What is the best comparison for Scottish cities?

Matching Scotland’s environment

Few cities and countries that have advocated increased active travel match Scotland’s natural environmental factors. While some match certain environmental factors in topography, rainfall and wind, few match all simultaneously. Further there are demographic and density issues beyond this which complicate any comparison further. Rather it would likely be best to consider a range of cities, each with some similar factors that Scotland has in environment and observe how they have managed a modal share.

This is important as Böcker & Dijst (2013) find that more rain reduces the level of cycling, although the reduction is not linear and affects recreational cycling more than commuting. They also find that wind affects cycling but from evidence in the Netherlands, only persistent heavy wind has any significant effect on modal share, again suggesting the effect of wind is not linear.

Harms, et al. (2015) and Knuiman et al. (2014) also note that external ‘context’ circumstances seem to impact the effectiveness of active travel significantly, especially demographic changes such as increases in total population, number of households, proportion of one-person households and students. Although this would likely have to be taken into account for a city by city basis in Scotland.


In terms of topography, two good examples of cycling success are Vancouver and Portland. Both have worked on building a comprehensive network and expanding it, with cycling in Vancouver increasing from 4%-10% between 2011-2015 (Mclaughlin, 2017) and cycling in Portland increasing from 1.8%-7% between 2000-2015 (Portland, 2017). However, both of these cities have more sunny days during the year and less wind than Glasgow or Edinburgh. Despite this, little has had to be done in these two cities to overcome their issue of topography, although it has likely muted the size of modal shift possible.


Norway has a similar topography and a closer number of rain days to Scotland, but most of its cities have much less wind than Scotland with the exception of Stavanger. Cycling modal share in Norway is already above Scotland’s at 4%, with the case study cities sitting between 3-9% and Stavanger sitting at 7% (Lunke, et al., 2018). Of particular interest is the seasonal modal share, with all seasons bar winter sitting equal or higher than the average modal share for each city (see Table 3). Although it should be noted that walking share is closer to Scotland’s at 22% of all journeys in 2013/14.

Table 3: Cycling share by season in 2013/14. Percentage. NTS 2013/14
Source: (Lunke, et al., 2018)
Study cities Winter Spring Summer Autumn
Oslo 2 7 10 11
Trondheim 7 11 12 11
Bergen 2 5 4 3
Stavanger 6 9 8 10

Whilst Stavanger is probably the best cycling comparison city, it is more likely a range of the cities above would be useful to pick out best practice in overcoming shared problems. Interestingly the fall in winter cycling might be more pronounced in Norway due to their colder winters, thus suggesting a possible advantage in Scotland over these comparison cities.