Danish dreaming and Scottish reality

It was a real pleasure to host an event last week in collaboration with Nordic Horizons, a sort of not-at-all-wonky think tank bringing great ideas, examples and progressive thinking from the Nordic countries to Scotland.

This meeting was about Danish cycling, and in particular the outstanding “cycle utopia” of Copenhagen. Guest speaker Søren Arildskov Rasmussen wowed the audience of Scottish cyclists with slide after slide of fantastic cycle infrastructure and statistics showing just what a transformation Denmark’s policies have led to.

You can see and hear the full 60-slide presentation on the Nordic Horizons website here, but here are just a couple of my highlights:

The right infrastructure is, unsurprisingly, at the heart of Denmark’s success. When you hear Scottish cycle campaigners talking about the need for ‘segregated cycle lanes’, this graphic shows you what they mean. Not painted lanes that fade rapidly, but a distinct raised lane, with parked cars on the outside where necessary. This is what we should be starting to build where possible, with Leith Walk the obvious example in Edinburgh at the moment.

There is a true cycle-friendly culture in Copenhagen, with positive branding and gimmicks to encourage and reward cyclists. Tilted bins, foot-rests at traffic lights, bike counters, air pumps, water taps… you name it, they have it!

Lastly, I was extremely impressed with the connectivity between other modes of transport for cyclists. For instance, a dedicated bike carriage introduced on S-trains saw 5 million bike journeys on trains in 2010. It’s so well-used that they have a one-way system in the carriage. This is part of the reason that 80% of cyclists continue to cycle all year round.

Back to reality, and with my colleague on the Cross Party Group on Cycling, Jim Eadie MSP, I went to meet the Finance Secretary, John Swinney, to put the case, again, for more funding for cycling. It was a timely meeting, as it was announced on Wednesday that the Scottish Government will receive an extra £331m from the UK Government to spend on capital projects. I’ve said before that we need predictable, clear funding for cycling, but there’s no harm in arguing for an early Christmas present on occasions like this!

It was a positive meeting, but if I could have a Christmas wish granted, it would be for some of that Danish and Dutch wisdom to rub off on Scottish Ministers!

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