I think our transport planners are stuck in a 1970s time warp

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I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about this article – Is this the worst cycling event EVER?

They’ve built a new ring road exclusively for motor vehicles around Aberdeen which is about to open but somehow they were allowed, in the 21st century, to build it without any provision for cyclists. Indeed cyclists are completely banned from using this road. I feel like I went to sleep and woke up in 1970. How were they allowed to do that?

The road goes straight past the Deeside cycleway and could have provided a fast and direct route for cyclists to get to the airport. Instead cyclists are banned. Ironically, they’re planning an opening event on September 8 and 9 for cyclists and pedestrians to celebrate, among other things, active travel. But cyclists will not be allowed to take a bike, they will have to catch a shuttle bus to get there, and they will never be allowed on the road ever again.

If this was just one silly decision by transport planners in this region I would forgive them for making a mistake. Making mistakes is human. But this is one mistake on a list of many. Last month I discovered that out of every local authority in Scotland, Aberdeen was the only city not to apply for Sustrans Community Links Plus funding. This is funding from the Scottish government for large-scale infrastructure projects, like segregated bike paths. It’s 100% funding for design and 50% funding for construction. They didn’t even submit an application for design, which, had they won, would not have cost them anything.

Then there’s Broad St where they’ve spent a fortune building a bus lane through what they call a part-pedestrian area without putting in any kerbs, making it treacherous for vulnerable road users. They also failed to put in a segregated bike path. Instead it’s a share and care space which won’t work in a busy city centre area because it will create conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. Share and care spaces only work on the outskirts of town in quiet areas. In June the city council announced plans to spend £750,000 pounds widening the pavement and reducing the width of the carriageway outside a city centre school. This is the perfect time to install a segregated bike path when construction work is being carried out and kerbs are being redone and roads resurfaced. As a school it’s also the perfect place to put in a bike path which the school children can safely use. Currently the street generates a great deal of traffic with parents driving their kids to and from school each day. But cyclists were not considered in any capacity. I think they just forgot.

The strange thing is, whenever I speak to someone at the city council, either a politician or an officer, they aways agree with what I say and pretend they want to increase cycling modal share and support active travel. But in practice they don’t do that at all. I have no idea what the blocker is. I can’t even say whether they’re doing this deliberately or they’re just morons or something else. Maybe the people in charge are taking lessons from 1970s guidelines about transport? Money is not a blocker as is evidenced by their failure to apply for Sustrans funding. I asked about that and the response was, “We weren’t ready”. What is the blocker? I wish I knew.