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

#Schoolrunstories

 

**Update for 2017**- Nothing has changed with the route so I can just use the same Blog 😦

 

There’s a pop up campaign looking at how families commute to school by Active Travel. More detail are available be searching the #Schoolrunstories or on this Blog.

I thought we’d join in so here’s what our School Run is lik via a few tweets

 

 

#Schoolrunstories

Starting out on Cycle Commuting

What’s it like to start cycle commuting…

Today, I guided a friend on a weekend trial run of her route to & from work from Corstorphine in West Edinburgh to Waterloo Place at the East End of Princes St – a journey of 5 miles.

For me as an experienced cyclists a straightforward route down the Bus lanes on the A8 and then either Princes St or George St across the centre depending on my mood for battling buses.

On the way to meet her, I tried to think of the key pieces of advice I would give her. I came up with 3:

 

1. You are traffic.  Don’t ride in the gutter / door zone and don’t be afraid of holding your ground in the traffic flow to make it absolutely clear that there isn’t space to pass.

2. Don’t ride up the inside of Lorries, Buses or Coaches.

3. Just because there is cycle infrastructure doesn’t mean you should use it. Badly designed cycle infrastructure can put you into more danger than none at all (e.g. lanes in door zones or getting caught midway to an Advanced Stop Line (ASL) at the front of a traffic queue). Meanwhile good infrastructure makes all the difference.

(we came up with another one whilst out on the road, shown further down)

 

We started out on the quiet back streets of Corstorphine and could put rule 1 into practice by staring down some oncoming traffic who were deterred from squeezing us as they overtook parked cars. So far so good.

We were following Quiet Route 9, which takes in the Pinkhill Railway and whilst a bit wiggly is ideal for a beginner. The thing that is unnerving is not knowing the streets and so the potential to feel a bit lost.

 

 

We got to Roseburn fairly straightforwardly with my friend in good spirits.  Rather than battling traffic on the main road we decided to take the infamous NCR1 which heads along Russell Road before tackling the ZigZags – a bit of hard work for my friend.

20160313_115846
Russell Road Zig Zags

The route then heads along Balbirnie Place and down a narrow path to one of the trickiest parts of the route – Haymarket Yards, with tram tracks that are impossible to cross anywhere near a 90degree angle.  The only solution is to take the very narrow edge of the road without crossing any tramtrack, breaking rule number 1.

20160313_120201
Haymarket Yards Tram Tracks

It is on National Cycle Route 1, but that name doesn’t imply quality. Think of it like the A Roads round the very North of Scotland. They appear on a map to show you it is possible to travel there and encourage you to visit but when you get there you find that they are single track, with sharp bends / inclines and limited capacity.

 

20160313_124142
To go for the ASL or not?

 

Leaving Haymarket Yards we took a left onto the A8 and then an unpleasant right turn where we were left stranded in the lane while we waited for a gap. The cobbles of Coates Garden weren’t very good to cycle on and Eglinton Crescent was fairly benign on the weekend but I fear will be problematic on a weekday.

The rest of the route through the West End gave us chance to practice rule 3 and not try to get to the Advanced Stop Line and instead waiting in line.

 

 

 

 

 

20160313_121245
George Street

 

 

More cobbles getting round West Register House and we were soon onto George Street, which is currently in a state of flux having had a trial with segregated cycle paths and now is back to the old road set up whilst we await the permanent solution.The wide cycle path outside the kerbside parking wasn’t too bad but I could tell my friend was tensing up at the increased complexity and multiple vehicle movements to be aware of.

 

 

 

 

 

Heading on to St Andrews Square we got our first (& only) piece of aggressive driving. Turning left we were tailgated by a taxi. We headed for the right hand lane and the red traffic light shortly ahead to continue round SAS. The taxi driver decided to undertake in the left hand lane and then drift into the right hand lane where we were. As politely as I could manage, I asked him what he was doing as we were already in the right hand lane. We don’t pay road tax apparently…

 

More cobbles again as we skirt round Cafe Royale with more practising of taking the lane to keep a different taxi behind us.  The Balmoral junction is our last mincemeat junction to cross.  This time I stressed the need to take the ASL and get ourselves visible. Not very pleasant but we made it.

