How the Scottish Green Party is deliberately failing cycling

The Scottish Green Party was up in arms this week about the Scottish Government’s weak new Cycling Action Plan. Mark Russell MSP:

“Our communities deserve safe streets for walking and cycling. It’s clear from this so-called action plan of tired old reheated ideas that the Scottish Government doesn’t care.”

This is perfectly true. The problem is that the party’s proposed remedy – “20mph default limit in residential areas would encourage everyday journeys by bike” – is no more likely to work. I said as much on Twitter:

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Let’s be clear here: though most people (including me) sometimes use the terms “zone” and “limit” interchangeably, they have distinct meanings in transport patter. A 20mph “zone” is an area where design features like speed bumps are put in place in order to make the speed limit self-enforcing. A 20mph “limit” is an area with a sign on a pole and nothing else – no speed bumps. Some people cling to the delusion that this will “change the culture” among motorists. Research by the City of Edinburgh Council found that, after the latter type of 20mph implementation, average speeds remained above 20mph. This is why it is favoured by car-centric politicians; there is nothing to make drivers slow down, the requirement to obey the limit being purely theoretical. It is therefore politically easy to implement – it gives cyclists and pedestrians the (false) idea that something is being done for them, while leaving the primacy of the car very much intact. Every Scottish Green candidate in the 2016 Holyrood election stood on a manifesto commitment to relax the penalties for speeding and, incredibly, to allow criminal drivers to select their own preferred token punishment.

Of course, I wasn’t trying to debate the merits of zones versus limits. I was querying the party’s lack of focus on segregated cycling infrastructure, which is the most effective way to increase cycling. I believe this because such infrastructure addresses the fundamental barrier to cycling – the stress associated with the presence of motor traffic – and 20mph, though desirable for other reasons (like casualty reduction) does not. It is politically more difficult to build this type of infrastructure because in most cases it inevitably involves a curtailment of the road space allocation, parking spaces, signal time, and other privileges presently accorded to drivers.

Some Scottish Green politicians do not believe in segregated cycling infrastructure. I’m talking about Ross Greer, the newly-elected Green MSP for West Scotland. Before the Holyrood election, I campaigned for the party and sat on the committee of its Dunbartonshire branch. I raised the issue of the Bears Way segregated cycleway in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, which at the time was under threat of removal and cancellation due to local controversy. Bearsden town centre has some of the worst air quality in Scotland and is in desperate need of a modal shift away from the car. Politicians who fail to pursue policies that address this are complicit in the deaths of 2500 Scots every year. Not to mention the deaths and injuries caused by physical inactivity, road traffic collisions, climate change… the list goes on.

I attempted to secure the party’s support for the scheme multiple times; on each occasion, I was flatly refused. It was a “wedge issue”, apparently. Of pro-cycling voters, Greer was dismissive: “who else are they gonna vote for?”. When the public asked for the party’s position, they were ignored or met with equivocation; the party member who managed our social media was under orders from Greer to never give a straight answer. A motion in support of segregated cycling infrastructure was brought to the party conference; Ross Greer refused to second it, declaring himself to be sick of the “cycling fraternity”. Now that the scheme is cancelled the party claims to support it – readers will make their own judgement about how convincing that is. For my part, it sickens me that the Scottish Green Party chose to chase the votes of fossil fuel addicts rather than stand up for clean air and safe streets for children, but that is precisely what happened. The party’s purported radicalism and high principle is little more than a brand.

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It doesn’t stop there. I have it from a source at Glasgow City Council that Martha Wardrop, Green councillor for Hillhead, was instrumental behind the scenes in putting a stop to a scheme that would have banned parking on the cycle lanes on Clarence Drive. And Nina Baker, Green councillor for Anderston/City, victim-blames pedestrians and believes that the streets should be lined with pedestrian guardrail. I met Baker around 2 years ago; she insisted that it was “expensive” to move kerbs to widen pavements or build cycle lanes. That is a lie.

