June 2015

Bus lanes: 150 objections rejected

Edinburgh’s Transport and Environment Committee has decided to go ahead with its peaktime-only bus lanes 18-month experiment, despite 150 objections from concerned individuals and organisations.

Under the Council’s plan Saturday bus lanes will be scrapped and all weekday bus lanes will become peak-only.  [The only exceptions are special bus lanes such as contra-flow].

Green councillors Nigel Bagshaw and Chas Booth proposed an amendment that the Council should consult the public on the 3 options below before going ahead with an experiment …

  • peak-only
  • 7-7-7 [7am-7pm, 7 days a week]
  • 24/7

The amendment was defeated 13-2, with all other parties on the Committee voting against.

Objections to the Orders

The objections were all individually written – not signatures on a petition, or pro-forma replies – showing the breadth and depth of concern.  They are summarised in a 79-page report to the Committee.

In addition to Spokes and Living Streets, objectors included local organisations across the affected areas of the city…

And national organisations

Organisations who wrote in support of the Orders…

[yes, that is the list!!]

With no prior public consultation by the Council, the Orders were the first opportunity that most people had to find out about and comment on the proposals.  Yet none of the speakers in support of the Orders commented on the weight of objections – it was as if Spokes and Living Streets were seen as the only objectorsThis tweet from one objector makes the point.

The Spokes & Living Streets deputation

Spokes and Living Streets had requested a deputation, but this was refused on the grounds that the Committee never allows deputations on TROs as this could open the Council to legal challenges over the statutory TRO process.  Cllr Booth stated there was a precedent of previous deputations being allowed on an ETRO (experimental TRO) – as this one is – but the Clerk stated that the legal advice did also apply to ETROs, and so the deputation was refused.

Had the deputation been allowed, we would have emphasised the weight of objections as above, and other points would have included…

  • The Council is moving in the right direction on its LTS [Local Transport Strategy] targets, even its hugely ambitious target to cut car trips from 43% of all trips (2010) to 31% (2020).  The public are following this lead – car trips down; cycling, walking and bus up – so why suddenly now give the public a different message?
  • We do not dispute the Committee’s desire to rationalise bus lane timesbut this should be done in a way which supports the LTS rather than contradicting it.   We therefore ask the Council to postpone its decision and first consult the public on a variety of options including peak-only, 7-7-7 (7am-7pm, 7 days a week, or 24/7).
  • Glasgow City Council consulted on options.   Peak-only was the least popular option, and the council decided on 7-7-7.
  • The Committee papers [26 August 2014 and 2 June 2015] imply that organisations such as Spokes had been consulted on changing bus lane hours – this is very misleading.  In April 2014 Spokes received a 16-question ‘annual survey‘ of all aspects of bus lane operation, with no mention that the Council was considering cutting bus lane hours (the covering letter did state that a change was being considered for motorbikes).  Nonetheless our response included the point that hours should be extended.  The results of this consultation have never been given to the Committee or made public.  We don’t know the replies of other ‘stakeholders’ but we doubt they made the case for peak-only bus lanes.  There is more on the consultation process in a briefing paper we sent to councillors.
  • The Council is excellent at consulting when it wishes to – for example its School Streets and 20mph consultations.  So why not consult the public on this major proposal – especially as it departs from the Council’s LTS and was not in the Labour or SNP council election manifestos?
  • Our briefing paper also lists several respects in which the proposals contradict the Council’s LTS.   Additionally, the LTS [Exec Summary] promises “greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists in street management.”   Yet the above 2 June Committee report admits the proposals mean a “loss of amenity for cyclists” and does not even mention the loss of amenity for people walking home from school or to the shops who will now have cars and lorries adjacent to the footway.
  • This is national Child Safety Week [June 1-7] and a Herald report [29.5.15] points out that 1/3 of child road casualties are in the after-school period, 3-5pm.  The first hour, 3-4pm, is the worst hour of the day – and is also the very time when the Council’s proposals will allow cars and lorries into bus lanes and adjacent to the footway.  It is no surprise that the Child Accident Prevention Trust, who organise the week, were among the 17 who retweeted our tweet on this.

What does it mean?

Does this decision mark a change in the Council’s approach to transport and the beginning of a slide away from its Local Transport Strategy ambitions and its tough targets not just to boost cycling, walking and bus use but also, explicitly, to cut car trips.

Fortunately, there are still plenty positive signs, as in our summer bulletin – so we very much hope the bus lanes decision is just an aberration – for example something politicians can use to ‘prove’ to constituents that the Council is not ‘anti motorist.’   Time will tell!

What happens next..

  • The Council will now go ahead with an 18-month trial of scrapping Saturday bus lanes and weekday off-peak lanes; and allowing motorbikes into bus lanes at all time.   We are promised there will be extensive monitoring [paras 3.33-3.37 of the above June 2 Committee report], including before and after surveys, both quantitative and qualitative.  A decision will be made within only 9 months whether to start preparing the Traffic Orders which would make the trial permanent at the end of its 18 months.
  • ‘User groups’ such as Spokes (and, we presume, Living Streets) will be consulted on the survey design.  This is of course a double-edged sword – for example the report will state that ‘Spokes was consulted,’ whilst we may be far from convinced that 9 months is sufficient to identify a long-term trend in car, lorry, cycling and walking patterns as a result of the timing cutbacks.
  • More positively, during the debate Cllr Hinds stated that the Council is considering creating more bus lanes.  A desire for more bus lanes was minuted at the Council’s Transport Forum, as was a desire for Sunday bus lanes – though they would now presumably be offpeak only, so could not apply at weekends.

What you can do..

  • Once the trial begins we’d much appreciate feedback.  What differences do you find on routes you use?  Is cycling or walking less pleasant, and why?  The affected bus lanes are those coloured blue here.
  • Rules and times for parking and loading in bus lanes are unaffected – they are governed by the red or yellow lines at the kerbside, not by the bus lane hours.   However it is possible that allowing traffic into the bus lanes will result in more bus lane kerbside parking.   Let us know.
  • Before and after photos would be useful too.
  • If the Council decides to make the trial permanent, there will be an opportunity to object to the full TROs.   Evidence will then be vital, so it needs to be collected well before then.

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