Submit your design for a bike path on King Street, Aberdeen

King Street in Aberdeen is long, reasonably flat, and connects the University of Aberdeen with the city centre. However it’s congested, polluted, and frightening to cycle along. We think it should have a segregated bike path but we recognise there are challenges to putting cycling infrastructure on existing roads – what happens at bus stops and junctions? Should the cycle path be two-way on one side of the road or one-way on each side? How much space needs to be taken from motor vehicles?

We want to know what YOU think and so we’re inviting people from the community of all ages and backgrounds to submit designs for how King Street could look with a segregated bike path. There are three vouchers from Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative up for grabs for the winning entries which will be judged at the end of February by a panel of independent judges.

If you’d like to enter, head over to the competition site at https://kingstreet.awardsplatform.com/

A segregated bike path on King Street will be a boon for Aberdeen because it will make the city more attractive to students and university staff, increasing student numbers in the long term and helping to attract and retain talented staff. With more people cycling it will also reduce congestion and pollution in the area and increase health and well-being. Ultimately we’d like to see a segregated path that connects the University of Aberdeen with Robert Gordon University.

The winning designs will be showcased on our website and submitted to the Aberdeen City Council. Obviously we can’t force the Aberdeen City Council to implement the designs but they will feed into the council’s SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan).

Air pollution campaign event

Every morning I walk our children to the local primary school. We like walking because a bit of exercise helps you prepare for the day and there’s evidence that children who walk to school do better in class due to cognitive improvements from the physical activity.  However we can smell the pollution from motor vehicles on our morning commute and it’s not just unpleasant, it’s toxic to our bodies and particularly harmful to young children’s bodies. Much of the pollution comes from parents who are driving their children to school. As parents we mean well and want the best for our children but the harm from pollution is not well recognised or understood and many parents do not realise that they’re causing children harm.

It’s for this reason we want to spread the word about pollution and the harm it causes as well as supporting our local authority in taking effective action to tackle the problem. We want the Aberdeen City Council to introduce low emission zones in the most polluted areas of Aberdeen. A low emission zone is one where the most polluting vehicles are banned. We also want to encourage active travel by investing in infrastructure like pedestrian walkways and cycle paths.

If this is something you support then please come along to the air pollution campaign event on 25th November. We are meeting in the paved area outside Marks and Spencer on Sunday 25th November from 12-2pm.

Councillor Martin Ford accepts Designing for Cycle Traffic

This morning we handed over one of the crowd-funded copies of Designing for Cycle Traffic to the Aberdeenshire Council. We met with Councillor Martin Ford at the start of the new cycle track at Kintore beside the A96. The new path goes all the way to Port Elphinstone and there are plans to extend it in the other direction to Blackburn.

 

Cllr Ford seemed pleased to accept the book and wants to increase active travel in the region through investment in the right infrastructure. We recognise that designing for cycling is challenging, especially after decades of prioritising cars, which is why we hope this book will be helpful.

We want cycling to be inclusive and something anyone can do including women, children, men, the elderly, and people with disabilities. But to reach this goal we need the right infrastructure and with the right infrastructure we can open up cycling to groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t do it.

Cycling can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, lower pollution levels in the air we breathe, improve our mental and physical health, lower road maintenance and parking costs, reduce congestion, and if you cycle as part of your daily commute, you can eat that second piece of cake, guilt-free. What’s not to love about that?

Help us buy Designing for Cycle Traffic for our local councils

When our local authorities design for cycling the design is often very poor: they put cyclists in shared spaces, make them dismount at intersections, or paint an inadequate line that pushes cyclists into the gutter. The Institute of Engineers (ICE) have published a book on Designing for Cycle Traffic: International principles and practice. This book by John Parkin recognises that a “bicycle is a vehicle capable of speed”. We’d like to purchase two copies of this book and give one to the Aberdeen City Council and the other to the Aberdeenshire Council.

