Will the car always win?

My first foray into campaigning was getting a narrow country road near my work resurfaced and have cycle lanes added and innovatively no centre line.  This has made a huge improvement to the many colleagues who regularly use that route and we’re now seeing much greater number choosing to cycle to work.

BUT, the victory looks to be short lived as the Council are scheduled to give planning permission in principle to build 1,300 houses with the only access point being onto ‘our’ road.

The Bicycle User Group at work submitted a strongly argued case that this access arrangement was unsuitable in it’s current form.  Full Details

They also made a deputation at the planning Sub-Committee last week where it approved the plans but decided against putting any conditions on the developer to sort out the transport issues associated with the site despite the Council Officers noting “The transport mitigation measures proposed by the developer fall significantly short of the measures identified in the Council’s East of Millburn Tower Transport Appraisal of January 2015“.

So here’s the BUG’s final plea to all Councillors to add planning conditions in the approval

I write on behalf of the Gogarburn Bicycle Users’ Group, which represents nearly 600 people who ride their bikes to RBS Gogarburn. We are concerned about the impact of the proposed development at Milburn Tower on the safety of cyclists on Gogar Station Road, and ask that during your deliberations on this development on 2 June, you impose planning conditions to maintain a safe commuting route for cyclists.

What’s so special about Gogar Station Road?
It’s a narrow country lane linking the A8 at RBS Gogarburn and the A71 at Hermiston Park & Ride. It’s vital for active travel and cycle commuters because it has a connection to the Union Canal tow-path and a link (via underpass) to Edinburgh Park. This makes it a popular route for people commuting by bicycle. During resurfacing in 2015, an innovative solution of removing the centre line and creating on-road cycle lanes vastly improved conditions for cyclists on this route.

However, Gogar Station Road is still very narrow. In some places it is barely 5m wide. There is one single-lane bridge over the Gogar Burn that has no pavements at all, and a single-lane railway bridge that has pavements that are too narrow for a buggy or wheelchair. Even at current levels of traffic, it is not a pleasant place for pedestrians and cyclists.

What are the Bicycle Users’ Group concerned about?
We are worried about two aspects of this development:

  1. Construction Traffic. Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) present a particular danger for cyclists: over 20% of cyclist fatalities in 2014 involved an HGV. About one quarter of accidents resulting in serious injury to a cyclist in 2014 involved an HGV passing too close to the rider. A tipper truck is over 3m wide: some parts of Gogar Station Road are too narrow for two such trucks to pass, and if a truck tried to overtake a cyclist on a narrow part of the road there would only be 50cm space between the cyclist and the truck. We are, frankly, terrified about the prospect of sharing this narrow country road with construction traffic, but there are no alternative routes for cyclists from the canal (National Cycle Route 75) to RBS Gogarburn. The attached picture shows a truck on Gogar Station Road.
  2. ATT00001Residential Traffic. When the development is occupied, traffic volumes will increase considerably. At peak times there will be a vehicle passing every four seconds. This will make Gogar Station Road unpleasant for cyclists, and will reduce its current effectiveness as a key north-south cycle route. As traffic volumes increase, the opportunities to overtake slow-moving cyclists decrease, increasing the risk that frustrated drivers make poor overtaking decisions on a narrow road with poor sight lines and blind bends. That will put vulnerable cyclists at risk.

What do the Bicycle Users’ Group want done?
We would urge you to impose two planning conditions on this development, to mitigate the risk to cyclists and maintain the levels of active travel that the current infrastructure on Gogar Station Road has done so much to promote.

  • Planning condition 1: minimise construction traffic using Gogar Station Road. To protect cyclists and pedestrians using Gogar Station Road (and particularly its narrow bridges towards the south), all construction traffic must enter and leave the development at its north end (near RBS), and must take the shortest route to the A8. No construction traffic should be allowed to travel along Gogar Station Road to or from the A71.
  • Planning condition 2: creation of a direct ‘commuter’ cycle route through the development. The developer must consult with Sustrans and Spokes to design a direct, segregated, cycle route through the development for commuter cyclists. The route will go from the canal (National Cycle Route 75), past the underpass to Edinburgh Park and then on to RBS Gogarburn where it will link to the existing traffic-free cycle paths to the Airport. This will provide an attractive alternative to Gogar Station Road.

We would be very grateful for your support in imposing these conditions on the development.

RBS Gogarburn Bicycle Users’ Group

(Gogarburn Bicycle Users’ Group is independent of RBS)

 

 

And it’s not just us arguing that the Council are giving the developers too easy a ride on transport issues.

Here’s Spokes & Living Streets adding their concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

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Will the car always win?

All Politics is Local

I’ve been engaging with my local Holyrood Candidates to understand (& hopefully influence) their views on Active Travel.  A subject very close to my heart as a father of 2 & fearing the future we are leaving them, with pollution, congestion & obesity only getting worse in our car-centric society.

To be honest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by them.  They get that our constituency (Edinburgh Western) has the most polluted street in Scotland, St John’s Road (& Queensferry Road as 7th worse).

