Show me the money

Over the next few months Transport Scotland will be putting together a list that will be the focus of transport investment over the next 20 years. The catchy titled ‘Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR) 2’ is an opportunity for Scottish Government to put its vision for a carbon neutral Scotland by 2040 where it matters – in the budget.

As part of the decision making process Transport Scotland are asking us to respond on an online survey, detailing issues about everyday journeys and satisfaction levels with different transport modes. My lovely work colleagues have put together some guidance to help supporters complete the survey, particularly in identifying the five strategic priorities that would make a difference to travel choices in the future. 

I consulted thoroughly with mini-campaigner over cake and ginger beer, and the following are our five priorities with some examples of where more work could be concentrated to achieve Scotland’s vision of a fairer, healthier and inclusive country. 

Design and build a high quality walking and cycling network

Invest in separated cycle lanes on urban main road routes and shared paths in rural areas, forming a high quality, safe and attractive walking and cycling network across Scotland for everyday transport and leisure journeys – designed with communities and ensuring that it’s accessible for everyone.

We know what has influenced significant modal shift change in other cities around the world and Edinburgh and Glasow have started to learn from it. They have shown the political leadership and resolve to transform, often in the face of criticism and outright abuse.    

Ensuring that place based approaches to transport for our cities is vital, but many of us live, work and visit outwith our two major cities and we need safe, connected and viable sustainable and active travel options too. 

 

This is our local National Cycle Network route, where the shared use path comes out onto a road that is also used by motorised traffic coming straight off the A1. The Local Authority is slowly improving the route, but it’s piecemeal, as funding and capacity become available. More investment in strategic walking and cycling routes will have direct economic benefits, as well improving the health and wellbeing of locals and visitors alike.

 

Our islands are some of the most wonderful places to explore by bike but last summer in Orkney we found there were few appealing options to avoid the fast A965 to get from Kirkwall to Stromness. Concerned locals suggested putting mini-campaigner alone on the bus, rather than attempt even the shortest section of the main road on bikes. We chose a long detour, put on our Big Girl Pants for the couple of final miles, and I aged several years in the process. The local authority has this route on a plan, but without funding that’s where it will stay.

 

Close the gaps in the walking and cycling networks we have

Invest in the construction of the short links that communities have already identified, using compulsory purchase powers if necessary and provide capacity and resources for local authorities to deliver and maintain them.

The Drem Gullane Path Campaign deserve cycle campaigning’s highest honours for their patient, persistant and pleasant 14 year effort to try and get a path between their two villages. At this rate I will have overseen the growth of a small clump of cells into an adult human before they get the four mile link they need to avoid walking and cycling the dangerous main road. It should haven’t to be this hard should it?

In my own neighbourhood a new cycle path has been built, linking new houses to a supermarket and a safe route to our primary school. But the section under the railway bridge belongs to Network Rail and apparently they are happy that it’s a mud bath, likely to prevent many people from attempting to walk or cycle and encouraging them to jump in the car.

 

Make walking, wheeling and cycling attractive, safe, convenient transport options in our towns and cities – for everyone

Invest in a programme of street audits, focusing on street clutter, pavement conditions, tactile paving and crossing with funds for repair, upgrade and replacement – reducing conflict by ensuring that pedestrians and cyclists have clearly defined spaces that are safe and protected from motorised traffic.

Last year saw a revolution in my thinking about how we design our cities and communities, coming late to the news that our cities and towns exclude many of the most vulnerable, including the blind and visually impaired, wheelchair users and people that use bicycles as mobility aids. 

We need to ensure that safe space for cycling doesn’t compromise the needs of pedestrians; our #5GoMadInFrance adventure last year gave us a glimpse into what happens when you mix pedestrians and cyclists into crowded spaces amidst the bustle of a global city – elderly ladies shouting ‘Paris merde!’ at you in the street in frustration and anger

Radical assessment of barriers to integrated, accessible transport – implementing a suite of measures to enable transport modes to support increased active and sustainable choices for everyone

Invest in expertise and infrastructure to enable easy and affordable interconnectivity between walking, wheeling and cycling and onwards journeys by bus, train and ferry.

I was looking at some old cycle touring photos recently and it occurred to me that getting my bicycle on the 08.56 train from Dunbar is now more difficult than it was strapping my bike to the top of a bus in Tamil Nadu. 

