Fighting prejudice

Sometimes it feels like there’s a lot of anti-cycling sentiment in Aberdeen. Cyclists are our husbands and wives, our children and parents, our brothers and sisters, which makes the prejudice all the more distressing and frightening, especially when it fuels aggression from motorists.

With this in mind the Aberdeen Cycle Forum has started a social media campaign to change attitudes towards cyclists. We want to focus on the benefits of cycling not just for the cyclist but for the whole community. Here are some of our messages:

You may see these messages in your social media feed and we encourage you to like and share them. You’re also welcome to download and use them yourself and if you have any suggestions for more like this then please get in touch.

Keeping Aberdeen beach cycle lane is a win-win for everyone

We have written a joint letter along with Grampian Cycle Partnership and Scottish Cycling North East Grampian to Aberdeen City Council in a plea to reverse the decision to remove the segregated cycle path on the beach esplanade.

The new cycle path is a first of its kind for Aberdeen, creating a safe space for cycling that is physically separated from the carriageway. The path was installed with funding from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People programme, which aims to help people safely distance from one another whilst they walk, wheel or cycle.

We are still in the middle of a pandemic where social distancing is as vital as ever. The paths at the beach will facilitate this not just at the beach but across the city by taking the pressure off other modes of transport such as buses.

The road is sufficiently wide to accommodate the cycle path without removing any parking spaces. It has also resolved a long-standing issue with speeding as the narrower carriageway has slowed the speed of traffic. It’s a win-win for everyone.

One of the reasons given for the removal of the paths is the difficulty motorists are having unloading their cars. The council could address this issue with simple changes such as increasing the width of the buffer zone between the cycle path and the car parking. We’re keen to work with the council to improve the design and make the scheme work for all.

Another reason given for the removal of the path is supposedly poor usage. However the council’s own papers show that cycling has increased significantly in the area, including by children, and people getting more active. It’s still early days for this path and we believe even more people will use it if it’s embraced and well promoted.

The wider issue is the lack of a coherent city-wide network. It is still difficult to get from the city centre (or anywhere) to the beach by bicycle. But as the number of segregated paths grows, more cyclists will use them. The beach esplanade route is an excellent foundation for a wider network which makes it all the more tragic to see it taken away.

Physically distanced demo at the beach tomorrow

We’re doing all we can to challenge the removal of the Aberdeen beach segregated cycle lanes. In normal times we’d organise a protest but with the current restrictions mass gatherings are banned and with good reason. Instead we’re going to encourage people to use the cycle lanes tomorrow from 12 – 2pm. We’re going to be there and will have a dozen or so Aberdeen Cycle Forum-branded snoods to give away. We can toss one to you from two metres away!

If you haven’t written to the council about the cycle paths yet then we encourage you to do so. You can find contact details here.

Now more than ever we need to redistribute road space to active travel. Cars take up an amount of space that’s disproportionate to the number of people they can move which is in many cases just one or two people per car.

We know the segregated bike lane was made with ugly orange bollards but they were temporary. The lanes could be made permanent into something like this:

Source: https://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2020/06/22/first-pictures-of-how-new-seafront-cycle-lane-could-look-released/

This is a huge improvement on what was there which is four lanes for cars.

Frustration with council plans to remove beach cycle path

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum is dismayed to see the city council is planning to remove the cycle lanes at the beach. The segregated cycle path was installed less than two months ago using money from the Sustrans Spaces of People fund as a way to allow for social distancing during this pandemic.

The beach path was the very first of its kind in the city and provided hope for cyclists that this would be the start of a connected network of paths. Aberdeen city currently accommodates cyclists poorly and the environment on the roads can feel hostile and dangerous. This presents a barrier to people and discourages them from cycling.

You don’t have to be a cyclist yourself to benefit from cycling infrastructure. People who replace trips by car with trips be bike lower the carbon footprint of the community, reduce expenses for the NHS, and lower air pollution in the city. This benefits the entire community.

If you’re as disappointed as we are by the council’s decision then please write to your local councillor. You can find emails at the links below:

You can find your local councillor at this link: your councillor
Email the transport spokesperson: Councillor Sandra Macdonald
Email the transport strategy team: transport strategy

We recommend emailing all three. If you live in Aberdeenshire then just use the second two emails.

