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Outlook for 🚲 in 2019 – Edinburgh & Scotland

After a ‘hiatus 2018‘ for active travel in Edinburgh, 2019 looks set to be either the most momentous – or the most disappointing – of recent years.  At Scottish level, the welcome doubling of active travel cash from 2018/19 onwards will start to be reflected on the ground in many towns and cities – but still in a transport context where the government’s top priority is ‘big transport,’ notably climate-damaging trunk road and air travel expansion.

Click for full tweet and story link

CITY CENTRE TRANSFORMATION

Rumour has it that the recent consultation on Edinburgh City Centre ‘Transformation’ principles [para 1810 here] had near-record numbers of responses, with the majority firmly supporting radical action to cut the present city centre motor domination.   That was certainly also the message from our own 100-strong Transformation public meeting.

Road closures, traffic-free streets, much improved cycling and walking conditions, along with improved and reorganised bus services, should be recommended, and action plans put in place.  An initial indication of the Transformation recommendations is expected at the February Transport Committee, with a final report at the May Committee.

Or, the Council could lose its nerve – as happened in 2010-11 when inspirational international consultant Jan Gehl recommended a similar approach [para 1102 here] and when a one-month Princes Street closure gave a brief glimpse of the possibilities.  Instead, in the face of opposition, the Council lost its nerve and retreated to a long-term consultation on George Street alone – a consultation which has spluttered on and off ever since, most recently 2018’s ‘George Street concept‘ consultation.

Here’s what Edinburgh’s Transport Convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, is promising in a Council blog.

It will be up to concerned individuals and organisations to ensure that radical people-friendly options are approved, and then implemented, bringing Edinburgh into line with many other European cities.

This Melville Street section of CCWEL is not expected until 2020

ON THE GROUND IN 2019

Due to consultations, planning, and legally-unavoidable public inquiries, work on the Council’s top 3 cycle/walk projects (listed below, all funded 50/50 by Sustrans) will see only limited concrete implementation in 2019, but several other schemes should be installed.

CCWEL, West-East link
  • Objections to Orders for Roseburn-Haymarket legally had to be sent to the Scottish Government, whose dilatory processes mean an inquiry is only likely around mid-2019, so work is unlikely before early 2020
  • Haymarket-Randolph Place Orders are expected Feb 2019, and a similar delay then seems likely
  • George Street comes under the Council’s George St consultation, with a Committee report on future options expected in Spring 2019.  Since detailed planning can only then begin, followed by traffic orders, nothing seems likely on the ground in 2019.
  • In 2019 work is however expected in a few places where no inquiry is needed (or expected).  These include  Dublin St to Elder St (connecting to new Picardy cycleroutes), Bishops Walk, and possibly the link route from Melville Cres to Rutland Sq (leading to the canal).
MGS, Meadows to George Street

Consultation and design are at an early stage, with nothing expected on the ground until 2020 or 2021.  See also para 1808 here.

WEATN, West Edinburgh AT Network

We have not yet had much contact over this project, but expect it to be implemented over several years, with some initial stages in 2019.

Picardy cycleroutes – there may be some minor tweaks to this layout. Click for larger version.

Other 2019 projects
  • Picardy Place – the cycleroute network here is now under construction.  This should allow the existing Leith Street route (to Calton Rd and Waverley Station) to open – but still no connection to the top of Leith Street.  This network should also connect to Dublin Street in 2019 – see CCWEL above.
  • Canal to Meadows – This massively delayed project is hoped for implementation in 2019, but improvements to the plans have delayed issuing of the traffic orders, which are expected soon.
  • Lower Granton Road – Construction of this much-needed scheme, to avoid the narrow and busy car-parked road, is expected in early 2019.
  • Tramline Safety measures, phase 3 – Implementation is expected in early 2019, including a short segregated cycle lane at South St Andrew Street, moving the island at Haymarket station to allow better cycling manoeuvres, and advance traffic lights at several junctions.  The (phase 4) major improvement badly needed at the West End junction awaits the 2019 Transformation reports [above].
  • Secure overnight onstreet bike storage  This vital yet hugely delayed project has restarted thanks to new council staffing.  The selected contractor and the list of streets to get units should be announced in January.   The contractor will then create the necessary website and consult to identify exact locations on each street, with implementation hoped for later in 2019.
  • Edinburgh Bike Hire – Just Eat Cycles should continue to expand, and we should see the first e-bikes for hire.
  • Other smaller projects are also expected – the latest list we have seen is this chart from mid 2018, which covers the financial year up to April 2019.   Note that such project lists are subject to change as delays or new opportunities arise.
  • Road resurfacing – the newish policy to incorporate cycling and walking improvements in road surfacing projects is changing so that Spokes and Living Streets should be consulted at a much earlier stage.  Recent schemes have seen only smallish improvements because time-consuming traffic orders would have been needed to alter car parking, delaying often-vital resurfacing projects too much.
What you can do
  • Visit your councillor to discuss your hopes for the city.  Find Edinburgh councillors at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/councillors
  • Take part in any consultations we see this year – particularly on the Transformation recommendations.
  • Join Spokes – we’ll keep you in touch with what’s happening and when there are important consultations or other opportunities.
  • Retweet our tweet of this article.

