Highland cyclists call for ‘culture change’

The following is a press release sent to local papers on behalf of a group of cycling campaigners/interest groups which met recently in Inverness:

Cyclists from across the Highlands and Moray are calling for action to help bring about a Scandinavian-style cycle culture to the north of Scotland.

Representatives from 10 different cycling campaign groups and interests gathered at the new Velocity Cycle Cafe in Inverness last week to discuss ways of working together.

The event, organised by the Highland Cycle Campaign (HCC) and hosted by Velocity, brought together ideas to help create a culture change over the next decade.

The new umbrella group is now calling for action from politicians, including:
• Increasing the share of the cycling and walking part of the transport budget from under one per cent at present to 10 per cent.
• Filling the “missing links” in the cycle network to allow any competent 12 year old to cycle safely to any desired destination, ultimately creating a complete cycle route network.
• Clear maintenance, repair and litter clearance agreements on traffic-free and off-road cycle routes.
• A default 20 mph speed limit in urban areas ensuring that cycling becomes a “normal and accepted” way to travel, for all, throughout life, with all road users to be more tolerant of others’ needs and limitations.
• Planning and development officials to insist on best cycling provision as a top priority in new developments.
• First-class cycle facilities and training accessible to all from an early age, including for sporting arenas such as BMX parks, race tracks & mountain bike courses.
• Better integration of cycling with public transport, including clear access to interchanges, parking and increased carriage capacity on trains and buses.

Sixteen people representing the Alness Project, Bike Revolution (Lossiemouth), the Cyclists’ Touring Club (Highland branch), Million Miles Project (Transition Black Isle), New Start Bikes (Inverness), Raigmore Hospital Bike User Group, Sustrans, Ticket to Ride (Inverness), HCC and Velocity attended the meeting last Tuesday (November 20th).

Organiser Ged Church, of HCC, said the idea was to give cycling issues a stronger voice in the Highlands and Moray by bringing together people and organisations with a shared goal.

He hopes that by having a stronger, more united voice on such issues, those in power would begin to listen to the growing number of cyclists in the area.

Mr Church said: “These desires will be recognised by many. It’s surely time to get our politicians to recognise the immense value of the cycling habit to community health, well-being and the environment, and act rather than talk.”

The Scottish Government has a target to get 10 per cent of all journeys by bike by 2020, while Scottish planning policy states that “Reducing emissions from transport sources as a contribution to achieving Scottish Government greenhouses gas emission targets requires a shift to more sustainable modes of transport. For people this means a shift from car-based travel to walking, cycling and public transport.”

The group feels that very often planning decisions are not encouraging this change of use and much more investment in sustainable transport is needed to increase the number of journeys by bike.

Anne Thomas from Transition Black Isle said: “We need to shift to lower carbon forms of transport and cycling is an enjoyable way to do this which can also save people a lot of money”.

Active Outdoors editor John Davidson attended the meeting as a volunteer representative of Sustrans.

He said: “The government has worthy targets but when it comes to investing in their own ideas, they fail to back that up with action. A change in attitude is needed from the very top, so that cycling and walking options are a top priority in any development.

“Study after study shows how money invested in cycling and walking saves on health spending but unfortunately politicians are obsessed with short-termism and fail to see the bigger picture.

“We are calling on them to invest for the good of our communities, to help reduce congestion, improve health and well-being and create a safer, better connected cycle network for people of all ages and abilities to benefit from for the long term.”

For more information on the Highland Cycle Campaign, email info@highlandcyclecampaign.com or visit www.highlandcyclecampaign.com

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