A new survey from Cycling Scotland has found that two-thirds of adults rated their chances of getting on a bike in the next two to three years as pretty unlikely.
As a cyclist and cycling campaigner, I might think that to be bad news, but I am optimistic.
The picture is far more interesting than this one survey suggests, and I would think it extremely likely that many of those who said they do not see themselves cycling, would like to.
The reason I am optimistic is that recent results from another survey published by Glasgow City Council claimed that 48% of residents would favour a ban on cars entering the city centre to combat the health impacts of heavy traffic. Edinburgh, too, is looking to curb air pollution by making the city car-free one day a month. The hope is that this will allow more people to engage in active travel and give them the opportunity to cycle in ‘car free’ areas.
The survey from Cycling Scotland also found that most children – 80% - know how to ride a bike and that 62% of parents said that their children cycled at least once a week.
This appears to suggest that we all know that cycling is good for health, well-being and for the environment, so perhaps we just need a bit more encouragement and not see cycling as a ‘risky’ mode of transport.
We live in a world where the car is king. This has led, in many ways, to the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mindset that Sir Chris Hoy spoke of recently and wants to see brought to an end. It is the mindset that has also polarised opinions and caused the repetition of a number of myths and misconceptions.
For the record, there is no such thing as road tax; drivers pay a tax on the emission levels of their cars. Most cyclists have insurance through their home contents cover and a majority will also have a driving licence and therefore have passed a test to be on the road.
In 2017, 176 cyclists and 414 pedestrians were seriously injured or killed on Scotland’s roads. If a car collides with a pedestrian or cyclist, it is the latter who is liable to serious injury. And yet, even our insurance industry will often give greater priority to replacing a damaged car over compensating a seriously injured individual.
Altering Scotland’s car culture is going to be hard, but it is beginning to happen.
It was recently announced that there could be changes to the Highway Code to help better protect both pedestrians and cyclists. In truth, the rule proposed - that motorists would be required to always give way to pedestrians and cyclists when turning left at junctions - already exists, but the move to shake up the 87-year old Highway Code, is a powerful recognition of the vulnerability of many of today’s road users.
Any education around cyclist and pedestrian rights should also be welcomed. To improve road safety, education is vitally important. Bad driving is bad driving; just as irresponsible individuals on bicycles should be stopped and cautioned. To revisit the Highway Code is common sense. Promoting good habits is another part of that.
People on bikes are a normal and increasingly common sight on our roads, and the focus on encouraging mutual consideration and respect has to be welcomed as that will make a difference.
Cycling is good in so many ways and I am forever hopeful that its popularity will continue to grow year on year.