20160313_122044
Balmoral Junction

We paused for breath and started to head for home. Facing the Balmoral junction heading West and struggling to think of a safe route we settled on a new rule. Here is rule 4:

4. If in doubt, get off and walk.

We took our own advice and walked down James Craigs Walk round the side of the St James Centre and then through Multrees Walk rather than attempting Princes St.

A telling failure of infrastructure.

Retracing our route West we faced similar challenges as before, although Haymarket Yards is even more tricky as you have cross the tracks at the top and again at the bottom. In between you have a very narrow lane to follow while trying not to hit the kerb or go into the tram tracks and its hard to manage any traffic if you are constrained in a narrow path.

It is no surprise that cyclists have come off their bikes here.  The problem is that nothing will put others off cycling more than hearing that it isn’t safe and nothing says it isn’t safe like a broken bone or road rash.

Cycling isn’t unsafe; it’s very safe. Interacting with motor vehicles on poorly planned infrastructure is what introduces the risks.

That’s why the Roseburn to Leith Walk cyclepath is so important. It gives a clear safe path for people to travel on bikes across the city. Edinburgh residents want more people to travel by bike around their city [62% per BikeLife survey] . A proper path will be welcoming to new cyclists, by limiting interactions with motor vehicles, by avoiding tramtracks- or at least enabling them to be crossed at a safe angle, and – crucially – it will signpost a direct route, that is easy to follow and that doesn’t need a practice run with an experienced friend.

 

[A more detailed review of the problems with current NCR1 Roseburn-Haymarket can be found here]

 

 

And here are the views of my friend:

 

 

The route is very complicated – I own a spokes map and used to commute on the north edinburgh paths in the past – and before today I had tried and failed to work out on paper how this route all connected up – particularly at Roseburn and Haymarket. There are signs up but it was still pretty confusing in places. I might have been tempted to give up just past Murrayfield if I had been trying it on my own. I suspect I might have lost the route altogether at Haymarket and ended up terrified in a bus lane on Princes Street! It makes a lot more sense now I’ve done it – thanks.

With a guide, it turned out to be much more enjoyable than I expected – but I’m still not sure I’ll be brave enough to do it on my own in rush hour. If we’re serious about promoting green travel then commuting a few miles by bike shouldn’t really require bravery!

It was slower than I expected – some of that will have been me – but the route from Roseburn to George St is far from direct. I suspect that’s why a lot of faster cyclists just stick to the main road – whether or not that is also a more dangerous route.

It was nice to discover that most of the route is on quieter roads and not in bus lanes. As a driver, I know how pushy the airport buses can be and don’t relish the idea of sharing space with them on a bike. 

There were a lot of parked cars and no marked bike lane on most of the roads. I’ve not done much cycling on city roads and riding down the middle of the lane wouldn’t have been my instinctive reaction. It turned out to be fine – although not that relaxing with a van or a taxi stuck behind you. When designing bike routes it is perhaps worth remembering that most novice cyclists won’t have a guide to remind them to watch out for car doors and not to give into the temptation to ride in the gutter!

There are a lot of places where the route crosses busier roads – Corstorphine High  St, Balgreen, Roseburn etc. That’s probably unavoidable and they were fine on a Saturday afternoon. Not sure how easy they would be to cross in rush hour though and I wouldn’t want to take a wobbly child on a bike across them.

I didn’t like the unprotected right turns off main roads – particularly at Haymarket. Suspect you could be stuck in the middle of the road, feeling a bit vulnerable and waiting for a gap in the traffic for quite a long time at busier periods.

The gap between the tram tracks and the pavement on the way up and down from Haymarket yards is far too narrow. I wondered what would happen if there was a tram behind me on the way up or down the hill. Would it wait or try to sneak past?

I was concerned in advance about the need to cross tram tracks  (having heard all the stories about injured cyclists). Crossing them at right angles was fine but the road markings don’t make it clear that that’s the only safe way to do it and there isn’t always enough room – particularly when turning back down at Haymarket.

The cobbled stretches are uncomfortable to ride on. Some of them looked quite uneven and I would be more concerned about falling off in rush hour traffic.

George Street was quite pleasant – nice wide cycle lanes, no cobbles and not too much traffic. Getting in and out of George St at Charlotte and St Andrews squares was a faff (no bike lanes and not much signage). St Andrews square was particularly confusing to navigate.

Most of the junctions in town were fine but I felt quite vulnerable at the Balmoral/North Bridge junction.