I hope these little anecdotes give some indication of the contempt in which we are held and the extent to which our votes are taken for granted by the Greens. I, for one, will not be voting Green in the council elections. There are good individuals in the party, but that is not enough. My most passionate commitments are to climate and transport justice, and it’s plain that the Scottish Green Party is a graveyard for those values.

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Everything the SNP did to undermine sustainable transport in 2016

21st January: SNP transport policies discriminate against poorer Scots (Source)

22nd January: SNP’s decade of failure on sustainable transport revealed (Source)

20th February: Bus services to Glasgow’s Mrs Windsor hospital axed thanks to neoliberal SNP bus market (Source)

24th February: SNP austerity agenda hits active travel budget (Source)

5th March: SNP manifesto, alone among the 5 Holyrood parties, fails to promise increased active travel investment (Source)

5th March: SNP Holyrood candidates take voters for granted, refuse en masse to respond to active travel survey (Source)

8th March: Edinburgh SNP appoint anti-cycling clown Frank Ross as council group leader (Source)

9th March: SNP zoomer Sandra White MSP spouts platitudes about active travel (Source)

8th April: SNP confirm plan to abolish Air Passenger Duty (Source)

2nd May: SNP cycling vision now impossible thanks to constant underinvestment (Source)

19th May: Bus passenger numbers in freefall as corrupt Souter-funded SNP fail to act (Source)

29th July: SNP ignore consultation result rejecting Air Passenger Duty abolition (Source)

12th August: Sheer scale of SNP’s destructive motorway mania revealed, and it ain’t pretty (Source)

19th August: SNP ignore active travel at Dumfries and Galloway transport summit (Source)

25th September: SNP MPs live it large at the taxpayer’s expense with more business class flights (Source)

28th September: Ayrshire SNP councillors launch effort to get Holmston Road segregated cycleway “ripped up” (Source)

29th September: SNP councillor Frank Ross feigns concern for disabled people to obstruct segregated cycleway in Edinburgh (Source)

29th September: SNP reject consensus that segregated cycleways increase cycling (Source)

30th September: Every SNP councillor in East Dunbartonshire votes against the extension of the Bears Way segregated cycleway (Source)

6th October: SNP succeed in getting Holmston Road segregated cycleway “ripped up” (Source)

12th October: SNP dismiss calls for bus regulation with classic right-wing talking point (Source)

15th October: SNP conference sheep mouth platitudes about active travel being good (Source)

25th October: SNP team up with the Tories to support expansion of Heathrow airport, complain that it isn’t happening quickly enough (Source)

27th October: SNP transport minister admits to not being a transport expert (Source)

28th October: SNP councillors vote like sheep against cycling (Source)

3rd November: SNP Councillor Keith Small (by name and nature) insults pro-cycling voter (Source)

7th December: SNP transport minister caught driving without insurance (Source)

9th December: SNP suck up to the Tories to get Air Passenger Duty abolished (Source)

19th December: SNP cut investment in buses (Source)

19th December: SNP increase trunk road budget by £146million – four times the total active travel budget (Source)

20th December: SNP introduce parliamentary Bill to abolish Air Passenger Duty (Source)

21st December: SNP dismiss Green concerns about transport budget (Source)

30th December: SNP councillor Allan Hendry “refuses to pay fine from city’s ‘cash cow’ bus gate” (Source)

 

Happy New Year!

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University of Glasgow: no evidence that the M74 extension has reduced “accidents”

The University of Glasgow, via the BBC:

Lead author of the report, Dr Jonathan Olsen, said: “The building of the M74 extension in the south of Glasgow was controversial. There were strong arguments for and against its construction, but ultimately it went ahead.

“One of the arguments in favour was that it could reduce road accidents on local streets.

“In our study we examined police accident data from 1997 to 2014, three years after the new motorway was opened, and found that this predicted reduction in road accident numbers had not materialised.”

