My heart goes out to the families and friends of both men who have died doing something that they clearly both loved. Although both tragedies took place in very different places, the common theme is that both were victims of a transport system which treats cyclists as second-class citizens.
The Scottish Government has admitted much needs to be done to reduce cycle fatalities and injuries on our roads but I fear very little will change unless we see serious funding put in place. Proper investment in better infrastructure will save lives and reduce pressures on our health service. It’s time for a once-in-a-generation fund to bring our roads up to European standards.
I also remain disappointed that the Transport Minister has refused to discuss the idea of strict liability. We need to rebalance the relationship between motor vehicles and cyclists. Perhaps in light of the latest tragedies he will reconsider and engage in a discussion.
At the moment the Scottish Government spends a minuscule 0.7 per cent of its transport budget on cycling and walking infrastructure. If we are remotely serious about hitting the target of having ten per cent of all journeys made by bike by 2020 – the current rate is just one per cent – we need a substantial shift in funding.
I have already suggested to ministers they create a fund to encourage the development of an exemplar project so that local authorities can see how good cycle infrastructure works. I think the call from the Pedal on Parliament campaign for five per cent of the transport budget to be spent on cycling is perfectly reasonable and would help us towards the ten per cent journey target.
The overall Scottish transport budget for 2013-14 is £2billion. Five per cent would be £100million or £20 per head. By contrast the Netherlands is already spending around £25 per head. The money’s there; it just needs the political will to reprioritise it.
Let’s get cracking right now by expanding the use of 20 mph zones in residential and shopping streets. In a Green debate in parliament last year all parties agreed the government should work with local authorities on this.
We should be ploughing tens of millions into a comprehensive maintenance programme to repair potholes, repaint road markings and redesign risky junctions. We should be offering every child in Scotland the chance of on-road cycle training, and we should be ensuring every time a road is dug up or refurbished we are looking for an opportunity to make it safer for cyclists.