January 2013
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Grit not greet

Whilst cyclists across the UK are greeting* about icy bikepaths, Edinburgh Council is being praised for its gritting…

Social media across the UK are full of complaints about ungritted bike paths, but Edinburgh Council has been receiving impressive praise from path users.

* Definition of ‘greet’ – if you’re not in Scotland, see here.

“One cooncil vehicle I’m happy to see chuntering up and down the cycle paths” [comment by kaputnik, Middle Meadow Walk photo by SRD]

The Innertube Map tweets, “North Edinburgh paths freshly swept and gritted ready for cold spell (at least all the sections I saw today north of Canonmills). Good news.”   Followed by user comments such as, “credit where its due, broomhouse path gritted this evening” [@nelly0168] and “Innocent path. Gritter. Edinburgh Council getting it right on this key route!” [@Citycycling]

Cycling Edinburgh forum tweets, “winter gritting great improvement” following comments from users such as, “the North Edinburgh Network has been well gritted,”  “the council has been much more on-the-ball this winter” and “I remember seeing 3 cyclists wipe out one morning last year.   Not only have I not come off this year, but I’ve not seen any either.

Emails to Spokes included, “I noted during 20 milers run that The Innocent and surrounding paths had been well gritted” and “I think this is a excellent move and should be considered as good progress in recognition of cyclists existence” and “On 12 Jan I came onto the main path at Silverknowes, just before the icy weather started, and was amazed to find the path had already been gritted IN ADVANCE, all the way to Roseburn. This is unprecedented!

Of course, there are minor complaints and quibbles, but the overall picture is very positive – and reports of problems sent to the Council’s neighbourhood teams are now also usually quickly dealt with, though obviously prioritising alongside other local reports.

The priority 1 cycle paths to be gritted are also now listed on the council’s gritting web pages.

Why has this happened in Edinburgh this year??

The new gritting regime is due entirely to the Council’s bold budget decision last year to allocate 5% of the transport budgets (capital and revenue) to cycling (and increasing by 1% annually).   Gritting is funded from the revenue budget and so this year, rather than just belated responses to complaints, the Council was able to allocate resources and plan gritting routes well in advance, to cover the main offroad cycleroutes across the city.

Edinburgh City Council has set an ambitious target for 10% of all trips, and 15% of commuter trips, to be by bike in 2020 – and their budget decision above followed that up with significant funding.   A welcome contrast with the Scottish Government who several years ago set a 10% cycle-use target for 2020, but since then have invested less than 1% of their transport budget in cycling – and even with recent small increases this is still only hovering around the 1% figure.   Interestingly, cycle use figures in Edinburgh are rising significantly [see our APPCG submission [pdf 940k] and our traffic counts] whilst in Scotland as a whole they remain static or only rising slowly.

What you can do to keep it happening!!

If you have benefitted from the new gritting regime, and you’d like it continued in future years, please send your councillors a quick congratulatory/ thank-you email.  Find them at www.writetothem.com.

Edinburgh will be voting in the next few weeks on its budget for the next financial year, 2013/14.  Whilst there was a decision last year to increase the cycle budget by a further 1% a year, that was before the 2012 council elections, and the decision could be reversed.  If the council is aware that its policy is effective and is valued by citizens, it is more likely to continue!!

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