Cyclists demand Government doubles funding

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MORE than 100 cyclists staged a mass protest outside the Scottish Government headquarters, calling for a doubling of the cash allocated to cycling and walking.

Placard-waving campaigners held a rally in front of St Andrew’s House in Regent Road and argued more spending on cycle paths and safer roads would lead to lower carbon emissions and healthier lifestyles.

The demonstrators make their point in front of St Andrew's House in pursuit of a �40m budget claim. Picture: Colin Hattersley

The demonstrators make their point in front of St Andrew's House in pursuit of a �40m budget claim. Picture: Colin Hattersley

They want Finance Secretary John Swinney to double the current one per cent allocation for cycling and walking to £40 million next year and then increase it each year until it hits ten per cent of the total transport budget.

Tom Ballantine, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of organisations working on climate change, said: “A low carbon country needs a low carbon transport system. Currently a quarter of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transport. We are calling for funding for cycling and walking to be doubled, to reduce emissions from the transport sector.

“Making these low carbon transport options a better and easy choice for people can drive down emissions in a cost-effective way. This will have health and other benefits for people across the country.”

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said a survey earlier this year showed people want more dedicated cycle paths, safer roads and better storage for bikes.

She said: “There is enormous demand for cycling. The benefits are obvious yet the Scottish Government continues to drag its feet.

“If we are remotely serious about living up to our low carbon and healthy living ambitions we need to see radical policy shifts. We hear repeated excuses from SNP ministers that budgets are squeezed yet they’re happy to commit billions to dual carriageways, motorways, bypasses and bridges that increase emissions and worsen our health.”

Cyclist Zuri Godall, from Pathhead, who was at the protest, said: “I want to see double in relation to the cycling and walking budget because I’m concerned about Scotland’s carbon footprint, but also because I know Scotland has some of the worst health statistics in Europe.

“It’s really important to make routes safer and more appealing for people who do choose to cycle and walk instead of taking their cars.”

Also taking part was Green city councillor Gavin Corbett, who said Edinburgh was leading the way by investing six per cent of its transport budget in cycling. But he said: “Even that is not keeping up with the demand from pedestrians and cyclists.”

The Scottish Government said it was committed to encouraging people to make active travel choices where possible.

A spokesman said it was working with others to enable cyclists to use Scotland’s roads safely. He said: “A broad portfolio of approaches is needed and will continue to be developed to improve cyclist safety.”