If there were a more direct route into town with protected bike lanes then cycling would be the obvious way for me to commute to work. As it is, I know I need to get more exercise and I don’t enjoy the bus but I need to balance the risks and work out if I’m brave enough before I start commuting by the existing route.

 

More information on starting to cycling in Edinburgh (or elsewhere) can be found at https://cyclefridays.wordpress.com/

Starting out on Cycle Commuting

Why people support a Protected Cycle Lane

 

My petition to show the support for the proposed Protected Cycle Lane between Roseburn & Haymarket has created quite a stir.

Over 800 people have now signed it and I wanted to share with you some of the over 250 comments by people about why they did this.

These are not just people signing something they don’t understand, these are people who have read the consultation and understand the impact it could have on our city.

Full petition supporting proposals

Here is just a selection of the comments

Barrier to cycling

“A safe direct cycle route will increase active travel, reduce congestion and pollution, and increase business activity. This has been shown in many cities across the world and Edinburgh can follow these examples.”  John Wood

“I would like to be able to cycle into the city centre. At the moment i drive any time I go as there is not a safe route to cycle.” Ron Yeats

“I strongly support this proposal. My significant  other (who is not confident cycling on busy roads) refuses to cycle into the city from our home in Coltbridge due to issues with reaching the existing cycle route (Balbirnie Place), with crossing of the tram-tracks and with the convergence of trams, buses and cars at Haymarket. I’ve shown her the proposal and she has indicated that it would be enough to get her on her bike! ” Ivan Rochford

Tram tracks / convoluted alternative

“I  am not a cyclist but can see the obvious merits of the Roseburn-West Coates Protected Cycle Route. I live in a neighbourhood close to the proposed route where children already cycle to school via Roseburn. The proposed route is also used by many adult cyclist in this small residential area. The extensive housing development at Devon Place surrounded by large offices raises further the need for a protected route. The arguments made by local shopkeepers re delivery and loss of business  is not convincing. This proposal avoids the obvious dangers of cyclists crossing tram lines. Surely the priority ought to be to encourage safer cycling.    ”  Helen Petrie

“NCN 1 between Roseburn and Haymarket is scary and convoluted. The direct route proposed is far superior. Morever modifying the road layout will make things more pleasant for pedestrians due to reduced traffic speeds and increased separation from motor vehicles” David Nutter

“I welcome any way of avoiding the dangerous tramlines at Haymarket and on Princes Street”  Morag Haddow

“I would regularly use the Roseburn to Haymarket section but tend not to use the existing wiggling route because it is slow and the trams and tram lines make it even slower. Instead I use the main road but a segregated cycle path would be far better, especially as I cycle with children.” Elspeth Bleakley

“To work the bike route needs to be direct. When you are using your legs for propulsion detours are not palatable. ”  Stephen McGoldrick

 

Shopping

“I live locally and I’ve shopped there by car precisely once (to collect an order) – the rest of the time the current layout is a disincentive to shop there, making it harder to visit both sides of the street and in general a noisy, traffic-rackety experience. When my child is walking rather than in a pushchair it will become a scary hazard rather than a nice place to shop (running out into busy traffic). Slowing down traffic and making more space available for slow users like bikes and pedestrians can only enhance the amenity of the road. ” Livia Marchant

“Definitely respect that change can be hard and I’m sure I’d be a little nervous as a local shop owner. But in the long run this project is definitely the right thing to do for so many reasons – active travel is good for personal well-being, public health, and the environment. I live in Haymarket and never visit the Roseburn shops, but making it easier to bike there would definitely encourage me!”  Chris Paton

“Cycle routes like the one being proposed are more likely to enhance small businesses – this is one of the better studies available because of its time span: http://www.cleanairpartnership.org/files/BikeLanes_Parking_Business_BloorWestVillage.pdf ” Andrew Farrall

“This will enhance the area, and make it more attractive to pedestrians who  unlike motorists will look in shop windows and be enticed in”  Joan Wilson

“This is the best thing that could happen to Edinburgh. One only has to look at other European cities that have removed private vehicle traffic from their city centres in favour of public transport and cycling/pedestrian ways, that the fears of some about not being able to park right outside the store they want to visit will be detrimental to consumerism, is unfounded.”  Janos

