Thursday 26 July 2012

Active Transport Scotland?

The Scottish government is keen to tell us that it is committed to active travel. They agree that active travel should form a significant part of transport strategy and have thus set targets. For example anyone who reads this blog will already know about the Scottish government target of 10% of journeys by 2020 to be by bicycle. An admirable and achievable target if the government sets in motion the right policies to get us there. Through Pedal on Parliament we have already set out a roadmap that would get us there with our 8 point manifesto.

We have yet to see any action from the government at all towards implementing any of this manifesto, despite some progress at Westminster.

What the government are good at is telling us what they think they have done. They like to point out the small amount of money (1.42% of the transport budget) that they have spent on low carbon, active and sustainable travel. 1.42% sounds like a start doesn't it? Not really when you consider that we are asking for 5% as a minimum for active travel alone. I wonder what proportion of that 1.42% is being spent on public transport, electric vehicles etc.

Of course, actions speak louder than words. Letters can be written in a way that makes it sound like you are doing more than you really are. Words are the playground of politicians. The only real measure of progress is a measure of what is happening on the ground, at the coal face.

Transport Scotland is the transport agency of the Scottish Government, and is fully accountable to Parliament through the Scottish ministers. So there is a direct link between government and Transport Scotland, which has responsibilities for promoting and investing in green travel initiatives. So if the government is serious about active travel then surely they would have a workforce in place tasked with driving that forward. Surely a reasonable size team is required to bring about what would be a revolution in the design and use of the Scotland's roads?

In a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request Transport Scotland was asked the following questions:

How many staff within Transport Scotland are employed with specific responsibility for active travel policies (cycling and walking)?

How does this compare to the total number of staff directly employed within Transport Scotland?

The simple answer to the two questions are 1 and 360.8 (Full time equivalent). That is, out of an organisation of 361 people only 1 person works full time in active travel. That's 0.28% of the organisation.

Of course it's not quite that simple. There is a sustainable transport team of 5 others in the organisation. However they have to devote their time between working on public transport, low carbon vehicles, alternative fuels, investigating the effects of transport on climate change etc. So that's a very small team with a very big, and very important remit. 

Perhaps it is generous to expect that perhaps there are 3 full time equivalents working on active travel at any one time. That would be about 0.8% of Transport Scotland. 0.8% tasked with delivering what would be a huge change in the lndscape of Scotland's roads?!

Can we change the face of transport across the whole of Scotland, get 10% or more of journeys by bike and make our roads safe for cyclists with only three people within the government's own transport arm working towards that aim? Remember they also have less than 1% of the transport budget to do it with!

I'll let you decide...

1 comment:

  1. I think the car centres policy needs to step back and take a good look at some interesting figures.

    Here is the US one -

    Notice how since 1983 (yes 1983) the percentages of drivers in key age groups have been falling none more dramatically than for the youngest drivers.

    On your morning commute you are actually seeing a false picture. Spend a while at Charing Cross and at 5 pm Sauchiehall Street, North Street, Newton Street will be stacked back solidly with queuing cars and the M8 equally full by 6pm you can look back West along Sauchie and not a car in sight back to and through the previous set of lights. Outside a very limited time all Glasgow streets lack so balls of tumbleweed blowing through. hardly a surprise since car ownership in Glasgow is dropping and may now be less than 30% of households, even the car parks are not filling up (and putting special offer signs up)

    The problem comes in dealing with the dinosaurs, and perhaps the answer comes in the money detail. One NHS Trust is reconsidering their car park expansion plans as they've found that each space will need to be subsidised or earning £7 per day for the next 25 years to pay off the debt.

    The other detail hanging in the wings is that mega fine for failing to reduce CO2 emissions and a quick and dirty move is to deal with motorised transport, especially when it is used so inefficiently by private motoring.

    Finally there is the clear economic deal that the cost of catching a train and using a taxi or bus (and even cheaper using a bike) for a significant business journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh can be less than half the cost of using a car.