On elite vs everyday cycling & approaching deadline for the ‘Make Aberdeen Accessible’ campaign

The Tour of Britain will be coming to Aberdeen this Sunday. We are glad to see bigger events being allowed to happen again, and for the Tour to highlight the beauty of the North East of Scotland. We are sure the general public will share this feeling and a lot of our members will also be out and about to have a peek at the race.

In fact, there is no denying that plenty of Aberdeen Cycle Forum members see and enjoy cycling as a sport only; but many others see, or would like to see, cycling promoted as an everyday activity and a valid mode of transport. We believe that cycling should be accessible to everyone and not just to elite athletes. 

The beach esplanade recently got a new layer of tarmac as part of the preparations for the Tour and the lack of potholes will benefit all road users. However, much more work is required elsewhere in the city for Aberdeen to become a place where cycling is for everyone; the focus should be on high-quality, permanent cycling-specific infrastructure. 

The little infrastructure we currently have would also be much better utilised if it were designed properly. To address this latter point and identify existing infrastructure barriers to cycling, earlier this summer we launched the ‘Make Aberdeen Accessible’ campaign. We’ve had lots of submissions (see the map below), which we are going to report to the relevant parties while suggesting how they could be addressed. There are still a few days left to submit more entries, with the deadline for the campaign set for Monday 13 September.

Both the lack of robust cycling infrastructure and the poor design of existing cycling infrastructure could be addressed thanks to the recently announced Scottish Government plans to dedicate 10% of the total transport budget to active travel (walking, wheeling and cycling) by 2024-25, up from the current 3.5% share.

If you have experienced issues with barriers to active travel such as locked gates, chicanes, bollards and missing dropped kerbs, please let us know by submitting entries at this link. Or if you’d prefer to email us then you can get in touch at info@aberdeencycleforum.org.uk.

Image of cyclists at Duthie Park

Cycling lessons at Duthie Park 2021

Thanks to funding from Paths for All and Cycling UK we were able to run more cycling lessons in Duthie Park today. These were a continuation of lessons we ran last year and the last of the series was meant to be in March this year but it was cancelled due to covid. Finally the lessons went ahead today and they were a great success.

These lovely ladies were absolute beginners and learning how to ride a bike for the first time. It’s truly satisfying to see someone learn to ride and get the thrill you only get from whizzing along on two wheels with the wind in your face. They were both cycling without assistance by the end.

We also had a lessons for adults who wanted to develop confidence cycling on roads with traffic. After some initial cycling in the park our second group braved the local roads and the traffic and did so splendidly.

We forget when we’ve been cycling for years how scary it is being on the road with motorised vehicles especially trucks and buses. It’s a frightening experience when you do it for the first time and having an experienced instructor lead you through the traffic and show you the road positions to take for ultimate safety is a big confidence booster which can help people make the leap from leisure cycling in the park to commuter cycling to work and the shops. The humble bicycle is, after all, more than just a contraption for Sunday cycling in the park; it’s a legitimate mode of transport that can replace the car and that is exactly what the world needs.

Make Aberdeen Accessible

We’ve received lots of photos of unaccessible infrastructure in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to our Make Aberdeen Accessible campaign. Here are a couple of examples.

Barriers like these make active travel difficult and in many cases completely exclude wheelchair users and people with non-standard bicycles like trikes and cargo bikes. Thanks for all the submissions so far and please keep it up! The more examples we get the more we can take to the local authority to demand action.

Cycling lessons in August

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum is very happy to announce we have more cycling lessons planned for the 14th August 2021. The lessons have been very popular but we have been unable to hold any so far this year because of covid restrictions. Until now ….

We’ll have two sets of lessons: one for beginner cyclists and a refresher session for cyclists wanting to improve their skills. Both lessons will be at Duthie Park on the 14th August along with a Dr Bike which is where you can bring your bike along for a free health check.

Places are limited and booking is essential. You can get a free ticket here:

Beginner cycling: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/learn-to-cycle-14th-august-tickets-163370432361

Refresher cycling: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/refresher-cycling-14th-august-tickets-163370217719

These lessons are possible thanks to funding from Paths for all and Cycling UK.

Make Aberdeen Accessible

Today Aberdeen Cycle Forum is launching the #MakeAberdeenAccessible campaign, a call to action for people in Aberdeen City and Shire to report barriers to active travel (walking, wheeling and cycling) on our streets and paths.

In recent weeks, ACF members have got in touch to highlight how they encounter areas where they struggle to continue on their journey due to street barriers that don’t follow the Scottish Cycling by Design guidelines. We want to raise awareness of the issue and create a collection of locations where this is happening to pass onto our local authority with the hope to improve the situation.

Scottish Cycling by Design specifies “that cycle routes are coherent and do not require cyclists to dismount to cross footways and other barriers or take unnecessary detours.

