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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Leading Scotland down the garden path: savage SNP austerity will cause social and environmental disaster

I was entirely unsurprised to learn the priorities of Tartan Tory finance minister John Swinney outlined in his latest budget, which will impose savage austerity on local councils while pissing away even more cash entrenching car dependency.

The leader of Edinburgh council was not happy:

Council Leader, Andrew Burns, said: “A reduction in revenue funding of the scale now being proposed, will undoubtedly have a negative impact on a whole range of vital services that local government is responsible for delivering: the children in our care, the elderly struggling with dementia whom we look after, and vulnerable adults whom we assist daily; all these individuals rely on the support that only a council can provide.

Ah yes, The Vulnerable. Very useful for point-scoring when excoriating the wicked Tories, but of little real interest compared to the glamour of the Great Car Economy:

The draft Scottish Budget 2016-17, coming right after the Paris Climate Summit, continues and worsens the Scottish Government’s unsustainable transport policies.  Trunk road spending rises hugely, rail is cut, whilst cycling/walking investment looks if anything slightly down on 15-16, and again falls below 2% of total transport spending.

The budget document shows trunk road spending up a massive 18% to £820m, with rail down by 7%.

The promises of flip-flopping transport minister Derek Mackay were also exposed as empty:

Whilst overall cycling cash in the 16/17 budget is only declining slightly, the CWSS element is being slashed by 25% – from £8m in 15/16 to just £5.9m in 16/17.  Years ago, under the previous Lab/Lib administration it rose to over £9m, but under subsequent SNP governments it has fluctuated between roughly £5.5m-£8m.  Indeed the first (minority) SNP government attempted to scrap CWSS altogether, but was persuaded of its necessity by a massive campaign followed by an ultimatum from Patrick Harvie MSP, whose vote was needed to pass the overall budget.

Most importantly, nearly all councils use CWSS cash to raise additional outside money through ‘matched funding’ projects, with bodies such as Sustrans, Scottish Canals, or EU schemes.   Thus a 25% cut in CWSS means councils are likely to lose the same amount again in lost match funds.

This is a hard-Right government, packed to the rafters with climate change deniers, wearing a temporary and entirely cosmetic “anti-austerity” disguise.

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Victoria Road plans

There are now two options for a redesign of Victoria Road in the south side available to view on the Glasgow City Council web site.

Option 1

The first design has unidirectional cycleways on each side of the road:

Victoria Road Option 1

This looks like a reasonable effort. I’m very happy to see zebra crossings (replacing two-stage staggered pelican crossings), floating bus stops, and priority for the cycleway across side roads. However, there are a number of things that are wrong. The most serious is the very poor design of the junction with Queen’s Drive (top left) – people who want to cycle straight ahead or turn right will find this very difficult and dangerous with motorists turning left across their path. Much the same can be said for the junction with Allison Street, but the banned left turn here mitigates the problem to a significant extent. The council really needs to forget about useless ASLs and provide dedicated traffic light phases for cycling so that these maneuvers can be made without conflict with drivers.

Another problem is the width of the cycleways – claimed to be a “typical” 2 metres but in reality reduced to as little as 1.5m for very significant lengths. There is no real door-zone buffer next to the car parking spaces, just a little strip of hatching that isn’t wide enough. In these locations, the safe usable width of the cycleways is actually much less than 1 metre.

At the bus stops, the bus shelter should be moved from the footway to the bus stop island. I’m not a fan of the bus laybys – the idea here is that bus drivers will pull into the layby to avoid “holding up traffic” behind them. After it’s finished picking up passengers, the bus will then be delayed as the driver waits for a gap in the cars before pulling back out into the main carriageway. This fails to achieve the promised prioritisation of public transport.

I also worry about the “cycle zebras” next to the pedestrian zebra crossings. I think drivers will be surprised by cyclists here, and I expect many near-misses. The zebras should possibly be put on speed tables to slow down motor traffic.

 

Option 2

The second design has a bidirectional cycleway on one side of the road:

Victoria Road Option 2

This is not my preferred option because it makes it more difficult to enter the cycleway from the road, or get back onto the road when the cycleway ends. Two-way cycleways also present additional dangers at uncontrolled junctions due to drivers not anticipating bidirectional cycle traffic; stop lines have been added to the cycleway at its junctions with very lightly trafficked side roads in apparent recognition of this danger, which is obviously not acceptable.

