Edinburgh to the Forth Bridge is probably the most important single stretch of non-urban cycleroute in Scotland, taking cycle tourists of all types from Scotland’s Capital, where many begin their holiday, to Fife, Perthshire and the Highlands. It should be a flagship tourist route – instead, for many years, European tourists expressed their shock at its disgraceful state.
It is also an essential commuter route and an important local leisure route. Its condition has been truly appalling, and downright dangerous, in parts, for many years. Some quotes from users, forceful to say the least, can be found in this 2007 letter from Spokes to Scottish Government Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP [pdf 111k].
Below is a brief summary of a huge amount of lobbying over many years by Spokes and by many individuals. Letters/emails from individual users to politicians have been incredibly important in raising the profile, and without that our Spokes efforts would undoubtedly have been less productive – indeed, much Spokes effort goes into encouraging concerned users to write and keep writing, especially at particularly useful times. In 2006 we were on the brink of complete success, with funding allocated, only for an election change of power to scrap the funding. However, at long last the lobbying has paid off and development of a hugely improved route is underway.
Map showing sections 2-5 [pdf 236k] Note: These route sections are numbered sequentially along the route; don’t confuse these with the project phases, which are numbered sequentially in time!
August 8 2014: Section 5 [north from Burnshot junction – see map above] opens. Here’s what one user thinks of it (+photo & feedback).
April 2014: Consultation on design options for section 2 including possible anti-glare barrier. Consultation letter [pdf 74k] Survey Form [link – can only use once; also closes May 2] Map – see link above
Oct 2013: Circular to local members re path consultation + report of A90 field trip [pdf 167k]
October 2013: Council consults on Section 5 – continuing from section 4 below citywards to Burnshot Junction. Section 5 drawings [pdf 968k]. Comments by 25 Oct to CyclingProjects.Consultation@
August 2013: Section 4, Burnshot Wood, opens.
Obstacles to the project included –
- The A90 is not a trunk road. If it was then we would probably have seen a flagship-standard route built years ago from the government’s trunk roads cycle budget.
- Although the government is happily spending £100m’s on approaches to the Forth Bridges for motor traffic, it is unwilling to spend the comparatively minuscule sum (perhaps £2-3m or so) for a decent cycling approach from the Capital. This is despite a promise back in 2007 by Scottish Government Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP to invest in “improved … cycle links” to the existing bridge.
- Edinburgh Council understandably tends to allocate its cycling investment to the areas of denser population and highest potential usage, in order to meet its very ambitious target for increased cycle use.
- There are now no realistic sources of substantial regional-based funding (see 2007 below).
- The section with the narrow path is costly due to the retaining wall, land ownership, ??and listed building status
References below to [Spokes xx] are to Spokes Bulletins.
We start the story in 2004
… though that is far from the actual beginning.
2004-2006 Spokes campaign for Edinburgh to set up a major project for links to surrounding areas – including A90, A8, A71, etc – using the new opportunity of SESTRAN funding [Spokes 91,93].
2006-2007 After a long campaign … success!! SESTRAN agrees £4.6m programme over several years for links between Edinburgh and surrounding areas, including A90 route [Spokes 94,95]. A90 project to start in 2nd year due to the planning/ land ownership issues. Programme then put back a year by SESTRAN overbudgeting [Spokes 96].
2007 New SNP government scraps all capital funding to Regional Transport Partnerships including SESTRAN, so the £4.6m programme is lost, with no work started on the A90 route [Spokes 99].
2007-2009 New SNP government scraps tolls on Forth Road Bridge. Pressed in Parliament on increased traffic, Minister John Swinney promises to invest in buses and ‘cycle links’ [Spokes 98] but no money is allocated to this. Big Spokes campaign follows [letter to JS pdf 111k – nice user quotes!!], and Patrick Harvie MSP extracts government promise to talk to Edinburgh Council about A90 route [Spokes 99]. Spokes has to keep pushing council and government [e.g. at Cycle Forum, letters from individuals, letter to PW pdf 119k, leading eventually to PW letter p1 pdf 484k p2 517k govt reply 37k]. So – government eventually agrees to part-fund the scheme [Spokes 100,101] if Edinburgh draws up acceptable detailed plans/costings.
2010 At last … consultation on draft phase 1 plans [pdf 1.3MB] B924 Barnbougle jn to Easter Dalmeny jn, shared-use cycleway, width 3m+ except for a very short 2.2-2.5m stretch. Not the most urgent section, but funding/planning constraints mean this or nothing in 10/11 financial year. Spokes response [txt 3k] urges the onroad lane is retained as well as building the new 3m shared-use pavement, as there are different categories of cyclist … Outcome unknown.