More cycling lessons planned for October

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum has been organising cycling lessons for adults. We started in August and have put on 6 lessons and Dr Bikes so far. They’ve been a terrific success and we’ve had an overwhelming response from people wanting more so your wish is our command and we have booked in two more dates for lessons in October. Lessons are capped at four people each so please reserve your spot at the links below. We will have a Dr Bike at both events . The instructors and Dr Bike are provided by Adventure Aberdeen.

October 17th Hazlehead Park

Beginners 9:30am
Refresher 11:00am

October 31st Duthie Park

Beginners 9:30am
Refresher 11:00am

Here’s some of the feedback we’ve had so far:

Fantastic lessons. Chris our teacher was quite knowledgable and very good. I enjoyed getting to know my bike and learning to ride.

Thank you so much for such a great opportunity, it was a great lesson, the teachers were patient and superb. Thanks to the organisers.

The funding for these lessons comes from Cycling UK and Paths for all.

Cycling lessons and Dr. Bike

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum is putting on a series of cycling lessons along with a Dr. Bike. The first two lessons in the series were last Saturday, 29th August. It was heart-warming to see beginner adult cyclists get their first taste for cycling and to experience the thrill that comes with it. Those of us who learnt to cycle as kids take it for granted when we’re adults but there are many adults today who never had the opportunity to learn when they were young.

Adventure Aberdeen provided the instructor and the Dr Bike while Aberdeen Cycle Forum was able to pay the costs using funding from Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival, Paths for All, and the fundraising we did for our Reclaim the Streets event which got cancelled due to the pandemic.

The next set of lessons and Dr. Bike will be at Hazlehead Park on the 12th September. The lessons are already all fully booked up but subscribe to our blog so you’ll be notified if we add some more.

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Active travel to school: a Welsh case study

We were very fortunate to have Dafydd Trystan speak at our meeting on Tuesday night on developing an active travel plan for a Welsh school. It was inspiring to hear what they have achieved which is less than 5% of parents driving their children to school. These are numbers we can only dream of in Aberdeen but if it can be done at one school in another part of the country then there’s no reason it can’t be done here. We just need to find the political will.

The benefits of active travel are too great to ignore: children who walk or cycle to school perform better at school and children who have clean air to breathe are physically healthier. Air pollution from vehicles causes all sorts of problems for young bodies from asthma to heart disease and cancer. We adults owe it to this young generation to create an environment in which they can thrive.

You can read more about Dafydd’s case study at The Ysgol Hamadryad Story.

Space for distancing

The UK and Holyrood governments have both made large pots of money available to fund new temporary infrastructure to boost walking and cycling while respecting social distancing rules.  Glasgow and Edinburgh have already implemented measures and we know that Dundee City Council are taking it seriously and applying for some of the £10m available in Scotland.  We haven’t yet heard what the Aberdeen City Council has planned, so until we do here are ten suggestions from the Aberdeen Cycle Forum.

These need to be implemented quickly. The new guidelines from the UK government make this clear:  

“Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.”

1. Keep existing pavements clear

No parking on pavements. The Council has powers to make regulations to stop parking on pavements – they’ve done it in Altens and Palmerston / Poyernook previously – let’s do it everywhere.  Employ more Community Wardens and give them powers to enforce and issue tickets.

2. 20 mph speed limit city-wide

The existing city centre 20 mph limit needs to be made much wider but it needs to be better enforced too.  Does the new City Fibre network, or 5G technology make it much more practical to have widespread urban speed detection?  When urban speed cameras were introduced in Edinburgh, speeding dropped significantly. 

3. School exclusion zones

Prohibit vehicle movements within 200 metres of all schools at the start and end of the school day, to provide a safer environment for children walking and cycling to school.

4. 40 mph speed limit on all minor rural roads

There is a fantastic network of back-roads around the outskirts of the city which provide an attractive alternative to the main corridors.  But they also have a tendency to be used as rat-runs, which is a big disincentive to cycling when the speed limit is still 60mph.  Introduce 40 mph limits for the benefit of cycling, pedestrian and equestrian use.

