February 2012

Edinburgh sets new standard

[Big update below, 14.2.12]   Edinburgh City councillors have taken a remarkable decision on cycling investment in today’s Council 2012/13 budget, setting a completely new standard for other councils…

The council decided today that 5% of its transport capital and revenue budgets will be invested in cycling infrastructure and projects [p19 of budget motion, 1.7MB].  Importantly, too, this is quite apart from additional ‘external’ funding, which can itself be quite substantial.  To our knowledge, no other Scottish council has set a percentage for cycling, let alone such an ambitious figure.

The budget decision also agrees to raise the 5% figure by 1% annually (presumably during the 2012-16 period of the budget statement).

———————————————UPDATE STARTS

Important update 14.2.12 [some of this only relevant in Scotland]  Several people have contacted us about trying to get this excellent ‘% of transport budget’ idea adopted in other councils.   That’s great and very exciting.   If you are doing so, please think about two very important points…

  • Don’t ask for ‘x% of the transport budget‘.  Ask for ‘x% of the council’s transport budget excluding outside funding such as CWSS or Sustrans.‘  Currently around half of Scottish councils put zero into cycling from their own internal transport funds, and depend entirely on external or ring-fenced funding like CWSS or Sustrans money.  This is discussed further under ‘campaign idea’ below.
  • Be realistic, don’t be greedy!   Edinburgh has decided on 5%, but remember, first, that over 5% of trips to work are already by bike in Edinburgh, and, second, that Edinburgh is already used to putting a significant chunk of its own money into cycling.   In many councils the % mode share is 1% and they are used to putting zero of their own money into cycling and relying entirely on external funding.  You may be dismissed as lunatic if you suggest 5%!  Try it if you want, but if you suggest roughly the % of existing modal share, that sounds like being fair and harder to argue against.    Once you’ve got the 1%, 2% or whatever you can try and raise it in future years (esp. if bike use is starting to grow).  Also remember that if putting their own money in then the council has a reasonable chance of doubling that up with Sustrans match funding – a good argument with councillors!  Again, more on this below under ‘campaign idea’.

———————————————UPDATE ENDS

Edinburgh’s sustained investment in cycling over many years under a variety of political adminstrations has paid off in rising levels of cycle use, and the current council is now taking that further.  The Scottish Household Survey suggests that between 5% and 9% of all trips to work were already by bike in 2009 (a percentage in line with the 5% budget allocation!) and Spokes traffic counts show continuing growth in bike commuting.

It seems like we are in a virtuous circle with cycling infrastructure and initiatives leading to greater interest in using a bike to get around, with that in turn encouraging the council to act on its targets and its ambitions to grow cycle use.   The new investment will hopefully feed this exciting trend.   The growth in cycling also encourages, and is encouraged by, many community initiatives, such as the Bike Station, Spokes Maps, employer initiatives, online forums, innertube and many recreational ride organisers.   It’s also boosting employment, with new small local shops and Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op’s 5-year development plan for 100 new jobs.

The 5% decision means that the Council will invest around £1m in cycling infrastructure and projects from its own internal transport funds, up from £600k this year and £475k in 2010/11.   On top of this will be several £100k from the government CWSS fund (unfortunately reduced in the government budget), plus an excellent chance of substantial Sustrans investment (since bids to Sustrans depend on councils investing matching sums), plus other external funding such as from developers.  Although such figures will not be known for some time, Edinburgh could be heading towards the sort of total investment levels seen in bike-friendly European towns.

The council’s 5% commitment includes a new revenue cycling budget for promotional work etc – previously money for such ‘soft measures’ had to be put together from assorted other budgets.

The new money will be used to speed up implementation of Edinburgh’s Active Travel Action Plan, which takes off this Spring [Spokes Bulletin 111, p1] with its first two major projects.

Of course, there are council elections on May 3rd – it is really important for concerned individuals (you?) to contact their councillors and candidates, and ask them to maintain or improve on these existing decisions.  A bike-unfriendly council would be perfectly within its rights to reverse current priorities in future years.

Individual councillors also matter – in particular, having a transport convener such as current convener Cllr Mackenzie who understands the value of cycling as a transport mode is as important as official party policies.   Thus we need as many bike-friendly councillors as possible to be elected!


Edinburgh’s excellent initiative suggests a new campaign idea for concerned groups and individuals around Scotland.   Nearly half of Scotland’s councils currently invest zero in cycling from their own internal transport capital* – relying entirely on government CWSS funding, bids to Sustrans and other external sources.  We would like to see every Scottish council follow Edinburgh’s example, and invest from their own internal transport capital at least the same percentage as the cycle commuting percentage amongst their own citizens – in addition to whatever funding they get from CWSS, Sustrans, etc.

Note too that if a council is investing in cycling they can bid to Sustrans for matching funds for cycling projects.  And, following the recent Scottish budget, which reinstated a fair bit of the planned active travel cuts, Sustrans will actually have improved funding, meaning that councils with good projects have an improved chance of winning Sustrans matching funds.

Consider using this idea in lobbying before and after the council elections.   Make sure that any % commitment is from the council’s own ‘internal’ transport budget, i.e. not including CWSS or any external funding they may obtain for additional cycling investment.  Please let us know of any helpful responses from your local council.

Data Sources…

*Find total ‘internal cycling investment’ (using Edinburgh Council’s definition) in 2010/11 for all mainland councils by adding up columns d and f in the Spokes financial survey on page 7 of Spokes Bulletin 111Please be aware that there are many assumptions in drawing up this table, and there may be inaccuracies or uncertainties for some councils. [Note that in our survey we counted CWSS money as ‘internal,’ since councils have discretion how much of it to invest in cycling; but under Edinburgh Council’s definition it is counted as external because it comes direct from government].

Find the % of journeys to work by bike in your local council area from table 1 of the Scottish Household Survey local transport tables [pdf 342k].  Note that this is based on small samples.  Thus whilst Edinburgh is shown as having 7.3% bike share, the true figure is probably anywhere between around 5% and 9%.  For smaller councils the possible variation from the figure shown may be even greater.




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