...what is the money wasted on?
If you started out with the view that the Scots just won’t cycle and wanted to demonstrate it you could build half decent routes that were isolated from any other reasonable facilities, don’t join real destinations together, and are in rural areas with a limited population. The stretch of the NCN74 between Lesmahagow and Junction 11 of the M74 would seem to be an ideal example of this, and apparently cost about a million pounds. It doesn’t seem to have facilitated cycling because it doesn’t join the places that people need to travel between, and the local population is pretty limited so the potential for increasing levels of cycling is at best minimal. As far as increasing the proportion of journeys made by bike in Scotland that doesn’t seem to have been very successful, and if you were to assess value for money in terms of how much progress is made towards the stated aims (10% of journeys in Scotland being made by bike by 2020) then it does look rather like a waste of money.
On the other hand, if Scottish people really aren’t ever going to cycle then is spending around 8% of the country’s transport budget on trying to increase levels of cycling anything other than simply wasteful? Would it not be possible to do something more useful and constructive with all of the money that has been spent failing to increase levels of cycling in Scotland since 2010? I am sure that there are a multitude of projects which could have had a positive impact on public health which could have used the money, and in doing so provided even greater benefits for the NHS in Scotland.
The results of the Scottish Household Survey Transport Data (2013) were summarised in the Annual Cycling Monitoring Report 2015, and indicate that over a third of people cite the main reason why they don’t cycle to work as some aspect of the roads being too scary or dangerous. The reasons given are “too many cars on the road” 13.9%, “traffic travels too fast” 11.7%, “and inconsiderate drivers” 9.0%, which comes to a total of 34.6% of people surveyed. The greatest proportion, 36.2%, say that it is “too far to cycle”, and the weather (“too cold/wet/windy”) accounts for most of the remainder, with “too hilly” being 6.5%. That’s a lot of people who would potentially cycle to work at least some of the time if they felt that the roads, or routes they needed to use, were less scary or dangerous. I appreciate that I have aggregated three categories into a general “road danger” issue, but the three categories I have aggregated collectively explain why people don’t cycle on the roads, and because you need to use roads to get places this probably goes a long way towards explaining why people just don’t cycle. I suspect that having several different categories for this is really just a way of trying to make it seem like it isn’t really that much of a big deal, but they all basically amount to the fact that the roads are just too scary for ordinary people to consider cycling on them. There are even a couple of other minor categories relating to road surfaces and pollution that could be added to this, but the ones I have aggregated all relate to the traffic on the road and the effect that has on deterring cycling.
Over half of the Scottish population lives in the Greater Glasgow area, and in Glasgow city 73.1% of journeys are shorter than 5km, which is probably about as far as people should really be expected to cycle for utility journeys. Nationally the proportion of journeys which are shorter than 5km is 61.1%. I don’t know what the proportion would be for Greater Glasgow, but I think that it is fair to assume that it is somewhere around about two thirds of journeys. Combining these reveals that somewhere around one third of all the journeys made in Scotland are short journeys of cyclable distances within the greater Glasgow area. This means that if a concerted effort had been made in the greater Glasgow area it would only have been necessary for about a third of the short journeys made in the greater Glasgow area to be made by bike to achieve the original objective of making 10% of all journeys made in Scotland by bike. Given that about a third of the population would cycle to work if it wasn’t for the road danger issue it doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to think that this would have been achievable. The 2017 Annual Cycling Monitoring Report suggests that cycling is the main mode of travel for only 1.2% of journeys in the city, and that it is probably not any higher in any of the other local authorities that would count as Greater Glasgow.
I suppose that the morale of the story is that as long as you are prepared to ignore the fundamental reasons why people don’t cycle then it is possible to spend vast amounts of money without achieving anything.