South College Street Consultation

The Aberdeen City Council has a consultation open until the 19th January 2021 on proposed changes to South College Street. This work is part of a bigger project known as the Berryden Corridor which will see a dual carriageway built from north to south through the central city.

I spent much of last weekend writing up all the issues with the new layout. Indeed on Sunday I was so angry about it that I woke up at 5am and channeled that anger into writing. I hope this post is useful to other people who want to respond to the consultation but don’t know where to start. Feel free to copy and paste any of the information I have here.

It’s not clear from this plan how the council intends to reduce traffic in the city centre. The Aberdeen Western Perhiperhal Route (AWPR – bypass) was opened more than two years ago with the promise to “lock-in” the benefits and reallocate road space to active travel. However, the additional road capacity on South College Street and Palmerston Place will increase traffic in the area. The city centre is not just Union Street. College Street is also part of the city centre and this dual carriageway will scar the city from north to south for decades to come. It will bring more private motor vehicles into the city centre; it will increase congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions; and it will sever east-west permeability for pedestrians and cyclists.

College Street to Wellington Place

The cycling provision in this section consists of a mixture of painted advisory lines, a shared path, and then the segregated path on the opposite side of the road. The painted line (see Image 1.1) does not meet guidelines in Cycling by Design which specifies a minimum width for an advisory cycle lane for 1.5m. It also says, “The running width of the lane should be free from obstructions such as debris and unsafe gullies.” (see Section 5.1.3 page 51). There are several gullies in that section of cycle lane.

Image 1.1: The advisory on-road cycle lane is too narrow and not compliant with any design guidelines for best practice cycling infrastructure.
Image 1.2: An example from LTN 1/20 of what not to do.

Advisory lanes like this are specifically given as examples of what not to do in Cycle Infrastructure Design (LTN 1/20). See Image 1.2.

I note the Advanced Stop Line (ASL) (seen in Image 1.1) in the visualisation but want to make clear that ASLs are not appealing to less confident cyclists. This is noted in Cycle Infrastructure Design, “ASLs do not remove conflict with motor vehicles and are therefore unattractive to less confident cyclists. Moreover, they do not resolve all problems at traffic signals even for more confident cyclists.”

The shared path north of the Wellington Road junction will create conflict between cyclists and pedestrians and discourage the two modes of travel the council needs to encourage. In Designing for Cycle Traffic by John Parkin it says that shared spaces can have an adverse effect on cycle traffic because of the required speed reductions and therefore “cycleways or cycle highways should be separate from pedestrian footpaths and footways.” 

I welcome the segregated cycle path from Wellington junction southbound but note that it’s not continuous (see Image 1.3) – the segregated path stops on one side of the road and to continue in the same direction on the shared path cyclists have to cross four lanes of traffic. It also appears to stop at each intersection forcing cyclists to use pedestrian crossings. This will again bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians and is not in the spirit of Scottish Cycling by Design core principle of directness which says, “Cyclists should be offered as direct a route as possible based on existing and latent trip desire lines, minimising detours and delays. It should be recognised that directness has both geographical and time elements, and delays at junctions and crossings as well as physical detours will affect use.”

Image 1.3: The segregated cycle path is not continuous with the shared-use path which is on the opposite side of the road.
Image 1.4: An example of what not to do at side roads.

LTN 1/20 makes the same point and gives this as an example of what not to do saying, “Routes involving extra distance or lots of stopping and starting will result in some cyclists choosing to ride on the main carriageway instead because it is faster and more direct, even if less safe.” See Image 1.4.

Traffic signal placement also looks problematic in places, obstructing the route to the cycle path and forcing a tight 90 degree turn. See Image 1.5.

Image 1.5: Traffic signal placement could be better

Wellington Place to Palmerston Place

The shared path under the railway bridge brings cyclists and pedestrians into conflict and doesn’t look wide enough for a shared path which Cycling by Design says should be 3m wide.

The junction requires cyclists to cross with pedestrians rather than giving them a direct route like cars have. See the directness principle from Cycling by Design. LTN 1/20 also says,

Cycles must be treated as vehicles and not as pedestrians. On urban streets, cyclists must be physically separated from pedestrians and should not share space with pedestrians. Where cycle routes cross pavements, a physically segregated track should always be provided. At crossings and junctions, cyclists should not share the space used by pedestrians but should be provided with a separate parallel route.”

I welcome the part of the cycleway that’s separated from traffic and pedestrians but there are issues at junctions and side roads and it’s not clear how the city council intends to reduce traffic with this plan.

South College Street to North Esplanade West

Another shared-use path – please refer to earlier comments about the problems with putting cyclists and pedestrians into the same space. Cyclists don’t like it and nor do pedestrians. Cyclists are again forced to cross at the lights like pedestrians which will make the route slower. See LTN 1/20 point 1.6.2.

Again it’s not clear how the city council plans to reduce traffic with this plan.

Palmerston Place to Queen Elizabeth Bridge

This section appears to be a mix of segregation and shared-use paths. The shared-use paths are poor quality infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists because it brings the two groups into conflict and makes cycling inefficient. There’s also a crossing (see Image 1.6) that requires both groups to take a diversion away from the main carriageway to cross a side-street. This also makes cycling less efficient and less attractive and when cycling is not efficient or attractive people will not cycle. 

Image 1.6: Cyclists and pedestrians are forced to share the same space and diverge from the main road to cross a side street.

The worst part of this section, though, is that there’s still no way to cross Wellington Road at the Queen Elizabeth bridge for cyclists or pedestrians. This bridge is hugely problematic to cross as you have to dash in front of four lanes of  traffic. It’s very disappointing that no provision has been made for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road in this plan. I have been emailing the council about difficulties crossing this bridge for several years now. See Image 1.7.

Image 1.7: No safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists despite repeated requests to the council over many years.

Conclusion

It’s clear from these plans that motorists are given top priority in road development by the Aberdeen City Council at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists are either treated like pedestrians on poorly designed infrastructure or given unsafe space on the carriageway. No effort has been made to reduce traffic in the city centre and reallocate road space to active travel. Indeed this plan increases road capacity which will increase traffic. The fundamental problem of too many cars – the solution for which is to reduce road capacity for private motor vehicles and encourage other modes of transport – is not addressed and completely ignored. No city ever solved the problem of too many cars by creating space for more cars. The entire plan is fundamentally flawed and particularly disappointing for cyclists and pedestrians.

3 Replies to “South College Street Consultation”

  1. Organise a cycle protest with signs, as well, perhaps? As a vegan, I’m guessing you’ll be no novice at doing protests – lol!

    1. Yes, I’ve definitely had a lot of experience doing protests. I even have a supply of cardboard and thick markers at home 🙂

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