Here are some quotes from an article about the book:

  • Shared use footways are perhaps the classic example [of poor attempts to reduce perceived or actual risk]: they create problems of their own and have no regard for cycle design speed.
  • The most important principle any designer should recognise is that ‘the bicycle is a vehicle capable of speed’. This should be etched onto the desk of every designer because its implications are huge.
  • The cycle rider is exposed to the environment through which they travel. This means that the environment has to be designed to be comfortable and attractive, and this can be achieved by careful alignment planning, and appropriate treatments.
  • A recognised significant reason limiting cycling uptake is the dominating presence of motor traffic, and motor traffic also has other negative impacts on the liveability of cities generally, such as land take, noise and pollution. Lower speed limits (20mph) may help reduce speed. To reduce volume, and create space for cycle traffic, re-engineering of area-wide traffic management schemes needs to take place. Cycle routes themselves need to be part of a comprehensive network of routes.

We are already nearly half-way to reaching the cost of one book. If you can help with a fiver or more then please visit the Go Fund Me page to donate:

https://www.gofundme.com/designing-for-cycle-traffic-books

It would be great to hand these over before the end of October. Our urban planners and politicians keep talking about how they want to “lock in” the benefits of the AWPR and they won’t be able to do that without cycling infrastructure. Let’s make sure that whatever they do is well designed for cycling.

Listen to a podcast about the book here.

 

New Chair and Campaigns and Communications Secretary

We are pleased to announce that the Aberdeen Cycle Forum has a new Chair and a new Campaigns and Communications Secretary. Gavin Clark was appointed chair at the September meeting. Here’s his bio:

Gavin Clark


I’ve been involved with the Forum to a greater or lesser extent since its early days, becoming Secretary in 2015 and now Chair/Convenor.

I’ve lived in Aberdeen since 1996, but having grown up just 40 miles away I’m almost a proper local. My first memories of cycling here, as a student in the early 1980s, are of being knocked off by a right-turning car on George St, and of having a wheel stolen from my bike outside the University. Unfortunately those are experiences which students today are still likely to have!

To me, cycling is a cheap and reliable way to get around the city but also my main hobby, taking off on longer rides into Aberdeenshire’s beautiful countryside most weekends. Of course it keeps me fit and as I work for an environmental agency, the benefits of ‘clean’ travel aren’t lost on me either.

I’m lucky that half of my 3 mile daily commute is on traffic-free routes: the stretch along the River Dee opposite Duthie Park is a favourite part of my commute. But I know that cycling in the city and being mixed up in traffic can be a very unpleasant, off-putting and sometimes dangerous experience. I’d love to see that change, and in reality it has to if more people are going to get on their bikes more often.


Rachel Martin has taken on the role of Campaigns and Communications Secretary. Here’s her bio:

Rachel Martin

I’m originally from Australia but love the climate, culture, and scenery of Scotland and feel lucky to call Aberdeen my home since 2014. I got my first taste of commuter cycling as a 19-year-old living in Cambridge, UK. I was struck by how much it enhanced my quality of life – the freedom, the exercise, the independence – and have tried to recreate that in all the places I’ve lived since then.

When my children came along cycling became more challenging. Being a parent changes our perception of risk and how much risk we’re prepared to accept. My children are 11 and 8 years old and perfectly capable of riding their own bikes but our unsafe roads mean I ferry them around Aberdeen on a cargo bike. This is why I got involved in cycling advocacy: I want my children to be safe cycling around our city.

We are a car-free family who walk and cycle everywhere. For longer trips we take the train or book a car-club car. I love that active travel gives us exercise everyday without having to make a special effort to fit exercise in. It’s also free and doesn’t produce any toxic emissions. But more than any other reason, cycling is fun and I hope I’m still doing it when I’m 90.


The role of secretary is currently vacant. If anyone would like to take this on then please contact us or come to our next monthly meeting on Tuesday 30th October at 7:30pm. Venue TBA.

