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.
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.
– 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.
(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.
In Aberdeen there have for many years been proposals affecting road capacity, with the Berryden corridor, and current proposals on Union Street and South College Street. The controversies about these have been equally long. But Aberdeen is not alone in such discussions – there is experience in other towns in Scotland, the rest of the UK, other countries in Europe and indeed other continents.
This seminar is aimed at better understanding how these controversies have evolved over recent years, and especially the experience of what works and what does not. We have invited an expert who has not been directly concerned with the discussions in Aberdeen, but has a wide experience of how similar ideas have been tried elsewhere, to add a wider context to our discussions.
He is Professor Phil Goodwin, a leading academic from University College London, the University of Oxford, and the University of the West of England, who has been an adviser to the DfT and the European Commission, and carried out research on the effects of road building, reallocation of road capacity, public transport, walking and cycling. In the seminar he will give an introduction with plenty of time for full discussion of the implications for Aberdeen.
The seminar will run from 1pm – 2pm on the 28th January. It will be virtual, by Zoom, and participants should register in advance at by clicking the button below.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
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.”
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 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
“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. “
“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”
“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
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:
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:
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.