“I would love to be able to cycle directly and safely from the east end of the city centre to Haymarket and to the shops in Roseburn.  I never shop there now as it is a hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists.” Verity

 

Pollution, Congestion & Health Benefits

“There is already significant congestion and pollution from cars along this route, these proposals will actually do something to reduce this problem.”  Sandy Wito

“Let’s save lives from pollution and car crashes…build this life saver lane!” Louise Paterson

“Protected cycle lanes are good for people, good for business, good for the NHS, good for the environment. Let’s be the change we want to see.” Elise Acheson

Cycling as Transport

“People need to change their attitudes about cycling as a viable mode of transport. Cars and trucks have had it their  own way for too long. I regularly cycle or drive or walk to Roseburn and Haymarket to visit hairdressers and Sandwich shops. Much better by bike, but I’m so aware of the dangers on the road at present.” Laura Chessar

“Edinburgh is long overdue the type of segregated cycle infrastructure now appearing all over London. If Edinburgh and indeed Scotland wish to see cycling normalised and not restricted to a tiny minority of the public, routes and infrastructure such as described here are essential. The worst section of my daily commute from Edinburgh is using the facilities in this area as they currently exist (being indirect and running parallel to tram lines in places). Good cycle infrastructure, supported by good local cycle parking will increase the footfall of shoppers to local businesses rather than reduce it.”  Gary Cummins

“Studies show that in a situation like this traffic does NOT simply become every more congested, but tends to marginally disappear. Drivers use other routes or change transport modes. The easier and more attractive it becomes to cycle to more people will cycle. That’s been demonstrated time and again. It will also benefit pedestrians by adding distance between them and polluting vehicle exhausts. ” Paul Milne

“The safer it is for cyclists on the roads the more likely it is people will abandon their cars and start to use their bikes. I include myself in this. We need more cycle paths. Less pollution and a healthier public as a result. ” Jan Gilmour

 

Why people support a Protected Cycle Lane

Cycling politics in Western Edinburgh

I’m keen to understand how supportive of Active Travel the Holyrood candidates of Western Edinburgh really are…

So I dropped them a tweet inviting them to Pedal on Parliament

and got 3 acceptances (SNP, LibDem & Lab) – so far so good.

I followed it up with offers of a local cycle tour to see the issues – but no one rushed to take it up.

 

When the SNP’s budget came out in December, I was disappointed that spending on Active Travel is flat year-on-year and still less than 2% of the Transport Budget, when their own target/aspiration is for 10% of journeys.

Of particular concern within the budget was the slashing of the “Cycling, Walking and Safer Routes” fund from £8m to £5.9m (bottom of http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/12/9056/16). This is one of the places that local authorities go to get money to match Sustrans money from the Community Links programme, so the reduction could make things really tricky for councils to get local schemes built.

So back to twitter  I went to my local SNP candidate Toni Giugliano (our standing SNP MSP has been deselected)

[SJR = St John’s Road, the most polluted street in Scotland]

To be fair, I asked the same question to my other candidates with these responses

Sadly we don’t know what Sandy Batho thinks as he’s not active on twitter.

Warm words but lacking in detail – not surprising given 140 character limit. Time will tell exactly what makes it into the party manifestos, but anyone wanting my vote will need to replace words with commitments.

 

Someone once told me the best way to find out the real beliefs of a politician is to tell them you don’t like all the money they are wasting on your chosen topic and then see if they just agree with you or take on your view. Maybe I’ll try that next time…

 

This then brings us on to a particular local scheme that could revolutionise cycling between West Edinburgh and the city centre (as I wrote about in my last blog) by running a protected cycle lane from Roseburn to Haymarket and then through the West End and onto George Street.

One of the signatories of a petition against the scheme running up the main road and instead favouring a convoluted back route was the local SNP councillor, who broadcasted him signing on twitter. So I asked him why he had signed it.

It is disappointing that a councillor (and member of the Capital Coalition) is openly criticising a scheme put forward by the council.  I understand the desire to represent constituents and that the businesses on Roseburn Terrace may be fearful if change to the streetscape. However, the impacts on loading & parking will have been considered by the design team and as noted in my last blog there is evidence that less customers arrive by cars than estimated by shopkeepers and cycle lanes can improve shops’ turnover by making it a more inviting/easier place.

There will also be many constituents that favour the more direct route – to highlight this I set up a petition to show it.