 

Aberdeen WalkCycleVote Campaigners’ Day

Yesterday was the Aberdeen WalkCycleVote campaigners’ day and it was a great success. About a dozen of us shared ideas about how best to campaign for active travel in Aberdeen. We discussed what’s been done in the past, what works well, and where to go next. It was also great to meet people and encourage collaborative relationships between the different groups in Aberdeen. There were speakers from Cycling UK, Sustrans, Aberdeen Cycle Forum, Nestrans, Friends of the Earth, and WalkCycleVote.

Here are some of the ideas we came up with:

  • Run a design competition for a protected/segregated bike path on King St
  • Organise a cycling inspired street art festival
  • Stage a demo to highlight pollution from motor vehicles
  • Publish a series of “Cyclists of Aberdeen” stories with photos and bios about individuals
  • Publish a series of “School run stories” about children cycling to school
  • Stencil bicycles on roads around schools to show children safe routes and also keep motorists mindful of children on bikes
  • Cycle around the city centre wearing gas masks to highlight the damaging effects of pollution from motor vehicles
  • Give chocolates to motorists to build better relationships
  • Share photos of the best streets in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire for cycling and walking

Have you got any other ideas? Please share them in the comments.

An update on the Union St bike path petition

In February of 2018, a group of us stood at the King Edward statue on the corner of Union Street and Union Terrace to collect signatures for a petition for a segregated bike path on Union St. We gathered more than 250 signatures in just one hour and the petition was submitted to the Aberdeen City Council about a week later with 433 signatures. It was a paper petition only so people had to physically write their name and address on it.

In April 2018, Rachel Martin presented the petition to the Operational Deliver Committee. The committee decided the following:

…to request that a report be brought back to the Committee in regards to the feasibility of cycle paths on Union Street, subject to consultation from the City Centre Masterplan, and to include information on a potential dedicated segregated cycle lane.

It has been more than 6 months and so we followed up with the council to see what’s going on with the petition. Joanna Murray, head of transport strategy, replied to say the petition will be considered in their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) and they expect to have a draft ready in the second quarter of next year. This is where we stand right now. We will follow up again in the second quarter of next year.

If this is something you support then please contact transport strategy at the city council to let them know – transportstrategy@aberdeencity.gov.uk

A visualisation of Union Street with a bike path

All new roads should have a bike path

The people of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire gathered outside Marischal College today to protest the lack of provision for cycling on the new AWPR – a bypass around Aberdeen. The AWPR has been in the plans for decades and it was more than 20 years ago that Cycling UK argued in favour of a segregated bike path on the road, if and when it got built. The Aberdeen Cycle Forum has also always been in favour of a segregated bike path. Sadly, they built the road and didn’t put in a bike path. Not only that but the new road has made conditions worse for cyclists in the region where is crosses the much-loved Deeside Way and also the Westhill cycle path. People are angry and frustrated and turned up to have their voice heard at the protest today.

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Representatives of the media were also there: BBC Scotland Radio, The Press & Journal, The Evening Express, and STV.

We know that money is not a blocker. The money is there but the local authority needs to apply to spend it. We want this money used to build segregated bike paths so that everyone can cycle in safety and we want all new road projects to include plans for segregated bike paths in the design.

Demo – Sunday 9th September

There’s a lot of frustration in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire right now over the lack of infrastructure for cycling.  A ton of money has been spent on roads for motor vehicles but this has been to the detriment of active travel.  We deserve segregated cycling infrastructure so that people of all ages and abilities (including children) can ride bikes safely.  We want all road building developments – new builds, upgrades and road maintenance projects – to consider cycling during the design phase and for cyclists to be given greater priority. Let’s collectively communicate this message to our politicians and transport planners by demonstrating outside Marischal College on Sunday 9th September from 12 noon to 1pm.

The timing of this gathering is deliberate to coincide with the so-called ‘community event’ taking place on the AWPR.  The half-hearted and last minute limited inclusion of cycling in that event led one on-line magazine (road.cc)  to run with the headline “Is this the worst cycling event EVER”

So if you don’t feel inclined to have a wee token ride on the AWPR within the strict parameters set by the organisers, why not join us instead and send the message that cyclists don’t want to be marginalised or forgotten about when it comes to road transportation.