SPOKES PUBLIC MEETINGS 2019

We are planning 3 major public meetings for 2019…

  • JuneEdinburgh City Centre Transformation.  The full report and recommendations should now be available (see above) and councillors may need help in retaining their courage!
  • November – Your suggestions welcome for a topic of major interest/ concern.

Transport Minister Michael Matheson MSP with new Active Nation Commissioner, Lee Craigie. Click for link to Transport Scotland tweet.

SCOTLAND DEVELOPMENTS

Whilst much more is needed to reach European levels of cycling and of government commitment, cycling policy and funding in Scotland is now in a much better place than 2 or 3 years ago.  Recent major steps include…

  • Active travel funding has been doubled from £40m a year to £80m, roughly £14 per person, starting this financial year, 18/19.   Early results are just beginning to be seen on the ground in some Scottish towns and cities.
  • The June 2018 Active Travel Task Force report makes strong recommendations – we await the government’s response with interest.
  • The first ever Active Nation CommissionerLee Craigie, was appointed in December 2018.   We have great hopes for her ability to inspire individuals and to encourage councils, but her brief and her experience are less clear on challenging government – another vital need.
  • The UK’s first bike/rail carriages (with 20 bike spaces, plus 6 in the main train) are agreed, hopefully on the Oban line in 2019 and other northern rural lines in 2020.

From Spokes Bulletin 132 (page 5). Click picture for link.

However, it is notable that all these bold initiatives are a legacy from former Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, who was one of the very rare Transport Ministers to accompany supportive words with action, innovation and determination – including taking on his own colleagues when necessary.

Mr Yousaf was replaced by Michael Matheson MSP in August 2018 – so far he has followed through on the above actions, but is still on probation as regards greater pro-activity.

Indeed, according to the Scotsman [21.12.18], Mr Matheson “wants to expand active travel to include buses and trains because such journeys also involve walking or cycling.”  But there is no mention of expanding the total cash.  Whilst we fully support his sentiment, and the need to boost public transport, it would be hugely retrograde if the cash for this comes from active travel funds rather than from the roads budget – which is pulling people away from public transport.

The overall transport context

Whilst the above cycling developments are undoubtedly exciting, it is easy to forget that they sit in, and are affected by, a wider context of overall government transport actions and funding.  In that regard, active travel is still a delicate flower struggling in a garden of powerful shrubs, and indeed weeds.

£80m a year is being invested in cycling and walking (with perhaps some of this soon going to buses?) – but from a transport budget of over £2500m – and to cover the entirety of Scotland.  Trunk roads are being expanded (whilst even the main rail line to Inverness remains single track) and the government wishes to give air travel a further £300m annually by abolishing Air Passenger Duty.

Click for our tweet of this article from Local Transport Today

Is it any wonder that the government’s own predictions of how its policies will play out show car trips up 25% by 2037, goods vehicle trips up 44% and bus trips down 5%?  Is it any wonder that cycle use has risen only marginally across Scotland as a whole in recent years?

What you can do
  • Contact your MSPs – find them at writetothem.com.
  • However, now that things are looking up within the active travel bubble, it is important to focus not just on increasing cycle cash further but also on the wider transport picture.  Ask your MSPs how cycling and walking can flourish, or how climate targets can be met, when the government expects its own policies to bring about major increases in car and lorry traffic!
  • Retweet our tweet of this article.

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