This news will no doubt come as a great shock to the nation’s hard-of-thinking fossil fuel addicts. The notion that the new motorway would reduce “accidents” was an article of faith amongst its supporters. Talentless benchwarmers like the SNP’s Fergus Ewing used this fantasy to sit smugly on their high horses and smear the scheme’s opponents as somehow indifferent to road safety:

The Scottish National Party has debated the M74 issue twice. On each occasion, it concluded by a huge majority that the economic and social case for the project is overwhelming … On Saturday, I met a Glasgow cop who said that he is looking forward to not having to take bits of bodies off the roads. I hope that when the Greens reply to my speech, they will recognise the safety argument.
Ewing’s fanatical pro-road zeal was easily matched by members of the then Labour/LibDem regime, who even predicted the precise number of bodies that would not have to be scraped off roads:
To ask the Scottish Executive what preparations the national health service has made to address any health hazards to local residents arising from the M74 extension. (S2O-6553)
Andy Kerr Labour
No preparations are necessary. A health impact assessment of the air-quality impacts of construction and operation of the M74 completion scheme indicates that it will have no detectable effect on local residents’ health. The scheme is also expected to cut road-traffic accidents by up to 50 a year.
They were so sure, weren’t they, these great moral crusaders? So it’s a bit embarrassing that they’ve been proven wrong – or, at least, it would be if they had any sense of shame. Their lack of it was well demonstrated many years ago, when they rubberstamped this calamitous scheme despite the recommendation of the public inquiry that it be scrapped.  Rosie Kane said it best:

We are in a political Jurassic park, in which the Executive is trying to give birth to a dangerous, ugly white elephant, but the communities are the ones who will live with the consequences of this monster. The public inquiry has been dumped on the hard shoulder while the M74 juggernaut drives over democracy, leaving communities choking in the exhaust fumes.

The mace on the Parliament’s floor has inscribed on it four words. It mentions justice, but where is the environmental justice in the decision? It mentions integrity, but does that mean that we ignore such reports? It mentions compassion, but where is the compassion for those along the route who live with the legacy of toxic waste? Finally, there is democracy, but that should mean keeping the people as part of the process.

Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Tories all linked arms to blow almost £700million on this useless scheme. This country has one of the worst cyclist casualty rates in Europe, but no Holyrood administration has ever seen fit to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on safer cycling infrastructure. Some lives are evidently worth more than others.

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Edinburgh SNP appoint anti-cycling clown as council group leader

The prospect of Scotland becoming a cycling nation receded even further into the distance this week, when Edinburgh’s SNP councillors appointed Frank Ross as their group leader. Councillor Ross is not keen on cycling infrastructure, and he’s got a real bee in his bonnet about “cyclists”. He gets very worked up about how “they” are always cycling in Waverley station:

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He is, of course, unable to supply evidence of his assertions – the data (if anybody even bothers to collect data on such an inconsequential “problem”, which I doubt) would only demonstrate the triviality of his complaint. It is a non-issue. Curiously, when a taxi driver killed a pedestrian on Waverley bridge, a week earlier, Ross was silent on the matter.

Lately, Ross has been keeping himself busy by sticking the boot into the council’s plan to built a segregated cycle route through the city centre (what’s the protocol for when the deputy leader of the council opposes council policy?). He made a big show of signing a petition against the route set up by local busybody Peter Gregson. Amongst other things, Gregson believes that “the removal of the staggered crossing at Devon Place will make crossing the West Coates road more dangerous”. What he doesn’t mention is that the staggered crossing is planned to be replaced by a direct crossing:

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Of course, staggered pedestrian crossings have no genuine safety benefit; their purpose is to reduce the amount of time drivers have to wait at red lights. Gregson also pretends that the existing cycle route – riddled with dangerous tram lines –

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– is somehow more suitable than a segregated cycleway. The fact is that people like Peter Gregson love street designs that prioritise cars – and when it comes to preserving them, any lie will do. That Frank Ross is prepared to associate himself with Gregson’s grubby, regressive little petition says a great deal.

Frank’s also fretting about the impact the cycleway will have on business. Cars mean business, you see. People on bikes don’t spend any money in shops. Bikes bad.

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Frank reckons that bus lanes are good for cycling (there’s that “they” again)!

