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Cycling Action Plan for Scotland


Section B - The Network

5.1 National Cycle Network

The National Cycle Network ( NCN) comprises over 12,490 miles (20,100 km) of signed and promoted cycle routes across the UK, of which approximately 1,926 miles (3,100 km) are in Scotland. The NCN provides long-distance cycling opportunities, but also important community links to encourage everyday journeys to be made sustainably.

Typically, NCN routes follow traffic-free paths; minor or traffic-calmed roads; segregated routes through towns and re-determined rural footways. Where there is no practical alternative, the NCN may interface with or cross trunk roads with the agreement of Transport Scotland. Routes that are part of the NCN are identified by blue cycle route signs with red number patches.

The aims of the NCN are to:

  • Provide a nationwide network of safe, attractive, high quality routes for all non-motorised users, including pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and equestrians;
  • Promote walking and cycling as forms of transport which link communities and public transport options. The Network aims to provide a standard appropriate to the needs of people of all ages and abilities;
  • Stimulate wider measures benefiting pedestrians and cyclists and help promote local and regional networks.

The NCN is constructed to an appropriate standard to attract a wide range of users and abilities:

  • A competent 12 year old child cycling unaccompanied;
  • Family groups with younger, supervised children; and
  • All novice cyclists (aged 12 years and above).

The network is promoted and developed by the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, in partnership with local and national roads and planning authorities, the Forestry Commission, British Waterways, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Park Authorities, landowners and other bodies. Detailed online maps and details of route numbering are available at Sustrans' website.

Transport Scotland takes an active role in delivering key routes that interface with the Trunk Road network. The Trunk Road Cycling Initiative launched in 1995 determines that, wherever practicable, measures to benefit non-motorised users should be incorporated into road schemes. A key strategic aim in taking the NCN forward is to ensure that it provides more convenient alternatives to individualised transport and helps achieve a meaningful shift to more active and sustainable modes of transport.

As such, it is vital that local and regional bodies are engaged in developing the network and linking it with wider area transport and planning initiatives.

Route continuity is a fundamental aspect of the NCN and all opportunities should be taken by roads and planning authorities to improve access to it by:

  • actively endeavouring to link the NCN to communities;
  • integrating the network with other transport and social infrastructure;
  • expanding local and regional walking and cycle networks to link with it.

National and local roads and planning authorities should consult Sustrans on any proposed alterations to the NCN (for example, temporary or permanent diversions by developers or infrastructure schemes that may impact on a route) and any diversions should be clearly signed.

Scotland has also seen an accelerated growth in the on and off road infrastructure specifically provided for cycling.

New residential developments such as that to the east of Dunfermline have wide segregated and continuous routes built in. The National Cycle Network has grown from recommended safe cycling and walking routes to links to many destinations that greatly improve the cycling environment. The implementation of the Core Paths Plans ( CPP) across Scotland will give additional opportunities for the NCN to link with other existing local networks providing walkers and cyclists with a tremendous resource for both functional and leisure trips.

Photograph courtesy SUSTRANS

Photograph courtesy SUSTRANS

Action 7: To complete the missing links in the National Cycle Network in Scotland.

Outcome 7: Completed National Cycle Network in Scotland

5.2 Planning, Access Legislation and Guidance

The Scottish Planning Policy is a statement of the Scottish Government's policy on nationally important land use planning matters. The planning system has a role in helping to create an environment where physical wellbeing is improved and activity made easier. Access to good quality open spaces can encourage people to be physically active and aid health and wellbeing.

In settlements, networks of linked, good quality open space are important for their contribution to amenity and their role in nature conservation, biodiversity, recreation and physical activity. Rural areas provide a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities, many of which are closely linked to the quality of the environment. Planning authorities should support, protect and enhance open space and opportunities for sport and recreation.

There will also be encouragement given to communities to actively engage in the new planning system and also for local authorities in national projects such as the Central Scotland Green Network ( CSGN) which is part of National Planning Framework 2 ( NPF2).

Statutory access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 apply to most land and inland water in Scotland, underpinning opportunities for outdoor recreation and for getting from place to place. The access legislation in Part One of this Act aims to make it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors and to be clear that they have a right of 'responsible' access. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code ( SOAC) at gives detailed advice and guidance.

Cycling, walking and horse riding are encouraged on most paths and routes as long as it is done so responsibly and takes into account other users of the route and those who live and work in the area. This can be seen for example in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park which has an excellent variety of cycle routes for everyone, from flat tarmac routes or wide forest tracks for families, to hard-core trails and challenging terrain for mountain bikers. Enjoying leisure cycling, and gaining confidence in their cycling skills in a traffic-free environment, may lead to people considering using their bike for functional trips as part of their day to day activities.