I’ll apologise to my Labour Candidate, Cat Headley for omitting her from the rest of this blog on the basis of brevity for readers, and concentrate on Alex-Cole Hamilton, LibDem & Toni Giugliano, SNP who are locked in a tight battle to be our Consitituency MSP.

They have both put out some good plans to tackle our transport issues

Alex (Libdem) & Toni (SNP)

They also joined me on a tour of local Infrastructure

And came to Pedal on Parliament

They also fully signed up to WalkCycleVote’s 3 asks

  • Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget.
  • Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure, enabling people aged 8-80 to cycle.
  • Safety: Promote and deliver safer roads for both walking and cycling.

 

So, how to choose between them?

We could look at their Party’s manifestos as studied by Spokes, which has the LibDems as more positive on Active Travel. But as the title of the Blog indicates, politics are local…

For us it’s all about the proposed Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle path proposed by our Labour/SNP coalition led council to revolutionise crossing Edinburgh from East to West by bike, which I’ve previously blogged about.  If built as designed, will give a compelling alternative to polluting transport options and help residents of West Edinburgh to fit exercise into busy lives by starting cycle commuting.

Unfortunately, there has been some negativity to the scheme, with local shopkeepers worried it will impact their trade and a local resident stoking up concern amongst the community based on misinformation. I recognise their concern, and think it can be eased by looking at the evidence of other bike lanes that have been installed. There is significany support in the community for cycle infrastructure – This is the local Pedal on Parliament feeder ride, where locals have up their Saturday to protest for better cycle facilities.

 

And there was the recent Edinburgh BikeLife survey which found 74% wanted my spent on cycle infrastructure & 23% not currently cycling would start cycle with safety quoted as the biggest barrier.

 

Making it more interesting is the fact that the Cyclepath is outside our Constituency in Edinburgh Central and will ultimately be approved or not, by the local Councillors & not our Holyrood candidates.

Whilst we desperately need central government funding to make a modal shift toward cycling, this route is our chance to get a huge step up in cycling in Edinburgh Western as whilst we have some safe quiet routes (which can be convoluted) to get us to Roseburn, we then have no safe route into or across the city centre.  If this proposal doesn’t happen or is compromised into worthlessness, then we will have missed our chance and we’ll be stuck with the same issues we currently have. It’s that important to us.

You would have hoped that we would have consistency within the parties, so we know what we are voting for.

Starting with the Lib Dems

Alex signed a supporting petition I set up for the scheme – good start.

Unfortunately, it starts to go wrong with the local campaigning litrature

The LibDem Edin Central Candidate, recently sent this out

and clarified it with

 

This minor route diversion was one put forward by local LibDem Cllr Paul Edie, which would see the route sent round the back of the shopping street, across a couple of streets and then down an alley behind Tesco before appearing back on the main road, between high walls as you cross the pavement. How is building in pedestrian/cycle conflict and being sent on a convoluted route, going to be compelling to get new people on their bike?

 

Cllr Edie also fed into the consultation that the proposed 2.5m wide bi-directional cycle lane would be ‘very wide’, which is just ridiculous.

 

And so to the SNP.

Toni, declined to sign the pro petition saying it wasn’t in his constituency, although he was able to opine on dualling the A9

and the Edinburgh Central candidate, Alison Dickie very much sat on the fence with it, recommending further consideration

“My initial thoughts on the Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle route are that, although I very much welcome safer routes to encourage more cyclists, there are some genuine concerns from others to be considered. And, of course, the ideal would be to find a solution that is fair to all.”

But slightly more concerning is the views of Frank Ross, who is the local Councillor & leader of the SNP party in Edinburgh Council. Frank was one of the early signatories to the petition against scheme, so not a good start.

Since then, to give him credit, he has continued to engage with those supporting the scheme on twitter, and whilst he says he isn’t anti-cycling, some of his exchanges generalising about ‘cyclists’ have led to some people doubting this and turning away from the SNP.

“I have recently lent my vote to the SNP but that’s it, he’s done it for me. I’ll be finding other homes for my votes in May. “

“After 4 years of road building and Cllr Ross’s inability to see past his bonnet I think the SNP group can forget any vote from me this time round.”

Coming back to Labour for a moment, the support has been more universal, and they seem rightly pr1oud of the 10% of local transport budget they & the SNP have committed which is bringing about local improvements  such as the Roseburn-Leith proposal.

& of course the Green party is head and shoulders above the other parties when it comes to commitment to national funding for active travel with 10%, vs 2-3% for the others.

So in summary, whilst the Active Travel vote in Edinburgh Western could sway the election result, it’s hard to know whether the candidates’ support will ultimately bring us the change we want to see as the Parties are in at odds within themselves.

I’d love for either of them to be clear on what a vote for them & their party will mean for Roseburn-Leith, so we can be clear that they are worthy of it.

So Toni & Alex can you give us that clarity?

 

Here are my tweets asking for it. Do watch for their replies or join in the debate.

 

 

 

UPDATE:

Toni has responded but I don’t think he got the point…

 

 

All Politics is Local