Friday, 12 October 2018

I Have Some Questions?

Cyclists are bad.

They run red lights.
They cycle on the pavement.
They are a menace!

At least that's what some commentators suggest.  Is this based in reality? Well yes, some cyclists do do these things. Why though do these commentators focus on these things when all around them, people driving cars do the same, and at greater risk to those surrounding them?



Why focus on the cyclists?

Why suggest, either explicitly or implicitly that we shouldn't invest in cycle infrastructure because some behave badly (nearly always endangering themselves and no-one else)?

Why do people focus their time disparaging an activity that has some many positive upsides for participants, communities, cities and our countries?

There is no logic. Is there? Please do let me know if there is? Let me know if there is a good logical reason to oppose safe infrastructure for cycling. Don't just base it on your own opinion, as that is almost certainly soaked in bias, as my own opinion almost certainly is. Base it on facts, research and logical argument. Please do.

Don't go on news programmes looking for soundbites. Don't point-score. Don't smile smugly when you feel like you've got one over on your opponent. Stick to logic. If you are truly right, if the facts and figures are on your side, you will win. Victory is really there for the taking. Why haven't you taken it yet?

Just don't pluck statistics out of thin air. Or a red bus with words written on the side. I'd definitely avoid that.

If you can't supply the logic and the facts behind that logic, with evidence, then what is it that drives your passion to stop active travel. Is it fear? Emotion? A sense that you no longer understand or can control the changes going on in the world around you? A niggly feeling that somehow progress, however benign might make your life worse? Perhaps progress is bad? Conflict is good?

Or are you just a prick, looking for air-time? Seeking attention by verbalising click-bait?

What is it? Really, what is it!?! I honestly don't have a clue.

You may realise just now I have so many questions and, I've been quiet for so long, here on this blog, these questions have just built and built until now they feel like they need to explode out of my head.

So here they are, digitally laid out before you. I'd really appreciate if you start answering them.

Thanks in advance.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Political, Will or Won't

Today I received a response from Rona Mackay in relation to the questions I asked previously. You can find the response below.



Hi David,

Sorry for the delay in replying to you on this matter. Here is the council response to your questions:

On phase 1 there were serious concerns about the safety of the design, particularly at road junctions and crossings. Given these concerns, the SNP group made a manifesto commitment to make phase 1 of the project safe, and to this end we have discussed with the roads department the following outcomes:
a) The cycle way will be reinstated more prominently by Cala before they leave the site.
b) Where the separation zone juts out we will put in reflectors (this is particularly useful for motorcyclists).
c) Extra clear warnings when there is an access across the cycle lane.
d) Extra bollards at McDonalds.
In addition to the above, the off main road phase (Kessington to Maryhill Road) was reported to the PNCA Committee on Thursday and agreed on. This will be in relation to Traffic Regulation Orders prior to signs being put into use.
In relation to Phase 2, with the complexity of the layout of the A81 at the junctions with Boclair Rd and ASDA it is envisaged that only bigger problems will emerge. At this time there does not appear to be any political will within the council to revisit the next phase of the project.
I know that you will be disappointed regarding Phase 2, but should there be any developments in this regard, I will contact you immediately.

Best wishes,
Rona

There are a couple of things of note. First off, there are 4 issues with phase 1 listed. One is that they think there needs to be some reflectors fitted. Secondly, they think some bollards need fitted. Thirdly they think some signs need added and finally the junction at Cala (Allander sports centre junction) needs reinstated to what it was before.

Remember Rona stated that phase 2 wasn't going ahead because of major issues with the lane.....

OK, so lets get b), c) and d) out of the way first. Very simple, minor changes. Will they make any difference at all? Almost certainly not. Total waste of tax payers money, if you ask me. However, if it means we can go ahead with phase 2, yeah, lets get some reflectors, bollards and signs.

a) is a little more interesting. This junction is described on the Cycling Embassy of Great Britian's blog (11th picture down). Yes, it isn't perfect and Cala, who are doing some house-building nearby dug this junction up and made it worse (what you see now). It needs a bit more of a ramp (OK quite a bit more), some different colouring for the lane and perhaps a slight narrowing of the cycle lane itself (not something I normally ask for!). So actually, what I and Friends of Bearsway want, is more work than the councillors want. They just want it re-instated to what it was before, with a lower ramp and no coloured lane.

But hey, we sort of agree.

Wait though, this is a relatively minor alteration of this junction. Yes it might make a big difference, but the actual alteration is minor. So, umm...what are the major changes to phase 1 that are required before phase 2 can begin? Some reflectors, bollards, signs and a slight change to one junction!?!?

I wonder how much snagging is required on every road build. Do they stop completion of roads until the first has been fully snagged and are perfect?!?!?

Hauld yer breeks though....there's more. They mention the' off road phase at Kessington/Maryhill'. Well, ok....but this is actually a completely separate issue. Nothing to do with Bears Way at all. Completely and utterly separate. So I've no idea why this was mentioned here.

Then comes the rub.

I'll summarise

We think phase 2 might be difficult, so we would rather not do it, thank you very much. Making active travel a real alternative, so that it's not just for the brave, is just too darn difficult. Sure, there are more cyclist injuries in the area where phase 2 would go, but we are more concerned about getting voted in by Mr and Mr Angry of Bearsden and Milngavie at the next election, than actually giving two tosses about active travel. Traffic levels might well be increasing in the area, pollution is a big issue, oh yeah and so is congestion and yeah, our national party wants more active travel, but.....we are concerned if we allow it to go to design stage, that we might get a good design and we might actually have to annoy Mr and Mrs Angry and give it the go ahead....So, we'll bury our heads in the sand and hope it all blows over.

I think that just above covers the last two paragraphs.

