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:

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.

A vision for Market Street

Last year the Aberdeen Cycle Forum got some funding to create two visualisations of streets in Aberdeen with a cycle path. It costs a lot of money to create these visualisations and so we wanted to choose two streets that, if they had a segregated cycle path, would have a huge and positive impact on cycling in Aberdeen.

We chose King Street for the first one and the release of that image gave the impetus for a successful campaign which sent hundreds of postcards to the city council. The city council even included our visualisation in their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP).

Today we are officially releasing our second visualisation which is for Market Street.

We felt Market Street was important because we repeatedly get feedback from cyclists that it’s unsafe to use. It’s a key corridor between Torry and the city centre and provides a link to the train station and Union Square. It also gets a lot of HGVs which are particularly dangerous for cyclists. For this reason a bike path on Market Street is essential if Aberdeen is to become a cycling city. The street is certainly wide enough for a bike path. In the visualisation we’ve taken one lane away from private motor vehicles and split it in half for a bike path on either side.

Bike paths on Market Street, Union Street, and King Street would provide a safe corridor for active travel from Torry all the way to the Bridge of Don – in just three streets. It could connect the train station with the University of Aberdeen, Union Square with the city centre, Torry with the Aberdeen Sports Village and so much more.

As part of our campaign for Market Street we’ve got hundreds of postcards addressed to the city council. Please grab one, sign it (add your address if you want a reply), put a stamp on it, then post it. You can pick one up from Newton Dee, Foodstory Café, or Nature’s Larder. If anyone would like to help distribute them then please get in touch with Rachel (rachelmmartin@gmail.com).

The winners are …

We announced the winners of our Best in Cycling Awards for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire at the Belmont Filmhouse on Tuesday evening this week. It was a terrific turnout and wonderful to see so many different people and organisations working hard to improve conditions for cyclists. Big thanks to everyone involved and a big congratulations to all the winners and nominees. There are lots of fantastic initiatives happening and it was a difficult choice for the judges.

Best Business

Bike Remedy, Stonehaven

“Bike Remedy Stonehaven is a friendly locally-owned and run bike shop who give an excellent service.When I bought a bike from them last year they couldn’t have been more helpful. I’ve also used their workshop a couple of times and been pleased with the results.They are supportive of local clubs and provide a free bike doctor at the Mid-summer Beer festival Sportive. I think they also support other local chairty rides such as the Tour de Catterline.”

Best Employer

The University of Aberdeen

“The University of Aberdeen has shown commitment to all forms of active travel and is particularly keen on encouraging cycling.They have run various events and projects this year to support cyclists and help more people to take it up. Cycling features heavily in the Sustainable Travel Plan and they work closely with beCyCle, a bike library and workshop that is hosted on campus, to support our university community to gain access to bicycles and confidence-boosting cycle training.This year both the university and beCyCle worked to lend out more than 200 bicycles to students and staff at the university.
The University has also organised a ‘Lock it or Lose it campaign’ to deter bike thieves and encourage secure locking of bicycles. In the past, we have given away free ‘Sold Secure’ locks and cycle helmets at its ‘Bike Safety & Security’ events with Grampian Police and provided a competitive cycle to work scheme for staff.
The university has also successfully been awarded numerous cycling grants and has used this fund to promote cycling by offering more than 50 Dr. Bike sessions to staff and students, and more than 10 inclusive cycling sessions, weekly led rides and finally set up an eBike fleet for their staff to use.”

Best New Cycle Infrastructure

Deeside Way

“Deeside Way is an absolute treasure! It’s long, reasonably flat, passes beautiful scenery and landscapes, and the council recently removed some problem tree roots so the surface is very good.”

Best Public Cycle Parking

ASV Aquatics

“Leaving my darling bike outside can be difficult sometimes, but I really appreciate the cycle parking facilities at the ASV aquatics centre. It’s convenient enough to the door, it’s sheltered for rainy days, and there are comforting signs about CCTV monitoring. There are always lots of bikes there, too, so I know that while I’m in the pool, my bike is going to have a great time with its many bicycle friends. “

Best School

Hazlehead Academy

“I think that Hazlehead Academy is a great cycle-friendly school and nominate it for the school award.
Firstly, Hazlehead Academy was recognised as Aberdeen’s first Cycle Friendly Secondary School by Cycling Scotland. back in 2016. In addition to being an Eco-School with a recognised focus on encouraging active travel choices to get to school, it also sits in a great geographic location with a catchment area that has allowed pupils to have the choice to safely and easily cycle to school. As well as having the highest percentage of pupils cycling to school in the city, they also support”

Cycle Hero

Shaun Powell

“Shaun is an absolute storm of a man who has ridden up and down Aberdeen and shire setting up so many wonderful cycling projects and pop- ups. He has worked (often single-handedly) to improve cycling for the most vulnerable in our communities.This year Shaun has worked to set up an inclusive cycle hub in Peterhead and Moray, whilst working on setting up an inclusive cycle hub in Seaton Park. He has also run pop up sessions with inclusive bicycles at Seaton Park, Newton Dee, University of Aberdeen and various other locations. I truly believe this man is a hero! “

The Cycle Raspberry

Every dashed white line pretending to be a cycle path

And a group shot with the winners:

Cycling lessons

Last Saturday we had the very great pleasure of organising cycling lessons for adults using funding from Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival. It was a wonderful success! Watching people who have never ridden a bike before getting a taste of the thrill that comes with cycling was very rewarding.

