November 2011
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“I am aware of the rising number of cyclists in Edinburgh”

News of the Spokes traffic count has reached the Scottish Parliament, and the results have been praised by Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP

So many individuals have written to MSPs about the drastic cuts to cycling and walking investment in the 2012-13 draft budget, now being consulted on, that two local SNP MSPs, Jim Eadie and Marco Biagi, have asked awkward questions to their own Ministers [see end of this article for full questions and answers].

Jim Eadie, MSP for Edinburgh Southern, asked whether the Minister had seen the results of the Spokes traffic survey, and whether he agreed that continued investment in cycling and walking was needed.

During his reply Keith Brown said, “Yes, I am aware of the rising number of cyclists in Edinburgh. I take this opportunity to praise City of Edinburgh Council members and officers for their commitment and leadership in making the city such an active travel success story.”  He also offered to meet Spokes and the Bike Station, along with Jim Eadie, to discuss these issues.  Spokes is delighted at this awareness within the Parliament, and we thank Jim Eadie for his questioning.

We must however point out that Edinburgh’s success is based on consistent investment over the years in onroad and offroad infrastructure, together with a range of highly pro-active local groups including the Bike Station and Spokes, which have in turn flourished thanks in part to the Council’s efforts to make the city less bike-unfriendly.   And whilst Edinburgh’s very welcome rate of increase in bike use should reach the government’s 2020 target [at least for commuting trips, but maybe not for the true government target of all trips] this will not be so in most other councils who have invested much less consistently and so are starting now from a far lower base than Edinburgh.  Even in Edinburgh, success is only likely to continue if investment is sustained next year and every year.

Yet the government’s draft 2012-13 budget cuts cycling investment dramatically [also see Spokes Bulletin 111].   The way the budget is organised, Sustrans work with councils across Scotland is likely to suffer particularly badly[pdf 431k] with valuable Sustrans Scotland staff laid off and joint local authority/Sustrans projects across Scotland put on the back burner – and see the remarkable list of local businesses throughout Scotland involved in work with Sustrans [appendices in the above Sustrans link].

As made clear in Spokes Bulletin 111, active travel investment may rise again towards the next election, thanks to the new Future Transport Fund possibly compensating for the current cuts.  If so, then in a couple of years Sustrans could have to employ and train-up new staff, and re-visit the abandoned projects list.   It’s crazy!!  We could perhaps understand if the total transport budget was being cut, but it’s not – it’s jumping from £1804m this year to £1884m in 2012/13.   Meanwhile active travel, now languishing at around 1% of the total, is to be cut even further.

WHAT YOU CAN DO…

If you’ve not yet contacted your MSPs, please do so now!  Find them at www.writetothem.com.  Remind them of the SNP manifesto promise.

The question by Marco Biagi, MSP for Central Edinburgh, sought to ascertain whether the SNP manifesto pledge would be met.  We are delighted that he asked such a tough question (and he asked it in 3 different ways) but sadly he must be disappointed by the results, which showed declining %’s in all 3 cases.   We must be fair and point out that the official answer given only referred to the SAT budget line, and not to CWSS [whose future level and even existence is still unknown] or to the Future Transport Fund [and how much of this will go to active travel is also a complete unknown].   On the other hand, not only is the SAT budget line being badly cut, but it appears that an increasing part of it is going to park-and-ride car parks, bus schemes, etc, with active travel being badly squeezed – and that is not shown up in the official answer.

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WHAT DO OTHER ORGANISATIONS THINK OF THE DRAFT BUDGET??

See the top entry on this downloads page for submissions by a whole range of other concerned organisations.  The formal Spokes submission to the Parliament is also on that page.

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JIM EADIE FULL QUESTIONS/ANSWERS

(S4O-00391)  Jim Eadie (Edinburgh Southern) (SNP):   To ask the Scottish Government when it will report on the outcome of the smarter choices, smarter places scheme and the impact that it has had on encouraging active travel.

The Minister for Housing and Transport (Keith Brown): Monitoring and evaluation of the smarter choices, smarter places programme are on-going. The impacts that the programme has had on encouraging active travel will be reported in the final evaluation by the end of 2012.

Jim Eadie: Has the minister had the opportunity to examine the research by cycling campaign group Spokes, which showed a 12 per cent increase in the number of cyclists across Edinburgh? Does he agree that the Scottish Government must continue to invest in cycling and walking? Will he meet me and representatives of Spokes and the Bike Station at Causewayside in my constituency to discuss what more can be done to support active travel, given the obvious environmental and health benefits that it brings?

Keith Brown: Yes, I am aware of the rising number of cyclists in Edinburgh. I take this opportunity to praise City of Edinburgh Council members and officers for their commitment and leadership in making the city such an active travel success story. I recently had the chance to cycle into the city on an excellent cycle route. To my mind, the other local authorities should look closely at what Edinburgh has done and try to follow suit.

Last week, I attended the Cycling Scotland conference in Glasgow and took questions on the draft budget from delegates, including one from a Spokes representative. However, I am happy to meet the member and the two constituency interests that he mentioned.

MARCO BIAGI FULL QUESTION/ANSWER

(S4W-03871)  Marco Biagi (Edinburgh Central) (Scottish National Party): To ask the Scottish Executive how much it will spend on active and sustainable travel, as referred to in the 2011 SNP manifesto, in each year from 2011-12 to 2014-15 and what proportion this represents of (a) overall transport spend, (b) transport spend excluding the Forth Replacement Crossing and (c) overall spend as laid out in the Scottish Spending Review 2011 and Draft Budget 2012-13.

Keith Brown: The Scottish Government’s planned spend on active and sustainable travel, as reflected in the spending review and draft budget, is set out in the following table, together with the requested comparisons. The draft budget is still subject to parliamentary proceedings.

2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Sustainable and Active Travel (SAT) £25 million £16 million £25 million £15 million
Total Transport £1,804 million £1,884 million £1,956 million £1,986 million
SAT as % of above 1.39% 0.85% 1.28% 0.76%
Transport less Forth Crossing £1,604 million £1,602 million £1,675 million £1,627 million
SAT as % of above 1.56% 1.00% 1.49% 0.92%
Total Scottish Government £33,523 million £33,862 million £34,431 million £35,187 million
SAT as % of above 0.07% 0.05% 0.07% 0.04%

 

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