Actually I can summaries it with two words extracted from the e-mail

Political Will.

Actually its quite unusual for a politician to admit that they just don't want to do it. No actual reason given, just that...nah...not for us, thanks. So we have a national party saying that active travel is a national policy and we have an MSP of that national party sending me a response that completely and utterly goes against national policy.

Hello Transport Minister, are you reading this!?!?

So, that's it then. Time to pack our bags, and give up on the lost cause that is East Dunbartonshire.....well, ....no. Quite the opposite.

First off, if you live in East Dunbartonshire, contact your councillors and MSPs (of every party) and let them know that this is not acceptable. You can do that easily here. It's time to find 'the political will'. I'm not just talking to you, the resident of East Dunbartonshire though. I'm talking to everyone else in Scotland. Contact your MSPs and tell them that you are shocked by what you see happening in East Dunbartonshire. Let them know that you will not accept that attitude where you live.

Finally, contact Humza Yousaf (his e-mail is scottish.ministers@gov.scot Just add FAO Humza Yousaf). I actually think Humza gets active travel and I'm excited by the national changes that are occurring, but if he has councillors and MSPs from his own party that are rebelling against national party policy, that needs to be dealt with, right?!

Oh and you, yes you, cycling campaigns, cycling orgs etc. You don't get off scot-free either. It's time for you to make your voice heard as well. What do you think about this approach? Is it acceptable? Should we just abandon all hope in East Dunbartonshire, or will you help me lobby the council, and all the parties in the area to find this missing 'political will'?

We sit on the edge of a great opportunity to truly take Scotland's transport system into the 21st century. However, if we sit back and expect politicians to make the leap, without being pushed, we will find ourselves falling back into the car dominated abyss. So take this stand with me. Let's help give our politicians the political will, to make East Dunbartonshire, and Scotland, cycle and people friendly.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Bear Way Extension? Not Likely!

Here is a short e-mail trail between myself and my MSP Rona Mackay concerning the active travel discussion in Holyrood tomorrow (31st October some time ater 2pm), and the extension of Bears Way. I'll leave the e-mails here without further comment, unless you want to add your own....

Dear Rona,
Following on from my questions on Twitter, I was wondering if you will 
be attending the active travel debate on Tuesday at Holyrood?
I am very concerned with the state of active travel in East 
Dunbartonshire. I have heard from very reliable sources, that the SNP in 
the region do not want to consider extending the Bears Way cycle lane 
past its current location. This is particularly concerning considering 
recent data released demonstrating that the majority of cyclist 
incidents (resulting in injury) occur in the area of phase 2.
You can see the data for yourself at this link 
(https://bikedata.cyclestreets.net/collisions/#15/55.9223/-4.3139/opencyclemap). 
Bears Way phase 1 was a great start, but on its own provides no 
significant safety to those cycling through the area, as they still need 
to cycle on the road in the most dangerous areas. The extension of Bears 
Way is absolutely vital to the area in which traffic congestion will 
only serve to get worse with the new builds in the area. 
I would be very grateful if you could attend the debate and address some 
of these issue.

Reply from Rona:

Dear David,
Thanks for your email. I asked you to email as I prefer not to enter into constituent discussions on social media. I hope you understand and didn't want you to think I was ignoring you.
To answer your question, I am not taking part in tomorrow's debate on Active Travel. I am speaking in another debate tomorrow which is more directly related to my work on the Justice Committee.
With regard to Bears Way, I think you know my stated position - and that of the SNP group on EDC who voted to postpone the extension before the May election - that I am not in favour of extending it until the problems with Stage 1 have been addressed. How long this will take, and if indeed anything has been progressed on that front, I will have to ask the Council, which I am happy to do on your behalf.
I am fully supportive of Active Travel and I am happy that the Government is taking this forward as a priority throughout Scotland. However, I maintain my position that Bears Way is extremely badly designed and I do not believe it serves the best interests of cyclists, motorists or pedestrians.
I know it is unlikely you will agree with me on this, but I hope you respect my position.

My reply:

Hi Rona,
Many thanks for your reply. Of course I respect your position on this, 
however I do wholeheartedly disagree with it. As someone who finds phase 
1 Bears Way the safest and most enjoyable part of their commute, I find 
it hard to understand what problems with phase 1 would justify a 
moratorium on the design and implementation of phase 2, something that 
the crash data demonstrate is desperately needed.
I would be the first, and probably was the first 
(http://www.magnatom.net/2015/05/bears-way-heaven-or-hell.html
http://www.magnatom.net/2015/05/bears-way-not-for-everyone.html) to 
criticise some aspects of Bears Way. It certainly isn't perfect. 
However, it is far superior to what was there before. As I have ridden 
on it over time, and seen others (including many children) riding on it, 
I have come to realise that despite its minor flaws, it is a huge 
benefit to those who use it and who could potentially use it, if it was 
finished.
Just recently the Cycle Embassy of Great Britain, a well respected UK 
wide campaign group, rode on the lane and gave it its approval 
(https://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/blog/2017/10/13/a-glasgow-excursion-the-cycling-embassy-agms-third-infrastructure-safari).

Considering that the overwhelming majority of the cycling community 
support the extension of the cycle lane (I could provide a list of 
organisations if you require it), could you please list for me what 
issues that the EDC SNP group have with phase 1? Also, if the resolution 
of the issues on phase 1 are all that is holding up phase 2, can I ask 
what work your councillors have been conducting, and what internal 
communications they have been making on behalf of constituents to 
resolve these issues? I have seen a lot of public discussion with 
regards to the shared space on Kirkintilloch (which I might add, I am 
not a huge fan of), but absolutely nothing with regards to progressing 
Bears Way.
 

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 http://walkcyclevote.scot/ 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.
Umm...
“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.....