The guidance provided for England and Northern Ireland in the Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20 Cycling Infrastructure Design goes even further and refers specifically to the Equality Act 2010, “Deliberately restricting space, introducing staggered barriers or blind bends to slow cyclists is likely to increase the potential for user conflict and may prevent access for larger cycles and disabled people and so should not be used.

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum would like to hear from people who have encountered barriers like these. They can be chicanes, bollards, staggered gates, or missing dropped kerbs. Please submit images and locations to our MakeAberdeenAccessible campaign website at https://acf.awardsplatform.com.

We are also accepting posts via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the hashtag #MakeAberdeenAccessible. Or if you’d prefer to email us then you can get in touch at info@aberdeencycleforum.org.uk.

Examples do not need to be related to cycling only, but can include walking and wheeling, as accessibility barriers affect other groups in the community like wheelchair users and parents with prams. The beauty of designing for accessibility is that it is universal and can be used by all.

If you, a friend or family member have run into an accessibility issue, please share this on social media with the hashtag #MakeAberdeenAccessible or get in touch via email!

“No idling” banner available for loan to schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum has commissioned a “No Idling” banner for schools across the North East to borrow for free on a month-by-month basis.

Our recent no-idling competition was a great success and as a result of that we gave pupil-designed banners to the winning schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

However, we realise car engines polluting the air next to school playgrounds is still a problem in many other schools and so we’ve created another banner for loan to schools that don’t have one. If you’d like to borrow our waterproof 2m x 1m banner for your school gate or fence then please get in touch at this email address: info@aberdeencycleforum.org.uk.

Have a look at our gallery of winners:

More winners from our No Idling competition

We had so many terrific entries to our No Idling competition and decided to announce two more winners. This takes the total number of winners to five students from schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Amelia Walker from Westpark School created a fantastic, colourful poster. We especially love the bike in the bottom right corner. A large waterproof banner is in the process of being made for her.

Poppy Bernard from Ferryhill Primary School. We love how Poppy has captured the flow of air pollution here to show it goes everywhere, affecting people and animals. A large banner has been created and given to Ferryhill Primary School for Poppy.

Click this link to see the designs from the other three winners.

Don't be an Idler

The winners are …

We’re very pleased to announce the winners of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum’s No Idling competition. We received over 50 entries and they were all fabulous which made the judging very difficult. Nevertheless the judges voted for their favourites and we chose three winners and printed two banners.

The judges

Gavin Thomson from Friends of the Earth
Cllr Sandra Macdonald from the Aberdeen City Council
Heather Dickson – art teacher
Elizabeth Martin age 11
Daniel Martin age 14

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum also had final say as we had to select images that would print well and were sufficient resolution for printing.

The winners

The unanimous favourite from all judges was a very resourceful design by Alexander Petrov from Cults Primary School. Alexander created a 3D poster using materials from his environment. Because we were unable to print this one onto a banner we awarded Alexander a £20 gift voucher at Alpine Bikes, an Aberdeen Cycle Forum snood, and a certificate. Great job Alex!

The second winner was Ellis Routledge from Milne’s High School in Elgin. Our young judges in particular liked this image. Ellis has received a large waterproof banner with his design on it.

And coming in third was this design by Daniel Fox from Cults Primary School. Daniel has also received a large waterproof banner with his design printed on it.

Thank you to everyone who entered. We enjoyed seeing all the terrific designs and hope the students enjoyed making them.

Aberdeen: A cycling city?

In a recent survey by Aberdeen City Council, related to their draft Active Travel Plan, 83% of respondents answering the question as to whether it was a ‘cycle friendly’ city, gave the answer that it was either ‘unfriendly’ or ‘very unfriendly’. 

No one is less surprised than us. 

Despite years (actually decades!) of campaigning for active travel, we still see very few positive changes, and at the same time the Council continues to bring forward new road-building schemes which will increase traffic capacity on key routes coming into the city centre.

When we respond and question the logic of this, it feels like we are dismissed because we are ‘only’ cycle campaigners and not transport or planning experts. So what can we do about that?

Last week we held an on-line seminar to try and raise the level of debate.  The speaker was Professor Phil Goodwin, an eminent academic in topics such as traffic modelling , road space allocation and active travel.  Professor Goodwin doesn’t know Aberdeen so wasn’t directly speaking about new Aberdeen road schemes like the Berryden corridor or South College Street, but he has lots of examples of what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere.  The one-hour seminar was recorded and you can watch it below or read a short note of some of the main points (scroll down this page to see the notes).

As to the main question of whether these new road schemes will do what the Council say they will, and actually reduce traffic in the city centre?  Well, Professor Goodwin couldn’t answer that because he freely admits he doesn’t know Aberdeen nor has he seen the Council’s modelling data.  But if you watch the seminar, it’s pretty clear what he thinks based on his experience elsewhere. 

Notes from Urban Traffic Problems webinar by Professor Phil Goodwin (28/1/21)

Hosted by Aberdeen Cycle Forum

History:

– 1989: Road for prosperity, the  ‘biggest road programme since the Romans’, was abandoned within five years as even twice the number of roads would not keep up with traffic forecasts, as demand management was required (rather than increased offer AKA more roads).

