January 2020

Cycling into 2020??

  • Edinburgh – real work beginning!
  • Scottish Government – wait and see
  • UK Government – fixated on road expansion

Edinburgh Council 2020

After what feels like years of consultations, 2020 promises to see significant on-the-ground action on cycling and wider sustainable and active travel and transport, much of it under the umbrella of the City Centre Transformation, City Mobility Plan and Low Emission Zone.

Additionally, new policies on road-surfacing and traffic light renewals are becoming bedded-in so that concrete outcomes are beginning to appear. And whilst many delays in recent years were due to staffing cuts and changes, the Active Travel team has now been expanded and appears stable and on track to deliver.

The year also began with encouraging public comment from Transport Convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, who says “the days of the car being ‘king’ are over” – and a YouGov public opinion poll suggesting that 50% of people support the reallocation of road space from cars to areas for walking, cycling and socialising with only 28% opposed.

Are we being too optimistic? Only time will tell!

  • City-centre West-East route [CCWEL] – Work should begin by this summer, assuming the government inquiry report is favourable – shockingly, this inquiry has delayed the project by over a year, and largely just repeated the Council’s own extensive consultations
  • Bike secure-storage lockers – Work should begin this Spring installing ~180 ‘bike hangers,’ each holding 6 bikes, on streets round the city
  • E-bike hire – Some 120 e-bikes will be added to the Just Eat Edinburgh Cycle Hire fleet in the Spring
  • CargoBikes will be supporting local businesses on Leith Walk during the 1.5 years of tramline construction, starting now
  • Leith Walk will be closed to motor traffic northbound during much of the tramline construction period. We understand that a temporary 2-way cycleroute will be provided throughout – and of course the final post-works Leith Walk layout now includes a 2-way segregated cycle route and signficantly reduced private-motor space
  • Tramline safety measures, phase 3 – These long-delayed physical measures are expected this Spring – including a short segregated lane at South St Andrew Street, no motor-vehicle entry at Grosvenor Street and advance cycle lights at several junctions. Whilst hugely welcome, these are basically ameliorative measures to reduce the unnecessary dangers caused by a tramline layout designed with little consideration for cycling or walking
  • Road renewalsSpokes fought for years for a policy to incorporate cycling and walking improvements in road renewals/resurfacing – and to get an increased priority weighting for roads important for bike journeys. The policy is now in place with results starting to be seen, for example at Jock’s Lodge/Portobello Road, and coming soon on part of Gilmerton Road. Note however that the policy is “where possible” – for example, unexpectedly rapid road deterioration may rule out a potential active travel scheme which would require traffic orders to implement
  • Advance cycle traffic lights – Improvements in Council traffic control software mean that it is now relatively easy for advance cycle lights to be installed when traffic signals are renewed. It is now Council policy to consider this during each renewal and several sets have recently been installed or are in the pipeline, for example Pilrig St/Newhaven Rd junction. Of course they are only useful where you can be at the front of the queue, so their value at Liberton Brae/Mayfield Rd junction is lessened because of the absence of cycle lanes to the Advanced Stop area
  • Low Emission Zone – By end 2020, Edinburgh’s LEZ should be in place. Following extensive consultation in 2019, final details are still to be announced, but it may be city-wide, with tougher restrictions in the city centre
  • Old Town road closures – The Open Streets programme of monthly Sunday road closures will continue (and be expanded?) in 2020. Starting in 2021 some of these road closures will become permanent (including the consequent removal of all roadside parking) under the City Centre Transformation plans.
  • Midlothian Spokes Map – and from Spokes … a fully revised new edition of the Spokes Midlothian cycle/walk map, the first on water and tear-resistant paper – hopefully in the Spring.
  • After 2020?? – Several big projects are unlikely to begin until 2021, including…
    • Meadows to George St – consultations continue – how long can they take !!!
    • George Street – or will it start this year? The Council now has a big chunk of the cash from a successful major Sustrans application but detailed plans seem never to be finalised.
    • Cameron Toll to Bioquarter – exciting plans for a major segregated route, but with Traffic Orders needed and funding not yet in place this seems unlikely to start in 2020.
    • West Edinburgh link – Major cycleroute and public space developments in East Craigs, South Gyle, Bankhead, Sighthill and Wester Hailes – construction due to begin 2021, though money was allocated by Sustrans in their 2017 Community Links competition
    • Cycle facilities beyond Foot of the Walk – although discussions are underway, it seems likely that tramlines will be in place (e.g. in Constitution Street) well before alternative cycle facilities are provided – a clear recipe for additional tramline bike crashes. The Council is treating this separately from the tram project, so costs are not covered by the tram project – funding for design is now in place, but not yet for construction.

Note: the details above are our current understanding. Corrections welcome!

Scottish Government 2020

In May 2019 the Scottish Government declared a Climate Emergency and stated, “This Scottish Government will be placing climate change at the heart of everything we do. I can confirm that it will be at the core of our next Programme for Government and Spending Review.”

We will discover what if anything this means in terms of cycling (and wider transport) when the Scottish Government budget 2020/21 is published. Due to the UK election and delayed UK budget the Scottish budget may have to be published in provisional form – possibly in February. In particular…

  • Will there be a halt to trunk road expansion, with the cash transferred to active and public transport? Additionally, since the UK government (see below) is upping its road building, there should be significant ‘Barnet Consequentials’ cash for Scotland, which the Scottish Government could use for the same purpose, but has discretion to use in different ways.
  • Will the active travel budget be increased substantially from its current £80m per year? There has been no increase since 2017, when former Transport Minister Humza Yousaf introduced several major cycling initiatives including doubling the AT budget from £40M a year to £80m

Two significant positive steps, where the Scottish Government explictly linked climate and transport, have been taken so far…

  • The proposed abolition of Air Passenger Duty has been scrapped, thus avoiding a probable cut in already undertaxed air fares
  • A £500m fund for bus infrastructure on main roads has been announced.

However there is plenty evidence of the need for more substantial change, including…

UK Government 2020

The Conservatives’ big election transport pledge was £29 billion (£29,000,000,000) over 5 years for new roads, next to which the promised funding for buses, cycling etc is pitiful. It is of course not just the cash itself, and the alternatives it could have funded, but also the continued growth in traffic, pollution, congestion etc, and the negative impacts on public and active travel which result.

Given the climate emergency, plus the fact that the UK is hosting the massive and vital international COP26 Climate Conference this November, such policies are shocking.

Purely on cycling, £350m is promised over 5 years, £70m a year, a major reduction on previous funding. Indeed, less for the whole of England than the inadequate £80m for Scotland allocated by the Scottish Government.

The Guardian compared party manifestos on cycling, and whilst the Conservatives had some good ambitions (e.g separated bike lanes on main roads) it is hard to see the point when there is no cash!

More positively, respected cycling journalist Carlton Reid speculated that Boris Johnston would beef up the cycling budget because of his personal interest.

However Carlton also points out the unpredictable and road-hungry nature of the new government, with top adviser Dominic Cummings blogging “If you could dual carriageway the A1 north of Newcastle in record time, then get in touch.” Carlton also predicts, “Expect other road-building projects—especially the ‘zombie’ ones that anti-road-building protestors have successfully prevented so far—to be built in the next five years despite much on-the-ground opposition.”

The one point of real encouragement – rather as with Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland – is that a small number of big local councils are going ahead with high quality evidence-based policy and delivery on cycling, regardless of the government’s vicissitudes and lack of clarity. Top examples being Transport for London and Greater Manchester, the latter under its truly superb Cycling and Walking Commissioner Chris Boardman.

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