Overall project expected to be several phases, possibly 5 or so, tackling individual sections between Cramond and Forth Bridge. No known intention to improve, highlight and sign the entire route from Edinburgh as a main tourist route.
2011 Phase 1 construction [funded entirely by special grant from govt active travel budget line; not from trunk road or bridge funds]. Phase 1 completed and opened later in 2011, with highly positive feedback from users. See photo and summary of the entire story so far on p7 of Spokes 110 [pdf, 3mb]. Phase 2 expected – details not yet known.
Other possibilities on links from Edinburgh to surrounding areas…
- After the 2011 May 5 Holyrood elections we could see revamped transport spending, for example returning some funding to RTPs such as SESTRAN, and/or increasing cycling’s % of the transport total.
- Edinburgh Council report on links to surrounding areas – could even herald revival of SESTRAN project 2004-2007 above, especially if regional transport capital funds are restored after the election.
Later – the result of the Holyrood elections, with the SNP returning with increased power, meant that government policies on cycling and on RTPs remained largely unchanged. Phase 2 of the A90 path project also collapsed with inadequate funding available from any source.
2012 A90 path highlighted by 3 MSPs in March 29 Scottish Parliament debate on cycling, including Fife MSP Helen Eadie who calls it a “disgrace.” This provides the opportunity for another major Spokes lobbying effort – see April 1st news item and circular to members in Fife and north-west Edinburgh [txt 5k].
2013 Final success in sight??
Government money for cycle projects via Sustrans has risen, thanks to many emails to MSPs from many individuals [you?? – for example here and here] combined with pressure from organisations. Not enough to make much difference to levels of cycle use in Scotland, but enough to make a big difference to a few projects. Thanks to the very high profile to the A90 path, achieved largely through our [and your?] efforts above, a worthwhile chunk of this money is going to the A90 path [we think £600k in 2013/14 plus 2011 money]. Edinburgh Council, with its increasing cycle budget, is contributing matching funding for 13/14.
For outline details, see the Council’s Haymarket – Forth Bridge (NCN1) project page.
By July 2013 [cost £0.25m] the really bad path section at Burshot Wood (Burnshot/Barnbougle) will be raised and widened.
By March 2014 [cost £1m] there will be further path widening, access improvements and coordinated signage to create what we are told will be “a high quality route between Roseburn and the Forth Bridge.”
Our biggest disappointment... The project timescale is great news, but sadly the funding is all from cycle project funds, Sustrans and Edinburgh Council, not from the massive bridge-related budgets (even though they do pay for the road approaches). This means that other cycle projects, elsewhere in Scotland and in Edinburgh, will wait longer than would otherwise be necessary. However, the state of the A90 path, and its continual highlighting to Ministers by concerned MSPs as a high profile national disgrace for visiting tourists, was probably one of the many factors which persuaded Ministers to hand out a few more scraps to the cycling budget – so maybe other projects have lost out less than it might appear.
Official website – This includes Forth Crossing Documents ranging from the Forth Crossing Bill to the Construction Codes which include how to provide for cyclists on nearby roads/tracks during the years of construction [NB – changes were made on cycling – Sept 2010 version – thanks to parliamentary efforts by Linlithgow Cycle Action Group].
Forthright Alliance – alliance of groups opposing the Second Forth Road Crossing [no longer active as project too far advanced].
2011 – Proposed pedestrian/cycle path across bridge scrapped by government to save money [other aspects also reduced]. Cyclists, pedestrians and buses will continue to be allowed to use the existing bridge, but unclear what would happen if it did have to close. Closure does seem very unlikely on the basis of the recent cable testing, but was the main justification publicly given for a new bridge.
2012 – Initial bridge works now well underway and little remaining chance to halt the project, given the majority SNP administration, and other big parties also supporting bridge.
Fight to scrap bridge and/or re-instate bike path nonetheless continued for a time by local member Bruce Whitehead – see articles in Spokesworkers 6 January and 25 March . Also mentioned in March 29 parliamentary cycling debate by Spokes member Alison Johnstone MSP.
2014 – Calls begin for motor traffic to be allowed on existing bridge (after a rebuild) – Scotland on Sunday 10.3.14. As predicted in 2010 by the Forthright Alliance and others. The SoS article was later disowned by the Bridgemaster but nonetheless suggests we will see growing calls for private motor traffic to be allowed back, especially once congestion grows at the new bridge.
Note also that closure of the existing bridge – for a rebuild as in the above SoS article, or for any other reason – will mean no pedestrian or cyclist crossing of the Forth at Queensferry due to Scottish Government scrapping the new bridge’s ped/cycle path [2011 above].