West Loch Lomond Cycle Path

A 16.5 mile route between Balloch and Tarbet, with only three short stretches on minor roads. There are railway stations at both ends making this a sustainable way to travel to the National Park.

Clyde and Loch Lomond Cycle Way

This popular section of National Cycle Route 7 runs from the heart of Glasgow to the village of Balloch at Loch Lomond, on an almost entirely traffic-free 20 mile tarmac route.

Loch Ard Family Route - Queen Elizabeth Forest

An easy 7 mile trail near to the Loch along a fairly flat tarmac route.

For more information visit http://cycling.visitscotland.com.

Cycling by Design published by Transport Scotland in June 2010, is a comprehensive guide of contemporary examples of best practice in cycling design. Its primary focus is the establishment of guidance for practitioners throughout Scotland to ensure consistent and appropriate design. Transport Scotland requires consultants and contractors working on trunk road projects to follow this guidance.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Scotland

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Scotland


The City of Edinburgh Council is working with NHS Lothian and local cycle and pedestrian groups to develop an Active Travel Action Plan for Edinburgh. The plan will address both walking and cycling. It will cover the period to 2020, but will focus on the next three to four years. There will be a particular emphasis on working towards the ambitious cycling targets that the Council has signed up to in the 'Charter of Brussels'. These include a target that by 2020, 15% of trips in the city are made by bike and that the fatality rate for cycle trips is cut by 50%.

The Action Plan will address infrastructure, marketing and education. It will be building on success. Edinburgh has promoted cycling since the mid 1980s and has supported walking through both planning and transport policies. The proportion of people riding a bike to work has more than quadrupled from 1.1% to 5% between 1981 and 2010. Walking to work in Edinburgh continues at a strong 18%, and has shown signs of an increase in recent years.

Designing Streets, published March 2010, is a Scottish Government policy statement for street design in residential areas. It sits alongside Designing Places ( Scottish Executive, 2001) which sets out government aspirations for design and the role of the planning system in delivering these.

There are other publications which focus on off road design, where road design standards would not be appropriate in countryside settings i.e. Lowland Path Construction Guide ( PFA/ SNH) by Paths for All.


Smarter Choices, Smarter Places ( SCSP) is a three year Scottish Government/ COSLA sustainable transport demonstration programme in seven Scottish communities (Barrhead, Dumfries, Central Dundee, Glasgow East End, Kirkintilloch & Lenzie, Kirkwall and Larbert & Stenhousemuir) established in 2009.

£10m of Scottish Government funding and £5m of local matched funding will be used to provide or improve infrastructure and support a range of behaviour change interventions. The aim is to increase active travel and public transport use and reduce car use. All seven SCSP communities are carrying out work on cycling. This includes providing facilities such as Scotland's first self-service cycle hire scheme as well as new on and off road cycle paths and cycle parking. Cycling is also being promoted through personal travel planning, family cycle skills sessions and school cycle training.

The extensive monitoring and evaluation of the programme includes qualitative and quantitative data on attitudes to cycling in the seven SCSP communities. This will help to indentify and overcome local barriers to individuals taking up cycling.

Action 8: To promote the use of planning policy, access legislation and design guidance to a wide range of professionals; and to promote the outcomes of access legislation in the form of leisure activities.

Outcome 8: More well designed, accessible cycling facilities across Scotland

5.3 Public Transport Integration

ScotRail, as part of its Franchise Agreement with Scottish Ministers, has fulfilled its commitment to providing secure cycle facilities at all railway stations in Scotland. However, ScotRail continues to seek new external funding sources to improve current facilities. In 2007, a funding contribution was provided by the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership to boost a general £9.2m refurbishment programme. This delivered increased cycle spaces on 25 Class 158 trains based in Inverness allowing them to carry four bicycles safely rather than just two as previously arranged. These improvements were recognised in the UK National Cycling-Rail Awards for 2008, in which ScotRail won the award of "Most Innovative Approach".

In addition, to providing cycle spaces on trains, ScotRail is keen to encourage and develop new ideas to help support greater rail - cycle integration. One such idea is cycle hire at stations near tourist destinations - on presentation of a valid rail ticket, discounts are now available for cycle hire at Fort William, Inverness and Blair Atholl stations.

Recently ScotRail published a new 'Connections' guide which aims to clarify, among other issues, the carriage of cycles on trains. This guide was produced to give clear and concise guidelines, to both staff and passengers, on many aspects of travelling with a bicycle on trains, including what routes pre-booking is required, how to make these bookings, helpful tips when travelling with a bike, and the types of bicycles that can actually be taken onto trains. The guide is available at all staffed rail stations and can be viewed on ScotRail's website.