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Indeed, Frank sees no problems with the current road layout:

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What point I was missing was never made clear. To be honest, I think it’s fair to say that Frank took a bit of a dislike to me. Irony can be very ironic sometimes:

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One party member was not happy with the whole episode:

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And that’s a great note to end on, I think!

Frankly, I think Frank Ross is a standard-issue, lowest-common-denominator fossil fuel addict with some truly wild delusions. The SNP really are scraping the barrel with this one. I wouldn’t have thought they’d be so short of talent these days, but there you are.

As easy as it is to take apart Frank’s half-baked opinions, the fact remains that he’s likely to be leader of Edinburgh council in little more than a year. The SNP are obviously set to make significant gains, and Labour significant losses.  The awful prospect of an SNP majority is very real. We should all fear the incoming Ross regime and what it will mean for active travel.

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Edinburgh trials new pedestrian traps

I was in Edinburgh for an interview today. The city’s pedestrian-friendly image continues to mystify me. The council strikes me as totally indifferent to pedestrians. There are bins EVERYWHERE:

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These single-yellow lines indicate that it’s actually permitted to obstruct this informal pedestrian crossing at certain times of the day:

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A council that engaged in proper oversight of its bone-idle contractors would never permit scenes like this:

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Edinburgh’s reputation is based on smoke and mirrors. It’s just another anti-pedestrian disaster zone.

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The pavement parking “ban” that isn’t

Motorists set to be banned from parking on pavements

MOTORISTS in Scotland are to be banned from parking on pavements after a long running campaign by disability groups.

It was hailed as “fantastic” by Sandra White, the backbench SNP MSP who has been campaigning at Holyrood on behalf of a range of groups including Guide Dogs for the Blind, disability and pensioners’ organisations and Living Streets, the “everyday walking” charity.

That’s the headline. You might think it’s a great step forward. You’d be wrong.

[Transport Minister Derek] Mackay said discussions with local councils and members of the public were required to identify zones that might be exempt from the ban.

He told Holyrood’s local government committee: “People don’t need to be alarmed that suddenly they cannot park near their homes.

“This will not be like setting a national speed limit that applies universally.”

That’s right – the Motorists are the top priority in all of this. Derek knows that his voters wish to minimise the amount of time they spend walking from their houses to their cars, and it’s apparently imperative that this be accommodated. If that means footways are appropriated for car parking, so be it.

As ever, the agenda is set by the car lobby:

Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “It is downright selfish sometimes to park on the pavement.

“But the problem with a blanket ban is there are some locations where people do that to make the road accessible.

“It can be a sensible measure that residents adopt.

“If a blanket ban were enforced rigorously in all places it would be embarrassing.

“If it were tailored to place where people are being selfish, I don’t think anyone would have any problems with that.

“Someone with a pushchair or a wheelchair has a right to go out and about.”

We’re allowed to exist, as long as we don’t go around asking for too much. So says a man from the AA. Isn’t that nice of him?

The example of London, where pavement parking has been nominally banned since 1985, is instructive. Like the shambolic SNP Bill, the London legislation allows the creation of exempted areas. All that is required is the painting of some markings on the footway to indicate the area that drivers may park on. There is no minimum footway width that must remain exclusively for pedestrians:

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(Source: Crap Waltham Forest)

This is the kind of barbaric, anti-pedestrian, anti-wheelchair, anti-pushchair streetscape that Derek Mackay wishes to formalise. He’s part of the cosy clique of hardline car-mongers who dominate the Scottish Government. Their commitment to maintaining the iniquity of a driver-centric transport system is unwavering. Even the more moderate elements of this clique, such as Sandra White, are quite clear that any dissenting views they may have – like a belief that footways should be for walking on – are not fundamental. Though, to be fair, I’m not aware of any of the opposition parties raising the issue of the exemption clause.

I oppose this rotten piece of legislation. It’s clear that it will be used to legitimise the oppression of pedestrians. Exemptions will be created wherever drivers demand them. They’ll whine and screech about their “needs”, and councils will roll over every time.

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