On 13th January 2016, BBC Scotland broadcast a documentary titled “Car Sick”. In it, Derek Mackay MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Transport was interviewed:
BBC: “How much are we spending now?”
Mackay: “In terms of Active Transport it’s a record level of £39m. That’s the highest ever investment in Active Travel.”
BBC: “1.9% of your budget. Is that right?”
Mackay: “It’s still £39m. It’s still at a record level…”
To understand why this is an issue, we need to know the Scottish government’s stated goals…
The 10% Target
In 2010, the Scottish government set a target of having 10% of journeys made by bicycle by 2020.
To put this in perspective, currently fewer than 2% of journeys are by bike.
While it’s obvious that there’s no way that’ll quintuple in less than 5 years, the 10% target still stands – even if the deadline is pushed back.
Can’t get there from here
£39m might be a record level, but even if all that money was for cycling – which it isn’t – it would still only be ¼ of what the Netherlands spends per head.
(£7.36 per head compared to around £30 in the Netherlands.)
Mackay believes – or pretends to – that we can get 10% from 1.9%. That 40 years of chronic under-investment in cycling infrastructure can be solved by slightly less chronic under-investment.
Which is why, when I was listening to Mackay, I was reminded of an episode of the Simpsons where Bart, frustrated by his slow-moving remedial class, said…
“Let me get this straight: we’re behind the rest of our class and we’re going to catch up to them by going slower than they are? Cuckoo!”
Time to shit or get off the pot
I would have more respect for the government if it tore up all its active travel goals, rather than to continue with this charade.
“Hey, voters want cars more than they want bikes. Proper cycling infrastructure takes space away from cars, so we’re not going to do that.
We’re in the short-term people pleasing business, not in the ‘best long-term future’ business.”
That, at least, would be honest.