Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Mind of a Candidate You Shouldn't Vote For

At the very recent, and VERY successful PoP Glasgow demonstration, I took advantage of my position as the M.C at George Square to give a wee speech (haven't found a video of it, does anyone have one?). The thrust of the speech was that, this being council elections, we should vote for local issues, not national issues. For example, it doesn't matter one iota if a candidate supports independence or not, they only get the same say on that issue that we all do!

Vote on local issues!

I also recounted a comment someone had made to me recently where they said:

You can't base your vote on a cycle lane, surely?

They were referring to the fact that I was going to be basing my vote on the approach that councilors had to the Bears Way cycle lane.

But its only a cycle lane!!
This was the response I gave in my PoP speech.

But what he didn't understand was that it isn't about the cycle lane at all. It's about so much more. It's about pollution. It's about health. It's about the environment. It's about efficiency use of space. Is about providing our children with independence. It's about eradicating congestion. It's about appropriate use of land space. It's about reducing transport deprivation. It's about people friendly towns and cities. It's about places...

To expand on that... The facts behind investment in cycle infrastructure are overwhelming. Investing in cycle infrastructure pays back significantly in so many ways, too many ways for me to try and reference in a short blog.

Investing in cycling is a no-brainer!

So, when I look at my what my candidates have said in relation to Bears Way, it isn't just telling me what they think about a cycle lane, it is telling me if they are someone who bases their decisions on fact, on research, and on logic.

If a candidate is saying that they support cycling, but is suggesting that you do that by looking for wiggly back routes, and plotting them on a map, whilst pandering to the whims of Mr and Mr Angry who don't like segregated cycle lanes, as it means they have to drive a few MPH slower, then...well... that's obviously the way they will conduct future council business.

In East Dunbartonshire one party in particular has made their opinions on segregated infrastructure very clear. The SNP. I critique their election propaganda on it here.

Two other parties have also made their thoughts clear on the Bears Way. Both Labour and the Greens have stated quite clearly that they support extension of Bears Way along with proper design of the next phases.

Last week I also contacted the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat candidates in the area, asking them if they would support the extension of Bears Way. I haven't heard back. Going on past record, the conservatives had previously supported extending it, and the Liberal Democrats voted to stop it being extended. The lack of response from both might or might not speak volumes...

I also personally contacted a local independent candidate in my area (Bishopbriggs North and Campsie)  Brian Reid. His comments were very reasonable with regards to issues that the council have with forward planning, and he stated:

I do believe that any extension of  cycle ways should be a priority for our council.

Am I telling you how to vote? Absolutely not. These issues may for you, be only one of many that you will be considering. However, as I've mentioned, consider the candidates approach to something that can only be a good thing, and you might have just seen...

....the Mind of a Candidate You Shouldn't Vote For......*

*Actually you should vote for them....For them all....In an Standard Transferable Vote system you can actually vote against people by scoring them last. It's called Vote Till You Boke. **

** Oh and look at to see if your candidate supports three important asks.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Anger Will Make me PoP

It's here! It's Pedal on Parliament weekend! I hope you're coming! (Yes that's three sentences with three exclamation marks! Opps another one....)

I feel in a exclamation mark sort of mood, I must admit, as I've just read something online that has made me angry.

Very angry.

This is probably good timing though. Being angry about what a prospective councillor in my area has said, the day before PoP Weekend (oh, should we use #popweekend on Twitter!?) is good, because I can calm down surrounded by thousands of like minded people.

Anyway, what am I so worked up about? Well, a candidate for the SNP Denis Johnston has released a statement with the following headline:

Bears Way proposals would have an adverse impact on Bearsden

Off to a great start there Denis!

You can read it yourself here.

Below I'll go through it with comments. They might be a bit...angry.

ACTIVE and safe travel is a top concern for candidates in the upcoming East Dunbartonshire Council election.
Indeed it is. You are concerned about winning votes from Mr and Mrs Angry.

The SNP is encouraging motorists to use other forms of transport, has secured an update to Active Travel Routes and is promoting rail halts across the local authority.
Ah the rail halt, the one which was scored very poor value for money in a recent analysis.
Denis Johnston, candidate for Bearsden South, said: “In East Dunbartonshire, the SNP group has a proud record of supporting policies and measures to get people across the whole local authority getting more active.
“For example, the SNP secured a commitment from the Council to update all Active Travel Routes to schools, to encourage walking and cycling to school by identifying safe routes.

