Local elections 2022: questions sent by Aberdeen Cycle Forum to candidates / party representatives and answers below received from Scottish National Party (SNP) (provided by Alex Nicoll)
1. Do you agree that there is a Climate Emergency?
Yes. Unfortunately I think this question should have generated an additional query. It is well documented that the SNP Group have called on colleagues on the Council to declare a climate emergency. Unfortunately this has been voted down by the administration. Perhaps those who have failed to recognise this should be asked to provide some explanation for their position.
2. Despite all the plans, policies and strategies in place at both a local and national level, active travel infrastructure in Aberdeen is very poor, and the rate of change in delivering improvements seems to be incredibly slow. What would you do to speed up the rate of change?
I think it is important to point out that delivery of this topic lies very much within the remit of the local authority and inaction lies at the door of any administration. I believe the next administration has a number of key priorities it needs to address. Some progress has been made on infrastructure within new developments, but these are very often localised and unconnected with neighbouring communities. In my budget I suggested a dedicated £5M for the next 3 years of the administration to be allocated to providing infrastructure such as dedicated cycle lanes and to improving road surfaces. We all know how hard it can be to avoid rutting and potholes while cycling and the implication this can have, particularly on less experienced cyclists. I think when we are undertaking work to resurface routes we should be looking at what measures can be introduced as part of those works. This would provide incremental improvement across the network. Funding for Core Paths can help join some of our communities and we need to work with partners to step up these projects. I firmly believe as a Council we need to work with Government to access projects such as providing bikes for young people to increase cycling take up. We need to support families with some of these costs. This can also be supported by encouraging every school to participate in schemes such as bikeability. With the increase in scooters we also need to consider early education in this area also. I am sure you are aware that money from the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) has gone unallocated and this needs to be progressed.
3. Aberdeen City Council is still intending to implement new road-building schemes such as on South College St and the Berryden Corridor which will increase traffic capacity coming into the city centre. Do you support those proposals?
Unfortunately I do not agree with the premise to your question. The South College Street improvements are being funded from the Bus Partnership Fund and will alleviate congestion as part of the city centre masterplan. I understand these improvements will have public transport benefits which the funding application suggested. The Berryden Corridor is also years overdue and provides the completion to infrastructure to allow north south travel across the city centre. Given the existing plans to close Bridge Street, part of Guild Street, part of Market Street, part of Schoolhill and part of Upperkirkgate to private traffic how else do you propose we facilitate this route with the minimum congestion and associated issues?
4. We have previously asked for the City Council to designate a Councillor and a Senior Officer to be Active Travel champions and a direct point of contact for campaign groups such as our own. Would you support such an idea?
I think the appointment of a designated Councillor in the next administration would be helpful. I think an elected member is best placed to have overview of the different parts of the Council which may be asked to work together on specific topics.
5. Many other cities are now implementing car exclusion zones around schools at key times of day as a means of reducing pollution, increasing safety and thus encouraging active travel for children. We are not aware of any such plans in Aberdeen. Would you promote such an idea to be adopted in Aberdeen?
I think this is a good idea, but one which may not have a simple answer. I think the starting point is that a substantial proportion of the unacceptable driver behaviour around our schools link to parents. I have considerable experience of this at a number of schools in the city. I would suggest the best option would be to achieve much higher levels of active travel for pupils. Some schools have done some great work on this. I am also mindful that some schools are located along major arterial routes and this would create practical issues. I would also have concerns that some problems may simply be displaced to other locations immediately outside the zone. I do also note that a zone does not remove traffic completely. I think it would be worthwhile to have officers work with colleagues in other local authorities to ascertain how effective measures which have been in place in other local authority areas have been and to clarify any particular concerns that have arisen to ensure any action in Aberdeen learns lessons already learned by others.
6. Do you support plans to pedestrianise Union Street between Market Street and Bridge Street, and would you support a segregated cycle path for the full length of Union Street?
I regret to say I think the term pedestrianise means different things to different people. Broad Street was subject to pedestrianisation with buses etc having access. I do not understand that anyone has proposed no traffic will be allowed in the Unions Street, Back Wynd and Belmont Street areas. Clearly service vehicles, delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles still require access. As we see with the major road works for Guild Street starting soon, Union Street has to maintain a capability to allow traffic for practical reasons. We also have the key issue of accessibility by those in our communities who are less able. Finding the balance will be key. I note that while the central section of Union Street has been closed to vehicular traffic concerns and complaints regarding cyclist / scooter behaviour has risen. I have safety concerns regarding the use of e bikes / scooters in the area. I think the final plan for the central section of Union Street will shape this issue. While I do not support the return of private vehicle to this area, I do feel we need to ensure that access is available to all members of our communities which the blanket proposal does not address. I note that a number of design issues have emerged from the Broad Street works and believe we have to learn from this and include the solutions in future plans. As I have highlighted I do think we need to increase the provision of dedicated facilities across the city and this includes the city centre area.