I can’t even begin to desribe my frustration and disappointment with Aberdeen city council … again

Last month for the first time ever I was impressed with the Aberdeen city council for installing European-style bike lanes at the beach. This was a first for Aberdeen which is an oil city with a transport strategy straight out of the 1970s.

The bike lanes were built with funding from the Sustrans Spaces for People fund to encourage active travel and social distancing during the pandemic. Although they were only temporary measures and installed using paint and traffic cones there was hope among cyclists and environmentally concerned citizens that it would become permanent and that the city was finally entering the 21st century.

This week, less than two months after the cycle path was installed, the council has announced plans to remove it. I emailed my councillor to express disappointment and to ask why. The excuses given are very poor.

One reason was that motorists are inconvenienced when unloading their car. I am not kidding. Yesterday I cycled along the pathway and took some photos. You’ll see in my photo below that the order from left to right is of carriageway, car parking, cycle path, and pavement. This is standard practice for good cycle path design. You should never put cyclists between car parking and the carriageway because this is dangerous. Instead the cycle path should be between the pavement and the car parking with a buffer zone to prevent dooring which is exactly what the city council has done. The recommended buffer zone width is 50cm – 100cm.

One improvement they could have made to appease motorists is to increase the buffer zone width to 100cm which would give motorists more room when unloading their cars. Of course, it doesn’t help when motorists park over the white line or in the bike lane itself. I saw plenty of this too.

Another reason given was that some cyclists still use the pavement. The pavement is a shared-use path and cyclists are entitled to use it. Some cyclists like to do so to cycle down to the beach and others walk alongside children who are cycling and so the pavement makes more sense for them. Removing the segregated path because cyclists are using the pavement begs the question: will fewer cyclists use the pavement if the path is removed? Of course not. It will simply put *all* the cyclists back onto the pavement and create more conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

The new layout catered to every road user with each given their own space. Very little space was taken from motorists because the road was wide enough to slot in a cycle path on the side of the carriageway and still maintain almost all of the parking spaces.

Once again the convenience of motorists is prioritised over a non-polluting, zero emissions mode of transportation and the NHS. It’s clear our politicians have no interest whatsoever in delivering the “cycling city” they speak of in their master plan.

Please email the city council to express your disappointment with this regressive and reactionary decision. You can find email addresses at the following links:

Your local councillor at this link: your councillor
The transport spokesperson: Councillor Sandra Macdonald
The transport strategy team: transport strategy

10 Replies to “I can’t even begin to desribe my frustration and disappointment with Aberdeen city council … again”

  1. Our cycle lanes here are between the parked cars and the road. It makes me a bit nervous to ride on them, and I am constantly looking out for car doors opening when I do, which takes the enjoyment out of it somewhat. I would probably cycle more if I wasn’t nervous about it. I’m thinking of getting a bike carrier on my car so I can go cycling for pleasure out of the city, or get to dedicated cycle paths within the city.

    1. That is poor design to do it that way. I’m surprised to hear it. Is this in Christchurch on one of the new paths created since the earthquakes? It is a completely different experience for cyclists when you’re protected from the carriageway which is how it is when positioned between the pavement and car parking. I feel safe there and would be happy for my children to cycle there. If the cycle lane were instead between parked cars and the carriageway then I wouldn’t let my kids cycle in it. That’s still essentially the road.

      1. Yes, in Christchurch. Many of the cycle lanes on roads are like this. There are some dedicated cycleways which aren’t attached to a road, although some may run alongside a road with a substantial buffer zone, but many on the older more established roads are the poor design you speak of. I see cyclist zipping along these, and wonder how they can be so un-nervous about it 🙂

      2. I cycled on a very busy road yesterday and it was nerve-wracking. It was awful. That’s why I get so angry with the council. I’m risking my life to do the right thing and this is what they do.

  2. That truly is frustrating. It’s really annoying the positions for those who can make decisions aren’t always filled with able people.

  3. That must be super frustrating! I think the main problem in the UK is that they try to do the bike lanes on the cheap, they try and go and paint some area on the asphalt and that is it.
    What they should do is to add an extra curb/pavements to separate the road from the bike lane. That will also make it safer for drivers when unloading their car or getting kids out of them. I also think that will avoid the problem of cyclists going to the pedestrian pavement because they will feel safer in the cycle lane with the extra curb protection.

    1. Yes, I agree. They’re always opting for the quick and cheap wins that are usually poor. In this instance though the funding was temporary to create spaces for people during the pandemic and so there was never going to be new pavements. It had to be done with cones and paint.

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