On a positive note this design has a substantial segregation strip, 1 metre wide, which would be very effective in preventing people cycling from being hit by opening car doors. I would really like to see this feature in the first design.

 

How it should be done

As you might expect, I’ve altered the drawings to show my ideal design:

Victoria Road After

If Glasgow City Council takes these suggestions on board, they could turn an okay scheme into an excellent scheme!

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South West City Way review

Rejoice, comrades, for Glasgow City Council has opened a new cycle route! The South West City Way (oooh!), previously known as the Tradeston cycle route, has recently been completed. It runs from Pollokshields to the city centre along Shields Road, Scotland Street, and West Street. That’s about a mile. Nah, it ain’t much, but that’s as good as it gets round here.

The route starts with a toucan crossing over St Andrew’s Road, which leads into a segregated cycleway along Shields Road:

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Shields Road has two floating bus stops, where the cycleway passes between the footway and a bus passenger waiting island. This one has no bus shelter, which is an unfortunate omission, but it works well for cycling:

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This one does have a bus shelter, but the advertising panel reduces intervisibility of bus passengers and cyclists. The cycleway is uncomfortably narrow; this could be improved by narrowing the excessively wide bus stop island:

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I’m also reliably informed that the wrong type of tactile paving has been installed at the raised crossings:

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The Shields Road railway bridge has, unfortunately, not seen any physical alterations. Instead, the “temporary” barriers that restrict the width have been shifted around and a cycle lane has been simply painted onto the tarmac. The broken tarmac on the footway has been left unrepaired. This is not an attractive public realm, it’s like something you’d see in a third-world country:

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At the junction of Shields Road and Scotland Street, the segregated cycleway ends and becomes a shared-use path for walking and cycling. This provides access to toucan crossings that link to a path under the M8 motorway. It’s not an ideal design, but as the path is wide it does not seem to be particularly problematic:

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The section outside Scotland Street school museum is also shared-use. The beige area indicates where passengers will alight from the visitor coaches that are permitted to stop on the road:

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There’s some nice full segregation further along Scotland Street:

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Sadly, this doesn’t last; it’s back up onto the pavement at the junction of Scotland Street and Carnoustie Place:

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The apparent reasoning behind this is to provide a large space for turning motor vehicles (there’s a motorway junction out of shot to the right) so that drivers don’t have to slow down too much. Not good:

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The segregated cycleway resumes after the junction, at which point it passes the Bubbles Car Wash. As you can see, the segregation is totally ineffective at preventing intrusion by drivers who are determined to block the footway. If I had my way, this grubby little establishment would be shut down, and the cars crushed…

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More segregation on West Street, and an example of the priority across side roads the cycleway has been given:

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The junction of West Street and Wallace Street really is shit. It’s astonishingly, inexcusably bad. Once again cyclists are dumped on the pavement, but this time it’s far too narrow and has a blind corner. I can see this being very intimidating for pedestrians. The drainage channel is a slip hazard, and the lights take forever to change due to the priority that continues to be given to the drivers:

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But wait – it gets worse! The technical drawings for the route showed that there would be 2 lanes of motor traffic through this junction. As can be seen in my photo, it has been built with only one lane. It the road can be reduced to one lane, then it follows that the space for walking and cycling can be increased – but this has not been done. Why? It’s a shambles.

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At Kingston Street we have our first sighting of what looks like it might actually be a properly-designed junction – a diagonal cycle crossing! This is quite fun to use when it actually works. However, the cyclist phase is not part of the normal light cycle – it’s only actuated when sensors detect the presence of a cyclist. This means that the delay for cyclists is always greater than the delay for drivers. I cycled through the junction six times and the sensors seem to be just as unreliable as those on Connect2; they twice failed to detect me, leaving me stuck at a red light while cars whooshed on by:

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And that’s us at the end of our little odyssey along the South West City Way – the very finest cycling infrastructure Glasgow City Council has to offer. No doubt it’s in line for about a dozen awards for its magnificence. It may be better than anything else in Glasgow, but it’s mediocre at best. Must try harder.

Below: the current end point of the South West City Way, at the Tradeston footbridge. The council plans to extend the cycleway along that grass verge in future. I can hardly wait.

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If you like the South West City Way, or would like to see more cycleways generally, an event is being held at Scotland Street school museum at 1pm on Saturday 24th October to celebrate the opening of the route.

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