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

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.

9 Replies to “I think our transport planners are stuck in a 1970s time warp”

  1. Must be so frustrating to be dripping water on that stone all the time, hopeing at some point you’ll wear it away! Cycling, even in aware councils, seems to often be a piecemeal affair. At least here cycling/ walking provision seems to part of planning consent for new build so that helps.

    1. I’m glad to hear it’s part of planning consent in your region. I’m not sure why that’s not the case here. Maybe it’s because of the control the oil industry has here, as suggested in another comment.

  2. That’s very depressing 😦 On the plus side, I was in Edinburgh last week and I read in The Scotsman that there were proposals to pedestrianise the centre. This would be great – I hired a bike to go out to the Pentlands but getting it out of town took a while due to poor road marking and too much traffic and pedestrians for the space. It made me think of your descriptions of how scary cycling in Aberdeen can be.

    1. I heard about that and think it’s fantastic! I wish it was happening here. They have an “In town without my car” day here but they only close streets that don’t really get through traffic anyway.

  3. I admire you for your efforts to push cyclists as road users on the agenda and I think it’s the only way to go. The reasons for neglecting modern and cycle-friendly concepts are probably lack of awareness, different priorities and plain indifference… I had a similar experience where I live: the city centre actually has several bike paths and even prides itself being part of a long distance bike trail, but when a road a bit outside the centre was redone last month, they kept the old distribution of car lanes. The reasons were apparently not enough funding for developing and implementing a different concept and that it had to be redone fast during the summer holidays. So I will continue blocking one car lane with my bike and trailer when I ride to town…

  4. Your post about the ring road event reminds me of a cycle ride that made me re-think of where to ride in UK…I was working at Addenbrookes Hospital near Cambridge and thought a bike ride after work would be a great way to ‘de-compress’…Going through the tree-lined lanes of Cambridge was most pleasant, and I felt like there was more to explore…er, perhaps the road I took towards the large Sainsbury was and the ring route to the airport was not the best choice! It was getting dark too, and a few lorries were lumbering rather too close to my liking…I decided in future to closely consider the map before I decided which was a more bike friendly rd…and that was in 1995! In our city, Whanganui, a road is being built with cyclists in mind as part of the cycle trail of NZ. People are complaining that there are less parking spaces, which can make it a challenge for people who are less mobile, and bike travel isnt an option. I decided to give cycling a bit of a break when I was about 24 weeks pregnant as my centre of balance changed. Alas town planners are not always open to the cycle friendly strategies that are do-able. It could be money related…Its possible that taking cyclists off a road is also reducing the risk of legal culpability of such planners, as too many drivers are distracted and don’t ‘see’ cyclists. I am encouraging my daughter to bike more frequently, and often remind her that she needs to be aware of cars parked by the side of the road and drivers doors, or that one needs to look backwards before heading towards a turn…

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