5. Paint is not protection – provide physical segregation

Create routes with physical separation from motorised traffic to make it safe for children and non-confident cyclists.  The UK government’s recent guidance says:

Installing ‘pop-up’ cycle facilities with a minimum level of physical separation from volume traffic; for example, mandatory cycle lanes, using light segregation features such as flexible plastic wands; or quickly converting traffic lanes into temporary cycle lanes (suspending parking bays where necessary); widening existing cycle lanes to enable cyclists to maintain distancing. Facilities should be segregated as far as possible, i.e. with physical measures separating cyclists and other traffic. Lanes indicated by road markings only are very unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of change needed, especially in the longer term

6. Routes need to be continuous

Cycle paths should form continuous routes between major destinations: for instance, the railway station and the University of Aberdeen, Union Square and the beach, Hazlehead Park and Union Street. Don’t create cycle lanes which stop at junctions or pinch-points, just when they are most needed.

7. Car parking is not the priority

Don’t put cycle lanes on the outside of rows of parked cars.  Suspend on-street parking or put the cycle route on the inside, away from traffic and carelessly opened doors.  Don’t allow parking in cycle lanes.

8. Make existing pedestrianised streets work.

The “pedestrianisation” of some of our city-centre streets (Belmont St, Little Belmont St, George St, Loch St) suffer from widespread abuse by motorists and ineffective enforcement by the council.  Introduce ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) enforcement, such as that used on Broad St, so that only vehicles with a legitimate reason have access.

9. More bike parking

Boosting cycling will see an increase in the need for cycle parking. To avoid cluttering up pavements with bike racks use car parks for bike parking. 

10. Keep us safe at junctions.

Motorists who go through red lights put cyclists and pedestrians in grave danger.  We need better camera enforcement of motorists breaking the law and also an advance green phase to allow cyclists to set off first (this already happens in Edinburgh).

South College Street, Aberdeen

The Aberdeen City Council will tomorrow be voting on the purchase of land on South College Street for the purposes of increasing road capacity as part of their Berryden Corridor plan. Note that the council website describes it as the “Berryden Corridor Improvement“, presupposing it as a benefit.

The Aberdeen Cycle Forum submitted a response to the plan during a consultation back in 2009. We felt that the Berryden Corridor plan was contrary to the aims of the AWPR to reduce traffic in Aberdeen city and was also at odds with the local transport strategy objective “to increase the share of travel of the most sustainable modes and to promote economic growth without associated traffic growth.” Our views are unchanged since then. Last month we submitted another objection to the proposal which you can read here – Berryden Objection.

The Scottish government published the National Transport Strategy on 5th February 2020 which sets out four priorities for transport in Scotland:

1. Reduces inequalities
2. Takes climate action
3. Helps deliver inclusive economic growth
4. Improves our health and wellbeing

Increasing road capacity for private motor vehicles in the centre of Aberdeen fails to deliver on all of these priorities, especially points 2. and 4 – climate action and improving health and wellbeing. 

The city council says they need to build this corridor to “reduce city centre traffic” and to help “develop a Low Emissions Zone within the City”. But the Berryden Corridor is contrary to both these aims because increasing road capacity generates more traffic. It’s also hard to see how increasing road capacity will help with pollution reduction. It will simply move the pollution hotspots from one road to another.

Please write to your local councillor about this plan. You can find their contact details on the council website – Your Councillors.

Reclaim the Streets will be postponed

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the Reclaim the Streets event we had planned for May 2020 will no longer happen on that day due to the current pandemic. However, we have raised lots of funding from various sources and the need for cycling infrastructure in Aberdeen is not going to go away so we very much still want to hold the event just as soon as the situation allows. We have been in discussions with the council about this and have penciled in October 4th 2020; if public events are still banned at that time then as a contingency we have also asked for March 28th 2021. Neither date is confirmed at this time but we will work towards this for now while having the flexibility to change it again if needed. Cycling is more important now than ever. All team sports and physical contact between groups of people are banned but yesterday the deputy chief medical officer made a point of encouraging exercise for health and wellbeing with a specific mention that cycling is ok for adults and children, provided people use their own equipment and take all the usual precautions like hand-washing. Stay safe and keep cycling!