20mph zones and increasing its budget to improve cycling, but the same cannot be said across Scotland. Nationally, just 0.7 per cent of the transport budget is earmarked for walking and cycling improvements.

The Scottish Government recently launched a marketing campaign called the Nice Way Code, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. It has been criticised by cycling campaigners for enforcing stereotypes.

Again, a poor choice for spending when the core problem isn’t that road users aren’t nice to each other, it’s that our poorly-designed and terribly-maintained roads force cars, bike and pedestrians to compete for space. With next year’s budget soon to be on the table again, let’s pile on the pressure for some good decisions for once.

This blog was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News on 29 August