You can read about my frustrations with trains from five years ago and unfortunately it’s not got any better. I’m looking forward to the new carriages operating on the Oban line and hoping that this will inspire a revolution in bike-train integration.

If you think accessing public transport with a cycle is difficult you should follow Dr Amy Kavanagh, Gregory Mansfield and Lady Grey-Thompson in their daily challenges to simply go about their lives independently. 

And whilst I’m here I think making all train stations accessible for blind and visually impaired people would be a good too:

Ensure that sustainable and active travel is prioritised from the start of all new developments (housing, health, employment) and reduce the need for travel, particularly via unsustainable modes 

Invest in whatever the hell is needed to join up our regeneration, place, climate, health, environment, equity and transport agendas and actually implement our policies on this stuff.

Can you tell I’m frustrated at this stage? We have the talk, now let’s do the walk.

 

Viking Biking

sign: pay attenttion, children playing

There are two ways to do Christmas, according to my husband, the Danish Way and The Wrong Way. Only he’s lived in the UK long enough to not actually say this out loud and has instead ensured that Christmas in Denmark is my preferred option through means of stealth.

So it’s the third year running that I find myself in my husband’s childhood home over the Christmas holidays, cocooned in the hygge created by my father-in-law and enjoying a week of candle lit conversation, unlimited reading time and glorious quiet, interspersed with solitary bike rides and herring focused meals with my tall and bilingual relations.

Denmark is famous for its cycling levels, and people often assume that my husband and his relations must all spend their lives cycling or thinking about it. They don’t, of course, and for many Danes a bicycle is the transport equivalent of a domestic appliance and warrants about as much interest. Cycling in cities like Copenhagen is simply easier, cheaper and more convenient than the alternatives.

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Arrived! #copenhagen #christmas #cyclinglife

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For the overseas cycle campaigner Copenhagen offers a unique insight into a city that continues to improve its facilities for cycling, locked into a battle with Amsterdam and Utrecht to be recognised as the world leader, resulting in most of my city photos looking this this: 

It’s fascinating city to cycle around and the first time is like entering an alternative universe that gives you the required energy to go home and keep fighting for our own version.

Whilst some of our family live in the big city, we usually stay 30 miles away in rural Zealand, surrounded by fjords and endless sky. Out here in the sticks there are not swarms of Danes battling through snow on their cargo bikes, loaded down with Christmas shopping. There are not swarms of people to start with and every driveway has a car or two, but there’s still evidence that cycling is a real transport option within and between towns and villages. 

Between bringing my own bike and my sister-in-law donating hers, I’ve had a bicycle for the holidays each year, so I’ve been able to get out and try to ride off the roasted duck at my leisure between family gatherings. 

Coming from a town in rural Scotland that can barely manage a pavement outside the town, it strikes you immediately here that there are clearly signed shared use paths everywhere – a rural walking and cycling network that connects towns and villages to schools, shops and public transport. My father-in-laws village has 300 people in it, but has paths in most directions and more planned next year. There is always priority over cars at side roads and it’s rare to find yourself moving from a separated path out onto a busy road with no cycling infrastructure to keep you from the motorised traffic. 

There are other signs that cycling here is a real and integrated transport option, with cycle racks at bus stops and cycles allowed inside the bus itself. Culture lends a hand too, with signs in the street at the start of the school year reminding drivers to expect children that ‘are new in traffic’ as the expectation will be that most children will be cycling to school. Like the UK, there are ‘children playing’ signs, but these are backed up with speed restrictions, not just hope. 

Nowhere is perfect of course and on my rides around the peninsula I’ve seen some poor infrastructure too, with paint instead of protection and some untreated paths and less than ideal roundabouts. It’s also increasingly obvious to me that the pedestrian environment, particularly for the blind and visually impaired, is inconsistent and disabling. At least that leaves Scotland with an opportunity to be a world leader if we really want communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.

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I spend a good deal of my working life talking about the benefits of good infrastructure design enabling safe cycling for everyone, citing Denmark as a nation leading the world in making cycling a normal transport option. And it is – a simple cycle around my husband's local rural towns and villages shows some excellent facilities: wide, bidirectional paths that have been cleared of snow along with the roads. There's also plenty of poor efforts showing its not perfect even here – paint on the road filled with slush, or narrow shared use pavements with dubious surfacing. What has struck me in the last few days is the little design enabling people with visual impairments to get around – crossings with no signals and tactile paving. One to discuss over the roast duck tonight.. #infrastructure #walking #cycling #denmark

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