The Scottish Government will seek to encourage modal integration where possible while mindful that the carriage of bicycles on buses remains a matter for individual bus operators. For example, Stagecoach often uses a bike-friendly bus on the No.81 service between Lockerbie and Dumfries. The regional transport partnership ( SWESTRANS) subsidises a bike-friendly bus service between Dumfries and Stranraer (No.500 service) and it has aspirations to extend this service through to connect with trains from Edinburgh at Lockerbie. Dumfries and Galloway Council also still operates the Bike Bus shown below.

Photo courtesy SWESTRANS

Photo courtesy SWESTRANS

This Action Plan supports the requirements in Cycling by Design for cycle parking at train stations to be replicated for bus/coach stations, at five spaces per 100 peak period passengers. Through the SQUIRE process, Transport Scotland is reviewing rail cycle storage provision across Scotland to help inform future strategy.

Action 9: To encourage cycling and rail integration by working in partnership with Network Rail and franchise operators to identify opportunities for cost effective improvements in infrastructure and services.

Outcome 9: A better integrated and multi modal transport system in Scotland.

5.4 Improving safety for cyclists in the context of national road safety targets

Road safety is an issue that affects everyone in Scotland. Most of us use the roads every day, as drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. Through the Road Safety Framework to 2020, the Scottish Government has outlined its commitment to making our roads safer for all roads users.

Figure 1 shows the number of reported cyclist road casualties that were killed or seriously injured since 1997. Over this period there was a 37% decrease in all reported road casualties among cyclists. In 2009 there were 5 cyclist road fatalities and 151 cyclists seriously injured.

Although the number of seriously injured cyclist road casualties has followed a downward trend from 1997 until 2005, this was followed by annual increases before falling slightly in 2009. The number of cyclist road fatalities has fluctuated over the last 10 years varying between 16 (in 2005) and 4 (in 2007).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Source: Scottish Government Stats19 collection

These figures highlight the challenges we face if Scotland is to fulfil its commitment to increase the number of journeys we make by bicycle and encourage others to do the same.

The CAPS consultation found that perceptions of safety were a key reason stated by respondents for not cycling (at all or more often). This echoes findings from the academic literature ( see for example Wardman, 2006). Over three-quarters of consultation respondents said that less traffic, and two-thirds said slower traffic would encourage them to cycle more often.

Effective speed reduction in urban areas has been closely linked with reductions in casualty numbers and severities, including particularly for cyclists and pedestrians. For example, Local Transport Notes cite work ( TRL, 1996) showing that the first 230 20mph schemes in Britain reduced all casualties by 60%, cyclist casualties by 29% and pedestrian casualties by 63%. Conversely a more recent study of 20mph zones in London found a reduction of 42% in all casualties, a 17% reduction in cyclist casualties and 32% in pedestrian casualties ( British Medical Journal 2009:339 b 4469) .

Additional research of 20 mph trial schemes in Scotland published by the then Scottish Executive in 2000 found a significant decrease in the number of recorded accidents each year as well as reductions in severity, with serious or fatal casualties falling from 20% to 14% of the total.

While the schemes received strong support and created perceptions of increased safety by local communities the study also found that perception of the dangers of roads did not always reflect actual number of casualties.

A more recent study conducted in 2005 by the Scottish Executive found that only one-third of all hospital casualties occurred 'on road'. This highlights the challenges we face between the public's perception of the safety of all road users and actual road casualty numbers.

Department for Transport (DfT) Local Transport Note ( LTN) 1/07 shows that speed bumps and cushions are much more effective than horizontal measures such as chicanes in slowing traffic, and more popular with the public; more recent (2007) research in the Scottish Household Survey found that 60% of those questioned felt that these measures reduce speed and 12% that they increase discomfort for car occupants. Up until now traffic calming in Scotland has been carried out mainly on residential streets, but the DfT publication Mixed Priority Routes ( LTN 3/08) shows that traffic calming is also possible on arterial shopping/commercial streets, achieving initial reductions in casualties of 30-65%.

The Scottish Government has encouraged the use of 20 mph speed limits in residential areas and around schools and has set policy and guidance for new and existing streets which reinforce the priority of pedestrians and cyclists and highlight the linkage between street design and redesign and road safety for everyone.

The 2005-2009 average numbers of people killed or seriously injured in Scotland for cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers/occupants are 149, 680 and 1,351 respectively (20%, 25%, and 13% of all casualties within each mode), This indicates that cyclists are more likely to be involved in a road accident causing serious or fatal injury than car occupants. In addition, most cyclist casualties occur on urban roads with a 30 mph speed limit.