Ah. This is called the 'round the houses' policy. This involves looking at where people live, looking at where the school is, and drawing a really wiggly contorted line that goes on the quietest roads you can find. Spending consists of producing maps with the wiggly lines plotted out, giving the route a name (Wiggly Way?) and putting up some pretty coloured signs. Most importantly it inconveniences car drivers the least.
“In addition, we are heavily involved in the modal shift agenda encouraging motorists to use other forms of transport and are promoting a new Allander Rail Halt with Park and Ride facilities to assist these changes.”
Ah more parking spaces at stations, which would actually increase traffic in the area, and once again, the really poor value for money rail halt. Public transport is an issue in the area. Now if we only had a decent bus service....
On the Bears Way, Denis added: “Many safety concerns have arisen after the first part of Bears Way was finished. For instance, worries at junctions and crossings. On the back of this, the SNP instigated a moratorium on the project pending a report on its safety.
Safety concerns! Wait!! Why weren't there any safety concerns about the utter, utter crap cycle lanes that were there before? Where was your (or your party's) concern then? As for safety, have you ridden it Denis? I'd be really interested to know. Did you ride it before the lane was built? I can assure you, 100%, that it is vastly safer than it was. That's why you now see kids and families riding on it, when you never did before. Sure the entrance and the exits are a bit rubbish, but....and here's the doozy.....that will only be resolved by extending it!! Oh wait, your party stopped that from happening...
“Looking ahead to the potential phase two, even more problems are leaping out, with the public questioning the complete lack of common sense in them.
A small proportion of the public whom the vast majority of which have probably never ridden a bike on a road in their lives. And what plans are their concerns based on? Well, there were some very basic proposals produced by the council, and they did some early traffic modelling. These were produced to get a feel for which proposals were preferred. There was no detail at all, just a number of options.

In fact the preferred option had a good chance of improving the function of the junctions in the area. Yes there was uncertainty, which is why the council wanted to go to the detailed planning stage. You know, the stage were you actually have some plans to base decisions on. Yes, that stage that the SNP and Lib Dems stopped being produced by the moratorium you mentioned earlier....
“For example, the section that would go down Boclair Road. This road is very busy and there is absolutely no room to fit a large cycle path in at either side. Not to mention the chaos this would cause road users during the lengthy construction period.
That road is very busy. I know, I quite often drive up and down it. So does my wife. There are though, absolutely no plans whatsoever for the cycle lane to go down (or up as it is a 12% hill) Boclair Road. It will go past the bottom of it though.
The council had a very innovative suggestion for how the Boclair junction could be improved (and would according to initial modelling actually improve it....). Had we gone to the detailed planning stage then we would have been able to make some proper decisions, but.....I think you know where I am going here.....the SNP and Lib Dems blocked the the detailed planning stage. So we are left with your, and Mr and Mrs Angry's hearsay.

“The SNP overwhelmingly supports residents cycling, but rather across the whole of East Dunbartonshire, instead of one single route, which looks doomed to fail at significant cost to the public.”
Oh boy. Oooooh boy.

Where exactly do you 'overwhelming support' residents (I suspect as someone who lives in East Dunbartonshire, but not in Bearsden, that I don't count as a resident....what about people from Glasgow, or elsewhere...?) cycling? On the back roads out of the way? Yup. On a main arterial route, which is a main arterial route....for the very reason.... that its the most efficient road to travel on from A to B, which unfortunately, and rather annoyingly for important people in cars, is where people want to travel on bikes... No.
Mind you, you have a point. Cycling should be safe across the whole of East Dunbartonshire, not just along the A81, but this is where your argument falls down (well it sunk ages ago...). The A81 will hopefully be a part of a network. That network will consist of spokes. That is, arterial routes. These spokes will connect to other areas, some of which would have segregated lanes (which unfortunately might force drivers to keep to the speed limits) some would have 20mph speed limits (damn, speed limits again), filtered permeability, where some routes have to be closed to cars reducing rat running etc.
For this whole plan to work, you need Bears Way. Then, you need another Bears Way, Then another, and then you look at all the other improvements that allow people to get to and from the spokes that take them to the places they want to go.

This is how transport works!

It cannot work without Bears Ways! Unless you have some new innovative way of making towns and cities cycle friendly, which the rest of the world has missed? Elevated cycle ways perhaps?

