As well as the much publicised London mayoral election, in just under two weeks the Scots also go to the polls, to select their next government. As transport policy is largely devolved, the vote could make a big difference to anyone who cycles or walks.
Campaign group We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote – which is supported by over two dozen organisations and primarily funded by Cycling UK – aim get all parties to sign up to three key policy pledges:
• Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget
• Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure, enabling people aged 8-80 to cycle•
• Safety: Promote and deliver safer roads for both walking and cycling
We’ve emailed every candidate we could find an address for (they are surprisingly coy) to ask where they stand on these issues and invited them to this Saturday’s Pedal on Parliament, the mass bike ride on Holyrood in Edinburgh for safer cycling.
We’ve tried to assess each response as being fully, partly or not supportive of the pledges, while providing the candidates’ own words so voters can make up their own mind. It’s been surprisingly hard – it turns out politicians are skilled at providing answer-shaped words that on closer examination provide no useful information. Who knew?
So far we’ve had replies from over 12% of the 544 candidates standing as either constituent or list MSPs, or both.
As an umbrella group working under the new rules for non-party campaigning during an election we can’t tell people how to vote, or even say which candidates we think are best – so unlike last week’s London mayoral campaign Bike Blog we don’t give candidates marks out of 10.
But we can give you their manifesto promises and a breakdown of what their candidates are saying. If you want to know more detail then you can see all the responses of candidate in each constituency here.
Spokes Lothian, who have decades of experience in decoding political doublespeak, also provide an analysis of each manifesto.
As of 20 April 10 candidates (8%) had responded, of whom two supported us fully on investment, and two partially; one fully on infrastructure and one partly, and one fully on road safety.
The SNP manifesto says the party has “put in place record investment in cycling and walking and will continue to do so over the life of the next parliament”, with a target of 10% of trips being made by bike by 2020.
They have called road safety “a priority” and mention the success of an average speed camera programme on the A77.
All this has been, after some consideration, marked as a partial support for our investment pledge. A commitment to continue record investment in cycling and walking could be described as “sustained”, even if it is unclear how the “vision” of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020 will be met. Even at record levels the SNP government still invests less than 2% of its transport budget in walking and cycling.
The SNP’s transport minister, Derek Mackay will be attending (and speaking at) Pedal on Parliament, where he may announce something more detailed.
Twenty candidates have responded (19%), of whom eight support us fully on investment and two partly; 10 support us fully on infrastructure and one partly; and eight support us fully on road safety and three partly.
The Labour manifesto is not yet out so it’s hard to provide concrete information on their policies, but the candidates’ replies may provide a clue.
Most told us, “My colleague, David Stewart, recently called for 1% of the £690m trunk road budget to be transferred to the active travel budget but unfortunately this fell upon deaf ears,” which could be a sign that some pledges on increased investment may be forthcoming.
Otherwise, there’s an emphasis on public transport and recreation, neither of which really answer our policy pledges.
We hope that the manifesto will be more specific, and we’re pleased the Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, is planning to attend Pedal on Parliament as she has done regularly – in fact it’s what got her back on a bike in the first place.
Six candidates have responded (8%), of whom one supports us fully on investment and two partly; one supports us fully on infrastructure and one partly; and one supports us fully on road safety.
The Conservative manifesto says they will push for an extra £5m for cycling, walking and safer streets, which we’ve scored as partial support, although as Spokes point out, they say nothing about overall spending levels.
On infrastructure they say Scotland “should work towards providing at least one segregated cycle route in each of the seven cities, linking from outer city limits through city centres”, which again we’ve counted as partial support. But bearing in mind £1m buys just a mile of high-quality segregated urban cycle track, according to Sustrans, more investment would be needed to achieve that in the course of the parliament.
Seventeen candidates responded (20%), of whom three support us fully on investment and four partly; four support us fully on infrastructure and five partly; and eight support us fully on road safety and three partly
In the Lib Dem manifesto they promise to increase capital spending on active travel by £20m, which Spokes calculates would bring the share up from 2% to 3%. They also talk of “securing savings in the road-building budget each year to devote to cycling”, which rather puts cycling in its place among the ‘real’ transport priorities.
On infrastructure the manifesto says they back dedicated and segregated cycle lanes and would revise design guidelines to reflect international standards. We’ve marked that as full support. Finally on road safety, they want to extend 20mph speed limits, which we’ve marked as partial support.
Willie Rennie, the Lib Dem leader, has not only attended Pedal on Parliament in recent years but also gains extra points for cycling there from Fife with the Fife feeder ride.
Ten candidates responded (15%) of whom 90% fully support us on investment and infrastructure; and 80% fully support us on road safety
Unsurprisingly, the Green manifesto is most in line with our policy pledges. On investment it seeks to extend the proportion of the transport budget spent on active travel from 2% to 10%, which we’ve marked as fully supportive.
With infrastructure the party is calling for more 20mph speed limits, cycle hubs at bus and train stations and a “rolling programme to improve bike paths and pedestrian routes”, which we see as partial support.
On road safety the Greens are given a full support mark, though this is something of a judgement call. Their manifesto seeks the introduction of a “presumed liability” law to protect vulnerable road users, and the offer of cycle training for all children.
Of the smaller parties only candidates from the new leftwing Rise group sent more than one response. Rise sent four, 10% of the total, with three partly supporting us on investment and one each partly supporting us on road safety and infrastructure.
The Rise manifesto makes no mention of cycling and walking but does promise to make public transport free.
The UKIP manifesto also makes no mention of walking and cycling, although as Spokes points out they do aim to make travelling about Scotland ‘a pleasure’ which sounds like cycling to us.
The Womens Equality Party are sticking to their six core objectives, which don’t include a transport element. And finally in the interest of completeness, I should add that according to a leaflet which came through my door this morning, the Clydesdale and South Scotland Independents are calling for a footpath alongside each adopted highway.