Recurrent traffic forecasts problem: over-estimation of long-term traffic growth, under-estimation of induced traffic derived from new road projects. Road projects are often fine at first but are back to the same problem soon after, as traffic grows to fill the available space, so-called “induced demand”.

– 1990s: UK looks at German and Dutch realities/examples for town centre pedestrianisation and traffic calming in residential areas, respectively.

(Minute 7:00) Both realities aimed at better distributed road space allocation. Research and case studies (200 urban areas around the world) show that reducing road capacity leads to traffic reduction too (particularly effective in pedestrianisation schemes).  But the results are not consistent.  Instead, in some places there has been an increase in traffic in towns where pedestrianisation schemes and by-passes were implemented. Induced traffic from bypasses was greater than reduced traffic in city centre. This happens particularly when pedestrianisation isn’t ambitious enough and is limited to a few key shopping streets.

(Minute 11:20) Changing dynamics – The total amount of traffic is increasing, but this growth is led by Age 60+ group, while younger groups recorded car use reductions. Reduction is greater in urban areas (including small towns).

Low confidence on how trends evolve even before Covid and Brexit; even harder to understand now.

(Minute 13:40) UK Treasury recently released a review of the “Green Book” (finance manual), which assesses value for money of projects. The Review criticises how at present BCR (benefit-cost ratio) are boosted to promote new projects, whereas money would be better spent on strategic coherence and risk management (i.e. to improve what’s there). Even with this critique, ongoing projects have not been reviewed to re-calculate their actual value. Pandemic and Brexit is a good time to pause/reset and re-appraise.

(Minute 16:40) Questions for Aberdeen based on this:

– Have proposed schemes been reviewed to take account of carbon calculations, given climate emergency?

– Are effects of Covid/Brexit being considered?

– Financial and budget constraints, what schemes are really worth being implemented?

(Minute 18:08) Following Scottish Gov targets, traffic should be reduced by 20% compared to current rates, not expanded to future growth forecasts. In other words, we are already 20% above what will be allowed by future targets.

There are  cities elsewhere, similar in size to Aberdeen, that have managed traffic much better (e.g. Freiburg in Germany); there is ‘experience’/case studies to take inspiration from, perhaps there is a need to look at these case studies, working trips to go and see what and how it has been done.

Q&A

(Minute 25:20) Transport planning skills within Council and elsewhere-> There is a disconnect between priorities and resources. Huge teams of qualified and expert people dedicating their work for, say, roundabouts; only a handful dedicated to active travel (walking and cycling provision) and perhaps not as expert, leading to poorer quality projects. A reallocation of road space is required; but for this to happen, a reallocation of skills and resources is also  required, otherwise the so-called priorities (e.g. Transport Hierarchy) are a sham.

(Minute 27:10) Q: Local Strategies are being developed in line with Scottish Gov direction; When is a good time to go on and write a transport strategy?  Connectivity is hugely important for Aberdeen.

A: Connectivity is important to any city; there tends to be an over-estimation of how better connectivity will lead to better economy, particularly if the cause it’s elsewhere. From experience, road building has served the richer areas more than the poorer nearby the project implemented (hence no levelling-up happens). Need to focus less on carbon-intense projects; Best time for developing a transport strategy is 20 years ago, second best time is now (Covid/Brexit a good time to reset), can’t be waiting/’thinking’ about writing new strategies for much longer, it needs to be done instead.

(Minute 33:47) Q: Aberdeen has narrow roads, what can be done about this?

A: Freiburg, Ghent and Seville brought about change via good buy-in from residents (even in terms of designs) and strong political support. Places with narrow roads have been some of the places where it’s been easiest to implement radical changes/policies. If too narrow, it’s best to not have mixed traffic, instead prefer street closure (for car/through traffic) and implement placemaking features.

(Minute 36:40) Q/Statement: A lot is happening in the UK (e.g. Greater Manchester) on taking the experience from other European cities, some changes also in Scotland, but it is true a lot more has to happen in Aberdeen.

A: It is not always the leading cities that remain leaders. There is an opportunity for Aberdeen to get recognition if good changes start to happen.

Q: What proportion of budget should be allocated to active travel?

A: 15% (as suggested in the question) is a good amount to start with. The main point is that allocation of funds is currently not matching the stated priorities (e.g., road hierarchy, environment), hence stated priorities are not being implemented. 

Q: Villages nearby Aberdeen (eg Kingswells – Weshill) . Some of these places are less than 4 miles away, yet no quality active travel infrastructure. What needs done to get this sorted?

Best approach by Switzerland where there’s lots of small places well connected with bigger towns/cities (via multi-modal connections). Enforcement is also very important, often lacking.

Q: Are ring-roads effective in reducing traffic in the area within them?

A: Yes, if far enough from the inside central area AND traffic calming/pedestrianisation has been widely implemented within the central area. Both need to happen around the same time.