Photo of rally in Aberdeen

COP 26 rally, Aberdeen

On Saturday 23 October a few ACF members gathered at the pre-COP26 rally in Aberdeen, where ACF Chair Gavin was amongst the speakers.  His message on active travel and the lack of proper infrastructure in Aberdeen was heartfelt and is the same sort of thing ACF has been saying for most of its 18 year history.  You can read what Gavin had to say below.  It seemed to go down well with the hardy audience who braved a chilly couple of hours on Broad St. 

But we never forget that we are often preaching to the converted:  although an MP and MSP were included in the list of speakers, with their own climate change messages, any elected members from Aberdeen City Council were notable by their absence – either among the speakers or even in the crowd (apologies if any were there that I didn’t spot).  

Most of the things that could be done quickly and relatively easily to improve active travel in Aberdeen are within the powers of the City Council.  Are Councillors even listening?  From where we are, it doesn’t feel like it.

ACF presentation at COP-26 rally, Broad St Aberdeen, 23 October 2021

Providing a means of low carbon mass transport is one of the big challenges facing us: private cars contribute about 15% of our emissions – that’s more than domestic heating and way more than aviation. Cars have their uses and many of us enjoy the convenience they offer. Yet cars are hopelessly inefficient in congested cities, and make no sense for many short journeys.

Unfortunately over the last 100 years we – as a nation – have been obsessed with cars. As a result we have a road system and even our city centre designed around the motor car with pedestrians and cyclists in second or third place.

What if someone invented a form of transport that was cheap, low impact, zero-emission, and helped to keep us fit at the same time? Well, they did, they invented it 200 years ago, and it’s called a bicycle…

The humble bicycle is a machine that can fight climate change …

But having to share the road with motorised traffic can make Aberdeen a pretty unpleasant place to ride a bike, and as a result cycling as an everyday form of transport has become a minority choice.

It doesn’t have to be like that. In continental Europe and increasingly in many British cities too, cycling is becoming a part of mainstream everyday transport. In Copenhagen roughly 50% of people get around by bike everyday. In Aberdeen, it’s one or 2%.

It isn’t rocket science, but it does need investment in a network of safe, segregated cycle paths where anyone and everyone can travel around safely. But we haven’t even got to the question of how to pay for it, because it seems in Aberdeen we don’t have politicians with enough imagination to even conceive what a city centre with a network of safe active travel routes would even look like. We had a segregated cycle path installed along the beach esplanade last year and it lasted barely two months before Councillors decided to rip it out again. A decision not informed by facts; no consultation, no statistics.

We had a small network of cycle paths proposed in the City Centre Masterplan which Councillors unanimously voted for in 2015. Six years later how much of that has been built? Unless you count this street we’re standing on, the answer is pretty much none of it.

Arguably the real reason we don’t have proper segregated cycle paths isn’t the lack of funding, it’s because our cities are tight for space so something’s got to give: what needs to be done is to reallocate road space away from cars, and that where it gets difficult because – guess what – nobody with a car wants to give up the convenience they currently have, and they’ll get really upset if you try to take away their on-street parking to make space for a proper bike lane.

It can be done with the political will. Glasgow has just announced a plan to build a network of 270km of cycle paths by the end of the decade. Imagine – almost all of that city reachable by bike within 30 minutes, no school more than 400m from a proper segregated bike path, and no house more than 800m. Edinburgh will build 85km within the next 5 years.

Aberdeen is of course a much smaller city – we don’t need anything like 270km – but we are starting from a low base. How many proper segregated bike paths do we have at the moment, well none really. And yet Aberdeen City Council is instead still working on plans to build new dual carriageway capacity to bring yet more traffic into the city. It’s hard to comprehend, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the climate emergency. Of course we get the usual excuses and wishful thinking: everything will be fine once all our cars are electric. Well, no it won’t. Just like we were told all Aberdeen’s transport problems were going to be solved by the AWPR. How did that go? If you build more roads, you get more cars. It’s called induced demand. Of course the same applies to cycling: if you build proper bike lanes, many more people will use them.

Our transport system would be so much better if people were given the realistic choice of cycling. Imagine how much better our city centre would be if we could emulate Copenhagen and take half of motorised traffic off the streets. And not just better for cyclists – better for everyone: less noise, less time-wasting congestion, less air pollution, better health for us and our children. Higher levels of walking and cycling could save the NHS £17 billion over 20 years.

Our Council’s best effort so far on encouraging cycling is to bring us a universal bike hire scheme, maybe sometime next year. What they don’t seem to recognise is that the single biggest reason more people don’t ride a bike isn’t lack of access to a bike, it’s because they don’t feel safe on the roads. By all means give us a fancy London-style bike hire scheme, but first please give us places to ride them safely.

Aberdeen Cycle Forum has been campaigning for better cycle facilities for almost 20 years, and you’d have to say we have so far failed to bring about meaningful change. The levers of power still lie with our elected representatives, and it feels like they aren’t listening. We need them to wake up to climate change, wake up to air pollution and wake up to the fact that there are alternatives to a car-dominated transport system.

Gavin Clark
Chair, Aberdeen Cycle Forum

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.

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.

Duthie Park – A cycle audit

Last year when we started up our programme of lessons for beginners, Duthie Park was the obvious place to go because there is lots of space and plenty of wide, well-surfaced and mostly flat paths.  The park is generally a great place to cycle, especially for kids, learners or just less confident cyclists who want to stay away from traffic. But could it be better?  There is hardly any cycle parking, and the layout of the access points is far from ideal.

We’ve produced a cycle audit which hopefully captures what is good but also what could be improved.  This is our second attempt at an ‘audit’ of this sort.  The first one looked at the new cycle path on Tillydrone Avenue and the Diamond bridge and you can read it – Third Don Crossing – Cyclists’ perspective.  We don’t claim to be engineers or design professionals – we’re just pointing out things that are obvious to a cyclist but maybe not to everyone else.

Maybe you know somewhere that would benefit from a cycle audit?  Send us your ideas, or even better, do your own one!

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.

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.

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:

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.