As for 'doomed to fail, and 'significant cost the public'....Do you actually understand the huge costs to society that increased levels of driving, and the resulting pollution brings? Do you actually have a handle on the relative spend on cycling and walking compared to road building in this country? Do you understand the power of 4 relationship between road damage and axle weight which results in cars doing significant damage to the roads, where cyclists do practically none?  Do you understand the societal costs to health of a sedentary lifestyle? Do you understand the cost of thousands of people being injured and killed by bad driving every year?!

I'm going to hazard a guess.... no.

And finally....'doomed'. Well, yes, it might be. Why? Not because there are any significant flaws in the project or the vision,....sure its not perfect, it needs tweaked here and there, oh and extended....... but because people like you don't listen to facts. You listen to Mr and Mr Angry and you think....hmmm, how can I get a few extra votes so that I can get elected to council? Honestly, that is how this comes across.

Anyway, thanks for helping me write my short speech that I will be giving at PoP Glasgow. I honestly, seriously hope you will come and join us, so you can see what an 'adverse impact' really looks like. I think you'll find it looks like a people friendly Scotland.

What I do ask, is that anyone who is reading this, who is a resident of East Dunbartonhsire, please seriously consider who you want to put a 1,2, or 3 against on the ballot papers...and seriously consider who you want to put the largest number against.....

Monday, 17 April 2017

An Interesting Response

Two important events are approaching. The first (and arguably most important!) is Pedal on Parliament. 

Och, that's old hat. Happens every year. Etc....

Well no. This year there is a twist. This year there are four, yes 4.... FOUR PoPs. As usual Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, but this year we add Inverness, and personally exciting for me....Glasgow!

Even better...due to the fact that Glasgow is on a different day (Sunday the 23rd April, the others are on the 22nd) you can attend two!

I'll be in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where will you be!?

The second important event is the local council elections (the main reason that we have spread to four cities!).

In my opinion, council elections are very different from national (Holyrood and Westminster elections). You don't have to, and shouldn't be voting on national issues. You should vote for what politicians have done, and say they will do locally. Thus, you shouldn't necessarily vote for the same parties you vote for nationally.

One place I think many should consider this is East Dunbartonshire.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that the SNP, Lib Dems and some independents voted against the extension of Bearsway. Labour and the Conservatives voted for it. I've blogged on the vote and the issues quite often before (you can read it here, here and here). In summary, the SNP led the vote against and had absolutely no reasonable argument to vote against it. In fact they weren't even voting on extending it, they were only voting on the council conducting detailed designs for the next phase.

The whole thing was stopped.

Anyway, on the run up to the elections I've been chasing the local SNP group for a statement on Bears Way, Would they support it? I've not been having much success and the only responses I've had had via Twitter have been poor. So I decided to contact Ian Mackay, as leader of the local SNP group. This is what I wrote.

Dear Ian, 
As leader of the SNP group in East Dunbartonshire can I please ask you to pass on the following message to your group. 
Firstly, as an organiser of Pedal on Parliament ( can I please extend an invitation to all of the East Dunbartonshire candidates to come along to the demonstration in Glasgow on the 23rd April, calling for councils to make their areas cycling friendly. Humza Yousaf will be there giving a speech and I know that SNP councillors and candidates from Glasgow and the surrounding areas will be attending. Could you please let me know if you will be sending a representative. 
Secondly, can I please ask for clarification on your parties stance on the Bears Way cycle lane. People on both sides of the argument deserve to know where you stand on the extension of the lane. 
Many thanks. I look forward to your reply. 
Best regards 
Dr David Brennan

Now before you read the response, take note of this document.  It is a Transport Options Appraisal Study that was commissioned by the council and conducted by WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff. There is a lot to read, but in summary it looks at different investments in transport that could be made, and provides cost benefits analysis.

Do Minimum
10 Years - 0.59, (Poor Value for money)
20 Years - 0.91 (Poor Value for money)
10 Years and 20 Years present Value
TRL593 GJT [1]elasticities, estimated journey time savings and average fares per journey. Non-user benefits are assessed using WebTAG[2] methodology.
%  journey time saving estimate derived from results of commercial systems published on the SCOOT [3]website.
Extension Milngavie Car Park 
3.04 (High Value for money)
Increasing car parking 134 spaces to 240
Park and Ride Demand Model. Details in Study Appendix.
Extension of Bears Way
3.98 (High Value for money)
4.43(Very high Value for money)
Phase 3 only (5% Background Growth)
Phases 2 and 3 (5% Background Growth)
Assessed utilising WebTAG Databook (Spring 2016 release v1.6)6. [5]

Do Something (Combined)
3.05 (High Value for money)
Extension of Milngavie car park and extension of Bears Way Phases 2 and 3.
Park and Ride Model and AMAT.
New Allander Railway Station   (Single track)
0.76 (Poor value for money)
150 Space Car Park
Bespoke demand forecasting and appraisal tool.[6] [7]
New Allander Railway station   (Single track)
1.17 (Low value for money)
550 Space car park
Bespoke demand forecasting and appraisal tool.
New Allander Railway station
(Double Track)
0.44 (Poor value for money)
150 Space Car Park
Bespoke demand forecasting and appraisal tool.
New Allander Railway station
(Double Track)
0.73 (Poor value for money)
550 Space car park
Bespoke demand forecasting and appraisal tool.