As you can see from the photos, Aberdeen put on some fine weather for us 🙂

We had two groups of lessons running concurrently: one for absolute beginners and another for adults who have not ridden for a while and who want to get back into cycling.

We’ve had some wonderful feedback from participants.

Big thanks especially to our own member, Nathan Gore, who ran the cycling refresher sessions. And thanks also to Emma Roberts from Cycling UK for helping to make this possible, Sally Duthie from Adventure Aberdeen for running the beginner sessions, and our member Tally Yahya for instigating the process.

Pedal on Parliament 2019 recap

I’m a bit late getting this recap post up but that shouldn’t be interpreted as an unsuccessful event. This year’s Pedal on Parliament was the best I’ve been to and this was largely due to the different route we did. Instead of cycling in one direction from A to B we cycled a circuit around the centre of town.

We all met outside Marischal College at 11am on Sunday and cycled first down Upper Kirkgate, then left onto Union Terrace, left onto Union Street, left onto Broad Street and back to Marischal College. We cycled this circuit over and over for one hour. I think I cycled 6 or 7 laps. I lost count at about 5. Others probably cycled more because I do remember being overtaken a few times.

There were just over 100 of us – people from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, of all ages, shapes, and sizes and riding all kinds of bikes. There were cargo bikes, electric bikes, tandem bikes, and even a couple of cool-looking Eliptigos. There were children with the youngest being 6 years old.

Erkine Logan Photography took some wonderful photos of the event and I’ve been given permission to share some of these.

Here’s a group shot:

Some of the children (and adults!) helped spread the message using chalk:

On the Monday after Pedal on Parliament we were featured in a double-page spread in the Evening Express.

Was it a success? In terms of enjoyment value, definitely! Will we see positive action from the local authority? If I didn’t think it would help then I wouldn’t bother and I would give up all hope. I do think these events are important and collectively, with other campaigns, they will help to steer direction towards an Aberdeen that is a safe place to cycle for everyone, adults and children alike.

What’s next for Aberdeen Cycle Forum? We’ve had a great year so far with the King Street Design Competition and Pedal on Parliament. Later this month we’ll be meeting with the Aberdeen City Council to hand over the winning designs from the King Street Design Competition and get an update on the Union Street bike path petition. We also received some funding from LUSH for an exciting new project! Make sure you subscribe to our blog to hear updates about this.

Annual cycle count

On May 14-16th we’ll be carrying out our annual cycle count, something we’ve done since 2008.  The data is really useful and does show that cycling in Aberdeen has increased over the last 10 years – but not by nearly enough!   We rely on volunteers to undertake the count and need 16 people in total.  If you can spare a couple of hours early-morning (07:00-09:00) on either 14, 15 or 16thMay, please get in touch info@aberdeencycleforum.org.uk

The count locations are listed below and if you let us know your preference, we’ll do our best to work with that and get back to you with a recording form and other details.  The 2 hours can also be split up between any of the 3 days if that makes it more attractive.

Auchmill Rd (nr Chalmers bakery in Bucksburn)
Deeside Line (nr Holburn St turn off)
George St (junc with Hutcheon St)
Grammar School (junc Carden Place/Esslemont Ave)
Kings St (junc with Mounthooly Way)
Great Western Rd (Mannofield; junc with Countesswells Rd)
Queens Rd (junc with Springfield Rd)
Shell Path (junc with Abbotswell Rd)
Union St (junc with Union Terrace)
Victoria Bridge/Market St
Westburn Rd/Argyll Place
Riverside Drive Path
Ellon Road (junc with North Donside Rd)
Tillydrone (near Coningham Terrace)
Parkway (junc Scotstown Rd)
Formartine & Buchan Way (at Dyce Station)

pexels-photo-1010973.jpeg
Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

King Street cycleway designs

I’m thrilled to be able to finally announce the winners of The King Street Design Competition. We had some fantastic entries including from as far away as the United States. We also had some amazing designs from pupils at our very own Seaton Primary School. I think transport officers at Aberdeen City Council could learn a thing or two from Seaton Primary School students.

We are in the process of posting/giving the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative vouchers to the winners and will also hand over the winning designs to the Aberdeen City Council.

I’m so impressed with the designs we received. A lot of thought has gone into them. Here are the winners in the adults category.

In first place is Mark Philpotts from City Infinity. You can view the full concept as a pdf here. Mark has clearly designed something with cyclists in mind. He’s also incorporated a ‘boarder’ design to accommodate both bus stops and cycle tracks.

In second place is Christopher Wyatt with the following design. Christopher has included a bus gate on West North Street for his design. The idea for this is to prevent general traffic from making a right turn onto King Street while preserving access for buses and emergency vehicles. He’s also made use of floating bus stops. You can see Christopher’s full design here.

In the children’s category we have 6-year-old Noa in first place. We love that Noa has considered the visually impaired in his design.

For 2nd place we have a tie between Ava:

And Halo:

Thank you to everyone who entered and to our team of judges. Thanks also to Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative for donating the vouchers. The designs prove that no space is too challenging and with a bit of creativity and good design principles we can make Aberdeen a place where active travel is encouraged.

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.