Dead-end campaigning in crap Edinburgh

I attended the Space for Cycling Campaigners’ Training Day in Edinburgh last month. I didn’t really enjoy myself. It was nice to chat to people I’d previously known only through Twitter, but I found many of the pronouncements coming out of the CTC end of the spectrum to be deeply dubious and not particularly useful. We were presented with a booklet entitled “Space for Cycling: A guide for local decision makers”. I think we’ll be up shit creek if this thing gets put in front of politicians. It is an unambitious and incoherent document with more than a few hints of a vehicular cycling hangover. It demands only £10 per head of population for cycling, but £10 per head is not enough.

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It asks for segregated (sorry, “protected”, whatever that means) cycle lanes, but immediately waters down this demand with the suggestion that gaps in the segregation are a good idea. It’s cheaper, you see, and it also ties in nicely with the classic CTC “don’t trap me in the gutter” dogma. Obstructions of segregated lanes are also accepted as a fact of life, but they’re nothing that good design and enforcement could not fix.

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It also insists that lack of road space should not be used as an excuse not to segregate, while simultaneously endorsing unsegregated cycle lanes where roads are “narrower”. They can’t have it both ways.

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Oh, and pedestrians and cyclists “mix happily”, don’t you know?

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Unbelievably, the CTC are still using their notorious photo of Gilbert Road, Cambridge, to illustrate desirable cycling infrastructure:

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And now here’s a piece of brand-new infrastructure on Market Street, Edinburgh, which exactly matches the CTC template for “safe space for cycling, for everyone”:

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Remarkably inviting, is it not? Yes, there was much enthusiasm for the various activities of the City of Edinburgh Council at the event. Councillor Jim Orr would have had us believe that the council is working hard to make real progress and deserves support. Many of the attendees thrilled to the imminent imposition of 20mph speed limits without traffic calming on 80% of Edinburgh’s streets – a move that will allegedly unlock the potential of walking and cycling, generate a cultural change among drivers, foster more community spirit, and all the rest of it – and all for hardly any money! This policy appeals to vehicular cycling campaigners, who wrongly regard it as rendering segregation unnecessary, but it’s also attractive to the car-centric local council, because it requires no challenge to the dominance of the car on the streets while creating the illusion that something is being done to help pedestrians and cyclists.

Me, I think it’s hokum. The notion that drivers can be convinced to be more considerate by putting a sign on a pole is beyond belief. Everyone prefers to ignore one of the findings (p10) of the South Central Edinburgh trial of 20mph limits without traffic calming – that, despite a drop in speeds, the average speed remained above the 20mph limit. That trial applied only to back streets, so it’s a near certainty that such a limit applied to unaltered main roads will be flouted to a spectacular extent. The reality is that compliance with 20mph speed limits depends on the presence of large-scale traffic calming – raised tables, tighter junction geometry, that sort of thing. That these measures are expensive is a lazy myth – they only look expensive in the context of schemes to benefit pedestrians, who are not important to any level of UK government. Their cost is insignificant compared to the untold billions lavished on schemes to benefit drivers. And anyway, their expense is irrelevant to their necessity.

I’ll leave you with these photos of the brutal racetrack known as Leith Walk (where inadequate planned walking and cycling infrastructure improvements are now seemingly caught up in the impenetrable machinations of local government), and the kind of location where I’m supposed to believe a 20mph limit is going to make all the difference. Note the pedestrians perched on the narrow central reservation, struggling to get across due to the council’s failure to provide adequate crossing facilities. Note also the absence of any cyclists.

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And here’s a nasty, victim-blaming sign on the same road. There have plainly been Accidents here, and in the minds of the kind of people who dominate the UK’s transport establishment, they’re all the fault of pedestrians.

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Will some crap cycle lanes and a 20mph limit kick-start the revolution here? I don’t think so. The City of Edinburgh Council is profoundly hostile to both pedestrians any cyclists. Pretending otherwise does not help.

