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