Bikes vs cars an island debate

The new Eco Savvy travel map.

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Last week a mixed bunch of 56 cyclists and car drivers from Arran and Glasgow watched Bikes vs Cars (2015) directed by Fredrik Gertten on Vimeo.

The film was jointly hosted by Arran Eco Savvy and Bikes for Good in Glasgow and featured a lively Zoom discussion after the showing.

The movie, with its intentionally provocative title, delved into the history of cycling and car driving in Europe, North America and South America and looked at where this has led to in each region.


Did you know, for instance, that Los Angeles, the ultimate car city, once had a well-organised public transport system that included trams, trains and purpose built wooden cycle ways? Or that Copenhagen and Amsterdam purposefully design cycle ways into every stretch of road?

Did you know that it was car manufacturers who bought up the railways in Los Angeles and then dismantled them to promote cars as the only means of transport to the suburbs? Or that, not so long ago, Beijing residents all cycled and traffic jams were pretty much a bikes-only affair?

At various stages in our lives and often at the same time most of us will ride a bike, own a car, take the train, or the ferry, or use a mobility scooter, this is not a ‘them and us’ debate.

Bikes vs Cars was not all about car bashing. That said, we can’t get away from the fact that cars dominate our cities and our rural roads and that new modes of transport such as e-bikes are becoming popular. So far 22 people have bought e-bikes following Eco Savvy’s ebike trial scheme for instance.


The film set the scene for a healthy debate about transport on Arran.

Ferry issues aside, Arran is in a good place to start thinking about the best way forward. We need to be imaginative and forward thinking. Do we, for instance, need to rethink our speed limits?

Would more kids cycle to school if the speed limit between Whiting Bay and Brodick, for example, was 30mph for the whole distance? Do we need smaller, more frequent buses or even minibuses with bike trailers for the West of Arran?

Should we encourage drivers to leave their cars on the mainland or offer them inducements to ride not drive?

Could we move to smaller, electric vehicles like electric bikes and cars which have a smaller carbon footprint and have less impact on our roads? Should we ask lorry drivers to try cycling and cyclists to become more aware of the difficulties driving lorries?

There is a lot we can do to improve mutual awareness between road users and, where possible, separate different users through cycle tracks and walking paths. These were just some of the questions that came up during the discussion.

What’s certain is that we need to actively think about what will work for Arran and start to take steps in that direction.

In recent surveys conducted with 26 per cent of the island’s population, travel and transport comes up as a main concern for the community and programmes and actions to address the issues would be welcomed.

One step in this direction is Eco Savvy’s new map promoting and encouraging walking and cycling on the island. It is available at the Co-op in Brodick and Bay Stores in Whiting Bay.

If you would like to suggest new routes please get in touch with emma.ecosavvy@gmail.com or head to the Savvy Travel section of the Eco Savvy Website.

Eco Savvy is also working with North Ayrshire Council to install bike stands, develop a cycle route from Lamlash to Brodick and to progress the long-delayed proposed route on to Sannox.