All you really need to note is that Bears Way extension scored very highly for value for money, and the new Allander railway halt, scored poorly. Now, read the reply...

Thank you for your e mail of 13 April regarding the Pedal on Parliament event on 23 April.
Regarding the SNP stance on the Bearsway I would refer you to the decision of the Council on 27 September 2016.  I have copied this below.

a) to note the Report and the review of Phase 1 and approves proposed
improvements bullet points 1 and 2 as detailed in 5.13, page 206, and instructs
Officers to report back to Council on the full implications and costs of bullet
points 3 and 4. The Report would include a full and meaningful public
consultation with all Community Councils in Bearsden and Milngavie, all
Residents’ Associations, bus operators, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
and disability groups:
b) to note the options available for the continuation of the Bears Way following
the modelling exercise and the feedback from the recent consultation exercise;
c) not to proceed with any of the Phase 2 options;
d) to take note of all elements of public consultation and all comments received
from members of the community;
e) to note the recently organised and submitted petition by Mrs Aileen McIntyre
on that contained 2600 signatures, and numerous comments
regarding Bears Way; and
f) that any future works associated with Phase 1, or any subsequent works, must
Include the protection of residential, commercial and commuter parking.

Bearing this decision in mind we have serious concerns about the safety of the current design particularly at road junctions and crossings. We instigated a moratorium on the project until these concerns are addressed and are awaiting a Council report into the problems with the design of Phase 1. It should also be noted that with the development of the Kilmardinny/ Westpark site just started we still have to assess the impact of the additional access roads to the A81 which will inevitably adjust the scheme already constructed. With regard to the proposed phase 2 from Hillfoot to Kessington we cannot see how the current proposals can work without causing an adverse impact for other road users, particularly at the Boclair Road and Asda junctions.
The SNP group supports the Scottish Governments Active Travel Strategy. We recently secured a commitment from the Council to update all Active Travel Routes to Schools. This is to encourage walking, cycling or scooting to school by identifying safe routes. In addition we are heavily involved in the modal shift agenda encouraging motorists to use other forms of transport and are promoting a new Allander Rail Halt with Park and Ride facilities to assist these changes.
Best Regards
Let's quickly list the issues.

  1. He quotes the outcome of the council meeting. The one he knows I was at, and that I wrote about extensively. Very nice for him to reiterate the outcome.
  2. He suggests that phase 1 wasn't safe (it is, and any issues could have been corrected, but was stopped by the moratorium). I'd be interested to know what experts they have consulted on this.
  3. He suggests that he is waiting for a report. I've checked, and the people I spoke to (in the know) suggest that there is no report coming. What report is this?! I've asked.
  4. He has suggested that phase 2 wouldn't work. We don't know that, specifically because the moratorium stopped the very detailed planning that would have told us.
  5. Well, he says he is supporting SNP policy....I'll let you decide....
  6. And yes,....he is promoting the very things that a report commissioned by the council has already demonstrated that would be of the poorest value.
  7. Oh and he has ignored my invite.


So the best word I can think of that describes the local SNP response (and I stress local, because very good words are coming from SNP Glasgow) is ....Omnishambles. (Actually I can think of a better word, but it's a tad rude).

East Dunbartonshire SNP policy is a mess with regards to active travel. Can you really trust these same people with anything else?!

So what can we do?

Vote, and vote intelligently. Vote on local issues, not national. Don't vote because you like or don't like independence. Don't vote because you like or dislike Jeremy Corbyn.

Vote for the right people for the area. For its future. For a more progressive east Dunbartonshire.