In 2 weeks we are at 230 signatories, which I think shows that councillor is not representing all constituents with his position. He has at least said he will share the evidence provided to the shopkeepers.

I will be sharing this blog with him and more than happy to let him to explain his position without the 140 character limit.

 

Now, as noted above, Western Edinburgh’s SNP candidate is just that, a candidate, I can’t help think that whatever warm words he might say, his colleagues are making it hard for them to ring true as local improvements are being hindered by cutting funding and petitioning against the best route.

 

He has at least accepted my offer of a cycle tour.

 

Cycling politics in Western Edinburgh

Bringing protected cyclelanes to West Edinburgh

My 2nd blog – hopefully shorter than my first…

 

The story starts with City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) putting forward exciting plans for new East West cycle route from Roseburn in the West through the heart of the city to Leith Walk.

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/roseburntoleith

On the face of it they look pretty good, not perfect but a huge improvement from what we currently have, and they will create a safe route for me, my kids & others to get into and across the City Centre.

As a bit of background & why it is important

I live and work in West Edinburgh and commute daily by bike dropping my kids off on route.  I would say that I’m fairly confident on a bike doing 6,000miles in 2015 with 2,000 on the kiddie run, however, the City centre is not accessible to me as the reasonable good Quiet Route 9 ends at Roseburn (great for accessing NEPN) but then becomes fiddly to get to Haymarket Yards and then you have to tackle tram lines at a very acute angle before being dumped at Haymrket with nothing but signs to keep you safe.  The net result, I rarely cycle into town and definitely not with the kids.

And it’s not just me.  I work for a large financial services company based in West Edinburgh and have been active in out Bicycle User Group in encouraging more colleagues to cycle to work.  We’ve run roadshows where we explain where the showers are and how to get a locker etc but the most important question is always what’s a safe route.

For those coming from North Edinburgh we have the NEPN (old railway line) and for South Edinburgh we have the canal towpath – both offer safe offroad routes.  However, for those in and around the city centre and East End, there isn’t an enticing option for new cyclists so many don’t start.

The cyclepath proposed with a protected lane through Roseburn Terrace and West Coates and on through the city would solve these problems by giving a direct and safe route.  Look what has happened in London following opening of the Embankment protected lane Embedded image permalink

This could be Edinburgh.

I appreciate that change can be scary and that some want to keep the status quo.  But I can’t see how that can be the right answer when just along the A8 at St John’s Road we have the most polluted street in Scotland & overall air pollution leading to 2,000 premature Scottish deaths. We also have a growing obesity problem [Obesity costs Scotland up to £4bn, says parliament report].   We need to do more to make cycling a valid alternative to motor vehicles.

Some of those expressing concerns on the scheme are the shop keepers of Roseburn Terrace.  I can understand their apprehension – surely all customers come by car and any reduction to this ability will impact trade…

Studies across the world have shown that this isn’t the case

http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2015/03/the-complete-business-case-for-converting-street-parking-into-bike-lanes/387595/

Here’s what they found when the compared estimated customer travel modes with actual travel modes in Graz, Austria and Bristol, England.

Yes, people do come by car, but many others arrive on foot or by bike. These are the people who will find it easier to pop into the shops as they don’t have parking issues.  Pushing the cycle route round the back of the shopping street will not do anything to make the street a more pleasant environment or to encourage these potential shoppers to stop in.

 

An online and paper petition has been set up against the route going down the main road between Roseburn & Haymarket. Of the signatories, includes 2 local Councillors and an MSP. One of the Councillors signed it because he was “Representing constituents and avoiding wasting council cash”

To highlight that many constituents are also in favour of the scheme, I set up a supportive  Petition.

I didn’t do it to dismiss the views/concerns of those signing the first one – but to encourage our elected representatives to consider opposing views of the community based on evidence when coming to their conclusions. Hopefully some of the evidence above will help them come to their conclusion.

 

I’d encourage you to review the consultation and to support the proposals – especially for the direct route along Roseburn Terrace and West Coates.

You can do this via the online form or by emailling cyclingprojects.consultation@edinburgh.gov.uk by Monday 1st February.

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Update 11th Jan – The supportive petition is now 230 names strong.  I’d encourage you to sign it and view the comments.

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Read my next blog on the politics of cycling in Western Edinburgh

 

Bringing protected cyclelanes to West Edinburgh