June 2013

Spokes National Cycling Proposal

Please support our proposal for a national project to kick-start everyday cycling in every council area within Scotland.  You can help!!
[July 11:  Spokes has now responded to the NPF3 and SPP consultations. See 1307 on our national submissions page].

The Scottish Government is developing its National Planning Framework 3 which will include infrastructure projects ‘of national significance.’   At an earlier consultation stage, last autumn, Spokes proposed a national project comprising one truly cycle-friendly town or city in every Scottish local authority, all linked by existing or new sections of the Sustrans National Network.

The government has now issued its Main Issues Report and Draft Framework  and this does include [3.21-3.24] a national cycling and walking network as a proposed National Development.  This is a big advance on NPF1 and NPF2, some years ago, when our submissions were rejected completely.

Unfortunately, however, this proposed National Development is based almost entirely on leisure and tourism, with only a passing reference to using a bike for everyday trips.   Leisure and tourism are of course very important, but this completely misses the necessity to foster everyday cycle-use, such as for shopping, work and school, and to do so in all parts of Scotland – which was at the heart of our proposal.

In fact, our proposal would also work for leisure and tourism – and would do so more effectively than the government’s leisure/tourism-only proposal.  Under our proposal, local residents who start to use a bike in the newly cycle-friendly towns would also have the opportunity and the incentive to undertake wider leisure trips, using the National Network, leading to weekends away and to ‘holidays at home.’  Conversely, visitors to Scotland using the National Network would have the benefit of cycle-friendly towns along their route, rather than being dumped from the network into potentially hostile local urban cycling environments.

Section 5.12 of the above Main Issues report does at least say that NPF3 “will reflect our ambition to significantly increase levels of everyday cycling and walking within our settlements, and this is recognised as part of the cities agenda” – yet in fact most of the Cities agenda [5.16-5.20] seems to be about major road projects between the cities (with some rail projects) and none of the proposed national developments anywhere in the document are geared to a big rise in everyday walking and cycling.

HOW YOU CAN HELP  [closing date Tuesday 23 July]

There is now a consultation on the above Main Issues Report and Draft Framework document.  Although this is a long and complex document it is easy for you to comment on just one aspect, and we urge everyone who would like to see cycle-friendly towns and cities across Scotland to respond.  You can of course comment on other non-cycling aspects if you wish and if you have the time to study the full document!

To respond you must use the NPF3 Main issues report consultation questionnaire.   Download this document [it is in Word format], complete page 1 and whichever other answers concern you, then email the completed document to npfteam@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

The important questions to answer are Q9 and Q14.

Q9 asks whether you support a national network of walking and cycling routes being designated as a national development.  Please give your views, in your own words (though it is fine, if you wish, to also say you support the Spokes proposal).  The Spokes view, which we hope you support, is that we are very pleased to see this proposed national development, and strongly support it, but are very disappointed that it is only about leisure and tourism, whereas it should be based on increasing everyday journeys by bike in local towns and cities, and then promoting leisure and tourism by a national network of routes linking these towns and cities.

Q9 also asks what links should be prioritised in a national network.  There is no need to answer this, but for Edinburgh, and for Scottish tourism in general, a high quality route from the Capital to the North would be one answer.

Q14  It is encouraging that this question, which is a wide one about decarbonising transport, actually asks specifically about cycling and walking for everyday use.  This is a chance to repeat and emphasise the point that the proposed Q9 national development should be centred on everyday trips,  not just on leisure and tourism.   We believe that our Spokes proposal, as in the first part of this article above, provides a truly national initiative which could kick-start everyday cycling in every council area, as well as linking this very effectively into a wider tourism and leisure network.  NB – in writing your answer to Q14 it is vital to remember that this consultation is about ‘developments of national significance.’   It is not about your favourite local wanted route.

The government’s Cycle Action Plan for Scotland [pdf] seeks to more than quintuple cycle use by 2020 – up from its current 1%-2% of all journeys to 10% – this will only be achieved with a major national initiative such as we propose, in which all councils are incentivised to participate.

If you have time, in addition to using the above response form, it would be worth emailing your own MSPs and asking them if they will make their own comment to the consultation and support the Spokes proposal.