Oh and just in case I haven't mentioned it. Come to PoP. If you are in Glasgow, or in a surrounding area, come on the 23rd. The Transport Minister will be there. Be friendly, but be firm. Let's leave everyone in no doubt that we demand a cycle friendly Scotland.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Two Fingers to Bears Wsy

You may have read my recent letter to my local SNP councillor. If not, why not! Go read it here now! It explains that there was to be a meeting on the 16th March where Labour were to ask for a discussion on the petition to extend Bears Way.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the meeting myself, but a very trustworthy, quietly campaigning friend was able to go along to witness events. In his message to me after the meeting, his first words were:

Well that was a shambles!

Was the content of the petition discussed? No.

Was the advantages (which are significant) and the disadvantages (which are mostly factitious) of extending Bears Way discussed? No.

Was there any discussion of the incident where tacks were placed on the cycle lane? No.

No, the greatest concern of the opposition councillors, led by Cllr Keith Small of the SNP, were....

Where do the people live who signed the petition?!?
Yes dear readers, we have entered the primary school playground.

And so it apparently continued. With Cllr Ian McKay (SNP) suggesting that there should be a breakdown of the the areas where the petitioners lived, to shouts of ludicrous from those in other parties (almost certainly not the Lib Dems though, as they too are opposed to the extension). Ludicrous because, well.....did anyone ask the same question about the petition that asked for the Bears Way to be scrapped? Well, of course not. Sanity descended for a short while, when it was decided that that would be a waste of council time.

Cllr Duncan Cumming (Ind) wanted to speak about petitions in general, but apparently spat his dummy out (not my words!) when it was pointed out he had already spoken and should give others an opportunity. To be the council meeting I attended previously (which is well worth a read) Cllr Cumming spat his dummy out then, so I tend to believe this description.

Then came the curve ball..... In an attempt to raise the condescending level to warp factor 10, Cllr Keith Small moved an amendment, that a copy of the original decision be sent to the chap who started the petition. Yes, in a move that can metaphorically be described as giving those in favour of the extension 'two fingers' whilst blowing a raspberry, Cllr Small made it quite clear what he thought.

As far as I am aware that amendment was passed.

Yup......primary school playground.

These people are your elected representatives. These are the people who are supposed to be working in the best interests of the area, and its constituents. This is the same SNP who have a national policy of investing in active travel schemes and of having 10% modal share of cycling by 2020. This is the same SNP who in Glasgow have just announced that they will be investing 10% of the transport budget in active travel. This is the same SNP who's transport minister I spoke to earlier this week and who is wanting to do more towards active travel.

It would appear that we were wrong in declaring the dinosaurs extinct. The dinosaurs are alive and well in East Dunbartonshire, and these dinosaurs are a problem that the SNP will have to solve quickly if it doesn't want to loose support in the area.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A Letter to Anne - Again

As some of you may have read previously I wrote a letter to my SNP council representative. I wrote this after she voted against extending Bears Way. I also met up with her to discuss this when I didn't get a response. 

Now that we have submitted a petition to the council asking for the lane to be extended, signed by nearly 3000 people, the council are considering it at their next meeting. Labour are putting forward a motion to have the 'standing order' dropped that prevents any further work on the lane. Thus I have written to Anne once more asking that she consider voting to have the standing orders dropped. 

If you live in East Dunbartonshire I suggest you write to your councillors to. You can do so here.

Is the local SNP really as progressive as they suggest they are?

Dear Anne McNair 
It is my understanding that the council will be considering the petition to extend the Bears Way cycle lane at this week’s full council meeting. I also understand that Labour will be proposing that the ‘standing orders’ are suspended, so that detailed planning work on phase 2 of Bears Way could recommence or at the very least be considered again.
I should stress, as we discussed when I met you, that suspending these orders and allowing the detailed planning to progress does not commit the council to building phase 2. This would only provide you and the rest of the council with the information you need to base a properly informed decision on. I am sure that you understand the need for informed choices, just as Nicola Sturgeon discussed in her speech yesterday, on the need for a second independence referendum.
I will be meeting with Transport Minister Humza Yousaf tomorrow as a representative of Pedal on Parliament. I will be congratulating him on the commitment made by the SNP council in Glasgow in their upcoming manifesto to set 10% of the transport budget on active travel. I will though be stressing that as things stand, East Dunbartonshire is bucking this progressive trend.
On Thursday evening you have the opportunity to demonstrate that local SNP is as progressive in transport policy as the SNP are in Glasgow, that the future of East Dunbartonshire matters more than the vagaries of local politics, and that you truly believe in making East Dunbartonshire a people friendly region.
Please demonstrate that Scotland can be, and is progressive, as I believe that this is why many people are considering voting for independence.

Yours Sincerely
 David Brennan