UPDATE: A civil servant has suggested that the headline should say “Holyrood Relies on Spokes Statistics”. “Cycling in Scotland” is produced by the Scottish Parliament not the Scottish Government. It’s assumed that the report’s author looked for statistics from the SG first. It’s also assumed that the SG relies on the best available statistics. If there are better statistics than those compiled by Spokes, Spokes would be keen to have them.
SPICe, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, has published a concise briefing document titled “Cycling in Scotland”. Many of the statistics quoted have come from Spokes (The Lothian Cycle Campaign).
Not only does it indicate that Spokes’ surveys of spending on cycling in Scotland are regarded as comprehensive/accurate, it also suggests that no-one in Government is keeping their own tally!
The figures have been compiled for many years by Dave du Feu who has doggedly dealt with Local Authorities – collecting survey answers and compiling the results (and interpreting where necessary). Most Scottish LAs supply information. Getting details from the Government is more difficult.
As “Cycling in Scotland” indicates
“Transport Scotland told SPOKES that it was impossible to disentangle the cycle element of trunk road expenditure, but later told Mike Pringle MSP that it amounted to £2m for financial year 2007-2008, so it is assumed that this amount is spent each year on cycle related projects”
This is a footnote from the detailed table produced by Spokes, but its inclusion in this briefing document is significant. As Spokes reports on its own web site “The Spice Research Briefings are intended as impartial documents to inform MSPs and others involved in the work of the Scottish Parliament. They are independent research publications for the entire Parliament, not decided by or controlled by the party which is in government.”
Overall “Cycling in Scotland” is useful background information for MSPs, campaigners and anyone interested in encouraging more people to cycle. Usefully it distinguishes between the two key areas of cycling as they relate to Government policies -
Cycling takes two main forms:
• a form of transport
• a sport, including track and road cycling, mountain biking, BMX, cycle speedway and cyclo-cross
“This short briefing focuses on cycling as a form of transport. It outlines the legislative and policy framework governing cycling, identifies key organisations and provides cycling related statistics. It goes on to look at sources of funding for cycling projects and the national cycle network.”
This is a useful division and highlights the convention that cycling is either ‘transport’ or ‘sport’. However it is likely that in future a third division will be necessary/desirable.
It is increasingly being recognised that exercise is necessary for good health – physical and mental. There’s a lot of discussion about diet and obesity. Chris Hoy is “Scotland’s first ambassador for mental health“. But money for ‘cycling’ largely comes from ‘transport’ or ‘sport’.
It is quite reasonable to encourage people to cycle to school, shops, work etc. and (as much as possible) record statistics for this, but it probably largely misses the people who cycle for a bit of exercise or to take their kids along a cycle path to the swing park – or just for the fun of cycling!
More importantly the emphasis on ‘transport’ and ‘sport’ perhaps makes it harder to get to people (statistically the majority) who hardly ever cycle – and get the funding to try to encourage them to cycle.
“Cycling in Scotland“ highlights the CAPS (Cycle Action Plan Scotland) process. This is a comprehensive look at ways to increase cycling in Scotland. (YOU can contribute until the 20th of August.) This paragraph outlines some of the intentions
3. For people to have the confidence and the right information to make cycling a realistic choice for some journeys: Provide access to adult and child cycle training and cycle maintenance courses with well trained instructors. Promote the bike-to-work scheme and encourage employers and education providers to become cycle friendly. Produce cycle network maps and an online cycle journey planner.
“Cycling in Scotland” also manages to highlight Spokes’ concerns about funding and future commitment to funding.
Unusually, the CAPS consultation draft was launched without a Scottish Government press release or ministerial statement. Perhaps as a consequence of this, there has been almost no media interest or public comment by stakeholders. However, from what comment there has been it seems that the policy intentions of the consultation draft of CAPS have been welcomed, although concerns have been raised about whether they are backed by sufficient funding. For example Dave du Feu, lead organiser for SPOKES, has stated that “There’s good stuff in the action plan but if they’re not going to spend anything until 2011 – and even then there’s no guarantee that they will – I can’t see it making any difference” (The Herald 2009)
Perhaps the time has come to look beyond ‘transport’ or ‘sport’ for funding. Aren’t ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’ the main responsibilities of the NHS?