The Scottish road casualty reduction targets aim for a 40% decrease in road deaths and a 55% decrease in seriously injured road casualties by 2020. It is crucial to the success of CAPS, therefore, that all partners involved in the design and maintenance of our roads, and in road safety enforcement and education, continue to work in collaboration to ensure the efficient deployment of resources to meet or better these national targets for cyclists as well as for all other categories of road user.

20 mph

The 12 local authorities that make up the West of Scotland Road Safety Forum have all introduced 20mph areas or limits into roads around schools and residential areas to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Since 20mph areas were introduced, there has been a reduction in the number of pedestrian casualties. In the West of Scotland between 2006 and 2009 there was one fatal pedestrian casualty in a 20mph zone, however there were 58 pedestrian fatalities on 30mph roads. In the same period, there were 11 serious pedestrian casualties in 20mph zones, but on 30mph roads there were 872 serious pedestrian casualties. ( Strathclyde Police)

All local authorities have some 20 mph zones in their areas with most around schools and residential areas. Aberdeen City Council has 20 mph zones around all of its 74 schools. This may have led to a small increase in cycling to school, up from 2.1% in 2008 to 2.3% in 2009 ( Sustrans' Hands Up Survey 2009). The city centre is also a 20 mph zone.

In North Lanarkshire, the council introduced Twenty's Plenty speed limits in every applicable residential street across the area, which led to an 18% reduction in the number of casualties the following year.


Chief Constables in each of the eight policing areas set enforcement policy. The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland's ( ACPOS) Road Policing Framework 2009-2012 recognises that excessive and inappropriate speeding make roads less safe and therefore has an impact on how safe people feel in local communities.

The ACPOS Framework states that the police will work with partners and local communities to identify areas where speeding is a problem and will implement appropriate and proportionate enforcement measures.

Action 10: To continue to work with Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland and other partners to encourage the further roll-out of effective 20 mph schemes in residential areas. We will work to ensure that as far as possible these also cover cycle routes and areas with high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists.

Action 11: To publicise and promote methods of traffic calming on non-residential mixed-use arterial streets such as those described in DfT Local Transport Note 2/08.

Outcome 10/11: More 20 mph areas and a reduction in the rate of Killed and Seriously Injured ( KSI) cyclists (against the Scottish Road Safety Framework baseline of 2004-2008: 143).

5.5 A "Hierarchy of Care" for all Road Users

Current Situation

There is no legal hierarchy of care for road users in existence in the UK. In the event of a road traffic accident going to court in a civil action 1, which is a devolved area, the responsibility to prove negligence (on the balance of probabilities) lies with the pursuer, who has to prove a number of elements to satisfy the requirement that the defender was negligent and caused material harm ( e.g. damage to property or personal injury).

The background to the current situation may be traced to a Royal Commission on Civil Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury which, after a thorough 5-year inquiry, recommended in 1978 in favour of a no-fault insurance scheme for road traffic accidents but against the introduction of strict liability. A no-fault scheme did not subsequently materialise, but the rejection of strict liability did prevail. This has in essence, been UK policy ever since. As such, the previous UK Government felt it was unfair to make motorists automatically liable for any accidents involving motor vehicles and a pedestrian or a cyclist. They felt it was a matter for the courts and that each case should be dealt with individually.

Existing Laws in other countries

The differences in laws between the UK and continental European countries have often been cited by cyclists as the main reason cyclists on the continent enjoy greater protection. However, this has often been combined with a number of other measures such as increased investment in cycle infrastructure so it will be difficult to isolate one particular factor influencing why these countries have higher cycling levels than the UK.

The fact that many of these countries have promoted cycling for a longer time has quite possibly also led to a cultural change whereby cyclists are automatically respected because many drivers are also cyclists themselves. The multitude of factors in play means that it is difficult to identify driver behaviour as being influenced by any one of them. Furthermore, there appears to be jurisdictions where absolute liability exists rather than strict liability and this may have a harsher impact on driver behaviour.

Accident rates for cyclists are lower in many European countries than in the UK and strict liability is in place in several European countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands, whereby the driver involved in an incident would have to prove he or she was not at fault for an incident involving a cyclist. This has, anecdotally, led to drivers having more respect for cyclists.


There has been a suggestion by some stakeholders to establish a hierarchy of care whereby the emphasis is on the vehicle travelling at the higher speed. This would then make cyclists liable for collisions with pedestrians and may help in addressing concerns drivers have about cyclists seemingly being able to 'flout' the law. Cyclists can however, already be held liable for injuries caused by negligence or malice on their part (since negligence laws cover everyone).