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A six-year wait for a dropped kerb

Last year, I noted the continuing absence of a dropped kerb at the pedestrian crossing of the bus station at Partick Interchange, the third-busiest railway station in the city. Well, Glasgow’s sluggish council has finally got round to installing the dropped kerb. This council’s contempt for wheelchair users could scarcely be more evident than in the case of this scandalous delay. And just look at how cheaply it was done. It isn’t even flush with the road. Pathetic.

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War on pedestrians and cyclists – latest

This is in the city centre. If there’s anywhere that shared use isn’t appropriate, it’s here. Glasgow City Council understands nothing whatever about walking or cycling, and cares even less. 14 car parking spaces are far more important to them than segregated cycleways. Object.

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A “Super Local Authority”!

Cooncil:

The plans to promote WWF’s Earth Hour, where millions of people from all over the world will switch off lights in a symbolic display of environmental awareness, have earned the council the title of Super Local Authority. Organised as part of Glasgow’s Green Year 2015 campaign, the event will demonstrate the city’s commitment to building a sustainable future and tackling climate change.

Yes, the same council that teamed up with the Scottish Government to defy a public inquiry and poison your air now wants you to believe they’re “building a sustainable future”. I personally will not be participating in this patronising, hypocritical farce. I’m not interested in living in darkness for an hour. It achieves nothing.

There will apparently be “a range of fun activities to try”, including:

A “Murder Mile” Walk starting on the Square

That sounds tasteful.

Pavegen energy generating mat for a dance group to perform on wearing glowbands, etc.

An Illuminated Bike Ride out to the City’s East End leading off from the square

A Cycle Powered Film Projection and other Cycle Generated Power Demonstrations

Token gestures and laughable techno-gimmicks – stock-in-trade for Labour “environmentalists”, whose enfeebled vision of a greener future spells nothing but disaster for our planet’s climate. Not for them restraints on car use and an end to overconsumption – ideas like that are firmly in the “too much work” pile. If there’s one thing this council hates, it’s doing work. Ask them to replace a bollard, or stop the paths along the Clyde collapsing into the river, and they act like you’re asking for a miracle – but somehow there’s cash to be frittered away on “illuminated bike rides”. We’re through the looking glass now.

“I don’t want to go among mad people”, Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that”, said the Council. “We’re all mad here”.

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An anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of Car-Sick Glasgow – doesn’t time fly? I thought I’d compile a selection of my most important posts from the past year.

One of my first posts noted Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander’s opposition to speed cameras on the A9 (which have since proven to be a spectacular success). In March, I declared Glasgow City Council an enemy of the pedestrian for its opposition to the proposed pavement parking ban. And in April, I considered the prospects for a civilised city centre embodied in the council’s new transport strategy.

In May, I put the boot into the council for expanding car parking and reducing the price of parking permits in Hillhead. In June, it was time to reflect on the antics of our award-winning council. July saw me express qualified optimism for the segregated Tradeston cycle route.

In August, I presented my vision for a redesign of the Charing Cross junctions. In September, I subjected the council’s designs for a revamped Sighthill district to robust criticism. And in October, I cast my eye over some dodgy council cycling statistics.

In November, I tore into the council’s car-supremacist road safety strategy. I suggested a novel Christmas gift for cycling campaigners in December. And in January, I described Edinburgh’s redesigned Leith Walk as “a massive waste of money”.

I love complaining about the council, and I’m not going to stop any time soon – I’ve more draft posts than you can shake a bicycle pump at. Here’s to another 12 months of crap cycle lanes, obstructed pavements, ever-growing car dependency, and – above all – screeds of ranting to blame and shame everyone responsible. Hope you’ll all keep reading!

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“Cycle lanes”

This sign faces the pavement, so it does nothing to warn drivers about the presence of cycle lanes. Britain’s car-centric traffic engineers love filling the streets with pointless clutter like this. It soaks up the meagre pocket money supposedly devoted to “Cycling, Walking, and Safer Streets” (or whatever) despite offering no benefits to cyclists.

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