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Biking boom with surge in Scottish cycling numbers

Cycling Scotland chief executive Keith Irving.
Cycling Scotland chief executive Keith Irving.

Lockdown restrictions have led to a nationwide boom in biking, with new figures revealing a steady increase in cyclists throughout the past year.

National organisation Cycling Scotland compiled the stats using 47 automatic counters placed on popular paths across the country.

On March 22 this year, more than 95,000 cyclists were clocked riding past them – marking a 52% rise on when the same study was carried out last March.

In one area, the number of cyclists increased by almost fivefold.

The organisation has hailed the figures as one of the few “bright spots” during a “horrendous” year, but is calling for more investment in infrastructure.

When comparing the first months of lockdown with 2019, Cycling Scotland found a 68% increase in numbers during April.

There were hikes of 77% in May, 63% in June, 44% in July and 33% in August, compared to their respective months the year before.

The only period in the 12-month stretch with a decrease was January 2021, when numbers fell by 14% year-on-year, likely due to bad weather.

Sharp rise for Shetland

Of all the counters used in the study, the largest rise was seen in Dunfermline – up 483%.

In the north of the country, only four paths in Lerwick were monitored.

Increases of 113% and 106% were logged at different sections of Sletts Path.

An 86% rise was recorded on Cemetery Path, with a 55% increase on Knab Road End.

Cycling Scotland chief executive Keith Irving said: “It has been a horrendous year, but one of the few bright spots has been more people getting back on their bikes.

“Cycling has a key role to play in people getting exercise and fresh air, managing the ongoing pressure on our transport system and, crucially, tackling the global climate emergency we face.

“We’re delighted at the massive increase in cycling and it’s vital we see it continue and expand.”

Only two of the 47 counters showed a decrease in bike traffic, while Parson Street in Glasgow recorded a flat 0% with exactly 2,092 bikers logged on both dates.

Weather impact on Aberdeen stats

During February, Aberdeen City Council conducted its own active travel study, compiling 24-hour daily averages of cyclist numbers at various locations.

It found the number of bikers on Beach Esplanade, the Deeside Way at Peterculter, Parkway and Seaton Park were at their highest for three years.

Overall, however, there were 13% fewer cyclists throughout the city compared to February 2019.

Similarly to January’s decrease, the drop has been linked to “climactic conditions”.

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