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Cycling in Scotland: A Year Like No Other

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New data reports a 47% increase in cycling in Scotland
New data reports a 47% increase in cycling in Scotland from March 2020 to March 2021 compared to the previous year. Local cyclists accredit this growth to more cycle-friendly roads during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, 47% more cycling journeys were recorded in Scotland compared to the same period the previous year, according to data released by Cycling Scotland. The increase coincides with the introduction of the country’s first COVID-19 restrictions, which were first implemented on 23 March 2020.

Cycling Scotland, a member of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), has been issuing continuous updates on the number of cycling journeys being undertaken since lockdown measures came into effect. Using the country’s nationwide network of automatic counters to compile the data, they have reported an increase in cycling for eleven of the twelve months. 20 of the counters even recorded an annual increase of more than 100%!

As stated by Keith Irving, Chief Executive of Cycling Scotland, “it has been a horrendous year, but one of the few bright spots has been more people getting back on their bikes. Cycling has a key role to play in people getting exercise and fresh air, managing the ongoing pressure on our transport system and, crucially, tackling the global climate emergency we face.”

This information was collected as part of the National Monitoring Framework, managed by Cycling Scotland, to monitor cycling rates across the country.

Cycle-Friendly Roads: Unlocking the Benefits of Cycling

The relaxation of car traffic during lockdown has played a major role in encouraging people in Scotland to get out on their bike. Once individuals take the initial step and begin cycling more, they begin to realise the resulting health benefits and positive impact it has on their lives.

Claire Sharp, a charity worker from Glasgow, began cycling during lockdown and is a typical example of how people are more likely to cycle on roads that are not dominated by car traffic. “I live next to a main road that leads into the city centre to my work; it’s an easy route but the traffic there is so heavy. I was too scared to attempt it in the past”, she told Cycling Scotland. “I’ve also found going for a cycle after work helps me process things that have happened during the day and makes me less stressed.”

Asif Sattar, an IT worker from Motherwell, also took up cycling over the past year, explaining that “cycling was a way for me to break free of the lockdown gloom. As I was working from home, getting out on my bike helped me exercise, clear the mind and refocus on my health during the pandemic.”

However, less cars on the road is only the beginning for improving cycling infrastructure in countries like Scotland. Increased investment in permanent cycling infrastructure is the only way to a ensure a long-term modal shift towards cycling, improving transport sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

As explained by Irving, “to get even more people cycling, we need to invest more in infrastructure, so people feel safe to cycle. We need more dedicated cycle lanes, separated from vehicles and pedestrians. We need to reduce traffic, especially on residential and shopping streets. And we need to increase access to bikes and storage to tackle the barriers too many people face so anyone, anywhere can enjoy all the benefits of cycling.” 

A Cycling Boom

The past twelve months has been a prosperous year for the cycling industry in Scotland. Like many other countries across Europe, the whole of the United Kingdom has experienced a major cycling boom. The latest figures from the Bicycle Association show sales of bikes, bike parts, accessories and services increased by 45% across the UK in 2020.

Public investment in long-term cycling infrastructure is a sure-fire way to ensure that this trend continues, especially with the increasing growth in popularity for electric and electric-assisted bicycles across Europe.

Scotland’s statistics on the increase in cycling have been outstanding. However, with the end in sight for lockdown restrictions in the UK, it is now important to ensure these figures are sustained going forward. Increased investment in long-term cycling infrastructure is essential for this. The past year has shown that people have the appetite to cycle more; it is now time to ensure these figures are sustained.

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