May 2017

Sheriffhall – ScotGov plans worst for cycling

Spokes has written to Transport Minister Humza Yousaf MSP asking for a pedestrian/cycle overbridge at Sheriffhall.   Of the three roundabout options that were under consideration, the government’s recently announced ‘preferred option’  is the worst choice as far as safe and attractive cycling is concerned.

Under the selected Option B, depending on the journey, cyclists will have to cross up to four roundabout approach roads, including two of the bypass slip roads.   The government announcement of its preferred option did not even mention cycling.

Pedestrian/cycle routes around the periphery, passing under the bypass and crossing the approach roads at grade, can just be seen faintly in the picture
















Contrasting with Option B, the rejected option C (which Spokes had supported) included a pedestrian/cycle overbridge and kept cyclists well away from the main roads and junctions while still keeping the cycle routes fairly direct (although some improvements were needed).

Policy issues

Sheriffhall roundabout has long been recognised by everyone from individual cyclists to public bodies as a major barrier to cycling between Midlothian and Edinburgh.  The Regional Transport authority, SEStran, in its report Strategic Cross-Boundary Cycle Development, identifies Sheriffhall as “dangerous and intimidating” and it recommends…

“Overpass/ fully segregated bridge at Sheriffhall junction – the redesign of the junction should incorporate the highest quality solution for cyclists.”

As long ago as 2004 the then Labour government allocated £800K to Midlothian Council for a pedestrian/cycle overbridge, via the former Public Transport Fund – unfortunately the bridge was never built and the Council obtained permission to instead use the cash for Sheriffhall Park and Ride.  The reasons are not fully clear – one story is that rebuilding the whole roundabout (with a cycle bridge) was thought to be moving up the agenda; another is that there were unanticipated land ownership problems; or maybe it was a combination of factors.  Now, however, more than a decade later, the present government proposes a substantially inferior solution, despite a complete junction rebuild.

Quite how this C20th approach to design for cycling fits with the government’s avowed wish for 10% of all trips to be by bike in 2020 can only be left to the imagination!

Last year Sustrans assessed the 3 Transport Scotland options for Sheriffhall against the Criteria in the government Cycling by Design document, and came out very strongly in favour of the option with the cycle/pedestrian bridge (and suggested some improvements to that).  Now that Option B has been selected, they have written again to express serious concern and ask, not that Option B be modified, but that the choice of option should be revisited [Sustrans blogpost; Sustrans letter].

Local concern

It is not just people from Edinburgh who are affected.   Indeed, Gorebridge Community Trust in Midlothian has set up a petition in the Scottish Parliament seeking proper consideration for cyclists in all trunk road schemes – and their background paper makes clear that it is the government’s Sheriffhall plan which has prompted their action.

The Community Trust’s wider concern over inadequate cycling consideration in trunk roads echoes our own efforts to persuade the government to update the Trunk Road Cycling Initiative which was adopted in 1996 and has never since been updated!  We are pleased that an update is now underway and will be consulted on – but if it allows for such meagre consideration of cycling as at Sheriffhall then it is hard to see the point of the update.

What you can do

  • Read our full letter to the Ministerhere.
  • If you are concerned, please email your MSPs – you have one constituency and 7 regional MSPs – find them here, and include them all.
  • If you are extremely concerned, ask one or more of your MSPs for an appointment to visit them at their surgery or at the Parliament.
  • Retweet our tweet.
  • Sign the Gorebridge Community Trust petition – but please also email your MSPs.




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