A second proposal, made by Spokes (the Lothians Cycling Group) in its evidence to the TICC Committee's inquiry into active travel, is to place the burden of proof in an incident on the heavier vehicle.

To inform future evidence-based policy making, Ministers have indicated that more research would be welcome and, therefore, we will undertake the actions listed below. We believe the results of this review will be crucial to any future debate on this issue.

Action 12: To undertake a legislative search to reveal the operation of liability laws and how they work in other countries in Europe and around the world, and whether there is robust evidence of a direct link to levels of cycling and KSIs.

Outcome 12: A comprehensive report on liability laws and how they affect cycling.

Action 13: To try and identify what kind of hierarchy, if any, might be established and develop an educational awareness campaign for all road users.

Outcome 13: A reduction in the rate of cyclist KSIs.

5.6 Making Traffic Orders

Many traffic management measures and infrastructure improvements to help cyclists, such as one-way streets, contra flow cycle lanes, road closures and shared cycleway/footpaths require a legal order in order to bring them into existence. For most measures, a Traffic Regulation Order ( TRO) is required. This can be made under the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act ( RTRA) and is normally dealt with by the appropriate roads authority, i.e. the local authority or Transport Scotland, although in a few circumstances, the consent of Scottish Ministers may be required. This will usually be following a Public Local Inquiry.

Orders to stop-up (close) a road, or to convert ("re-determine") an existing right of way by foot into a shared-use cycleway and footpath are made under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 and where there are sustained objections, the consent of the Scottish Ministers is required before the order can be confirmed.

It would make government more efficient, reduce red-tape and make the order making process shorter if the process was administered solely at the level of the roads authority. We therefore propose to investigate legislative opportunities with a view to making these changes as soon as is practicably possible.

Initial research carried out by the Scottish Government indicates that roads authorities in other northern European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium) use a simpler process than in Scotland to implement traffic management measures for cyclists. In particular, in these countries there appears to be no legal requirement to consult before these measures are installed.

In the Scottish system, one or two objectors can delay or stop the implementation of a scheme even though their views may not reflect the views of the vast majority of residents and other road users ( see IHT, 2000, for reports of research on this). This may be a deterrent to local authorities to implement measures that they perceive will attract vociferous objections. CAPS therefore proposes to further investigate this area: first to confirm the degree of statutory consultation required for new traffic management measures in other northwest European countries; and, secondly, to gather the views of stakeholders, particularly the roads authorities, on the advantages and disadvantages of moving to a system more similar to that of countries on the continent.

Parking on footways

Experience in cycling demonstration towns in England such as Exeter has shown that permitting cycling on footways for children under 12 can have significant impacts on the number of children cycling to school. However, this can only work where it is carefully managed and where footways are free of the obstruction of parked cars.

Enforcement of footway parking where there is no other parking regulation in force is currently a police matter, under the "causing danger to other road users" and obstruction provisions of the Road Traffic Act (1988) and the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations (1986). However, in some cases police forces take the view that they need to observe the vehicle being parked on the footway and then demonstrate that the driver had the intention to obstruct in order to be able to enforce the law, and in practice it is rarely enforced.

Roads authorities have the power to designate "No footway parking zones" by making a TRO under the RTRA in areas where footway parking is a problem. This requires the use of a standard sign (637.1 TSRGD). To date in Scotland one local authority, Aberdeen City, uses these powers successfully. Where parking enforcement is still a police matter, the restriction would be enforced by police or traffic wardens, where it has been decriminalised (for example, in Edinburgh and Glasgow), it would be enforced by local authority parking attendants.

In Greater London and in other some European countries parking is not permitted on any footway unless standard signs and markings are used to indicate an exception to the general prohibition. Enforcement is by local authority parking wardens. No other signage is used in London (for example, at "entry points" to the capital) to indicate that parking is not generally permitted on footways.

CAPS intends to publicise to local authorities in Scotland the option of using a TRO to enforce footway parking by updating existing guidance which explains options for dealing with footway parking and documenting experience from Aberdeen and cities in England (such as Canterbury) that have pursued this option. In the medium term an investigation of Local Authority views on the viability of this option could inform thinking on the value of enacting in Scotland legislation such as that in force in London.

Action 14: To investigate the degree of statutory consultation required for new traffic management measures in other northwest European countries; and, to gather the views of stakeholders on any proposed changes to the current system.

Outcome 14: A less bureaucratic system for changing local traffic management measures which benefit cyclists.

Action 15: To update and re-issue Scottish Office Development Department Circular 7/97.

Outcome 15: A fully accessible active travel transport system.