Please do answer Q9 & Q14, but if you have more time you may wish also to answer some of the other questions.   For example…

  • Q11 – includes the future of town centres and of rural areas – you could mention the importance of mixed uses in towns and in local areas within cities – so that it is easy to get to the facilities you need on foot and by bike.
  • Q12 – support for the Central Scotland Green Network – possibly the area this covers should be widened.
  • Q13 – housing – what sort of areas should new housing be developed in [e.g. need for facilities, shops, etc to be located in easy cycling and walking distance, and for towns to be rail-connected]
  • Q14 – see main article above.  If you wish to expand on this, you could mention the contribution of walking and cycling to increasing physical activity [mentioned in 4.35 of the report] and reducing the gap between the more and less disadvantaged [para 4.36].   Q14 also asks another question: “Is our spatial strategy consistent with the aim of decarbonising transport?”  The answer is clearly ‘No,’ given the government’s huge road-building programme, expansion of all Scotland’s main airports, and a completely new High Speed rail route between Edinburgh and Glasgow at the same time as cutting back on the ‘ordinary rail’ Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Project (EGIP).
  • Q15 – transport within and between cities.  This is another opportunity to mention the huge sums allocated by the government to trunk road investment, and alternative uses of some of the money to maintain local roads and to invest in cycling, walking and public transport.  Strangely, the huge road projects are not considered as National Developments in NPF3 despite their massive size and costs – e.g. £3000m to dual the A9; £3000m to dual the A96;  £750m for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road – thus avoiding the need for them to be assessed against the objectives of NPF3.  Within cities and towns, investment in walking and cycling should be a major priority, which would cost only a fraction of cost of road expansion.
  • Q16 – connections with the rest of the UK and the world.  NPF3 proposes to upgrade every major airport in Scotland and to build a completely new High Speed rail line between Edinburgh and Glasgow [yet para 1.15, bullet 3 of the report emphasises the importance of enhancing existing infrastructure rather than building new].  These projects seem wholly contradictory to the government’s climate change legally-set targets, and NPF3’s own aim for the ‘decarbonisation of transport’.


There’s no need to read this section unless you have time to spare!!

  • Spokes raised our concerns about the proposed Cycling and Walking National Development being leisure/tourism only with Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP at the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Cycling Group on June 18.   We were pleased to find that the Minister gave a substantial verbal answer, stating spontaneously that he believed the government’s aim to raise cycle use significantly, to contribute to public health and climate change objectives, could only be achieved through big increases in everyday cycling, not just through leisure and tourism.  He said he would raise the matter with the Planning Minister and asked Spokes to write to him with further details and with a copy of our above autumn 2012 submission.  This seems to be further evidence of a possible willingness to take on our ideas, making it even more important that the current consultation receives letters in support from individuals and from other organisations.   We have now written to the Minister [pdf 192k].
  • At the time of the autumn consultation several other organisations and individuals proposed national projects on somewhat similar lines to ours, although ours placed particularly high emphasis on everyday cycle use, and some were purely about leisure and tourism.  One excellent submission was from Transform Scotland and others [pdf 140k].  A Scottish Government overview and summary of all 642(!) proposed national developments was published: Assessment of Proposed National Developments Report [pdf 894k].   Annex 1 contains those proposed National Developments considered suitable for possible designation, and Annex 2 those considered unsuitable.  The Spokes proposal makes it into Annex 1 [page 31, item 2, Cycle Network Scotland] with the comment ‘further refinement needed,’ whereas unfortunately the Transform proposal was placed in Annex 2 [page 88, item 174, Walking and Cycling National Infrastructure] as its emphasis was considered too locally-based.  The complete set of all National Development submissions is also available, the Spokes submission being #2 and Transform #174.
  • The NPF3 consultation is accompanied by a consultation on SPP, the Scottish Planning Policy document.  Full information about both consultations is here and there is also an official powerpoint presentation summarising very briefly both consultations [pdf version] – slide 8 is rather ironic, starting with ‘Low Carbon Transport’ and ending with ‘Airports and High Speed Rail’!

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