This is a very important time in Scotland’s transport programme; as the minister responsible, you do not need me to tell you this.
Both of us know that active travel, and cycling in particular, is now moving up the political and policy agenda and I am pleased, along with other colleagues, to have played my part in achieving this. However, active travel is not just becoming one of the most talked-about issues in Edinburgh, but throughout Scotland. For thousands of people, Scotland’s cycling infrastructure – and the need for sustained investment in designated cycle paths – is critical if we are to reduce carbon emissions and achieve our cycling ambitions.
From attending the first Pedal on Parliament campaign event in April 2012, which attracted 3000 people campaigning for safer roads and better access for cyclists, to having a Scottish Government debate on active travel, which you led earlier this year, is good progress.
However, we cannot stop here.
In Edinburgh, we have one of the highest rates of cycling in the country, but many more people would get on their bike if the roads were safer. On an almost daily basis, I hear from constituents of all ages on this issue; many of whom express a desire to cycle but feel that the roads are not yet safe enough.
For a government that developed the first Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and which strives to have ten per cent of all journeys in Scotland being taken by bike by 2020, we can and must do better.
Earlier this month you advised the parliament that the Future Transport Fund budget is £20.25 million; however, you stressed that no allocation decisions had yet been made.
I believe we can use part of this fund to make Scotland, and Edinburgh, a leader in active travel throughout the UK. Cycling offers the people of Scotland a great deal: improvements to health through exercise, less pollution with fewer carbon emissions and a sustainable mode of transport and recreation.
Physical activity levels for both adults and children are improving year-on-year as Scotland continues to invest in cycling. Clearly, the efforts being made to encourage the public to lead healthier and active lives are working.
Let’s keep this going.
We know investment in cycling is at a historic high of £39m in 2014-15, but we need to build upon this in the years ahead. We know the benefits of investing in cycling are huge, and the Scottish Government must use every opportunity available to ensure that a modal shift to public transport and active travel continues.
I was pleased the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, announced a further £3.9m for cycling following a meeting with me in January. I would urge you therefore to continue this work and use some of the £20m available in the Future Transport Fund for more active travel investments here in Edinburgh.
We in this city need to see our cyclists out on the roads as equals. We need to see people on their bikes without fear. We need to see a government responding to the demand from local people, just as Edinburgh City Council has done in committing seven per cent of its transport budget for investment to walking and cycling.
I am hopeful that this will go a long way to ensuring that Edinburgh will become the most cycle-friendly city in this country.
I look forward to working with you on this issue.