Following Edinburgh City councillors taking a remarkable decision on cycling investment in the Council 2012/13 budget, which set a completely new standard for other councils. In which they decided that 5% of of the transport capital budget will be invested in cycling infrastructure and projects. I decided to send a message to my local councillors (via write to them) to show my support and make a few suggestions for the future:
Dear Gordon Mackenzie, Steve Burgess, Cameron Rose and Ian Perry,
I am writing to express my support for the Council’s decision to allocate a minimum of 5% of transport spend to cycling. It is good to see this progress towards achieving Council’s Charter of Brussels commitments of increasing cycling to at least a 15% of the modal split of all trips by the year
Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it can boost local economic activity, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).
Now that the money has been committed to boosting active travel, please ensure that it is spent on high quality infrastructural improvements. Cyclist dismount signs and routes just to encourage “leisure cycling” are a waste of money. We need to make all areas of the city safely accessible by bicycle and these cycle routes must go where people want to go. This means having safe and, if needs be, fully separated provision on primary routes, as this is the only way to encourage fewer car journeys.
Shared pavements are not acceptable to either pedestrians or cyclist and so waste money. London has shown that is possible to spend a lot of money on paint and get badly wrong. Glasgow has started to put in fully separated on street cycle tracks which have been descried as “one of the best examples” in the UK (I will be go to look at these on the 18th Feb on a study tour with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain which you are welcome to join). If Glasgow can do it, then Edinburgh can do it better. Make the city accessible by bicycle and people will choose to cycle.
This is a great start, lets make Edinburgh a shining beacon to the rest of the UK. The is much talk increasing cycling rates in other cities (notable London which has spent so much and achieved so little) and The Times is run a high profile campaign to improve safety for cyclist. So now it the time for Edinburgh to show the way and show just what can be done.
These are the replies in order received.
Cllr. Cameron Rose (Conservative):
Thanks for your email and all the comments it contained.
As for me I would like a Boris Bikes type scheme in Edinburgh as well. And will have it in the manifesto.
I generally support the moves to encourage greater cycling. I’m not sure if we’ve met at the traffic lights or the Bike Breakfast but I’m on the pragmatic end of the pro functional cycling lobby! That means for me personally about 1500 miles per year.
All read and noted.
So there we have a preview of Cllr. Cameron Rose’s manifesto. Personally I would also support having a bicycle share scheme in Edinburgh as this could do do much to encourage utility cycling, but it would also need some real improvements in cycle infrastructure in order to work profitably.
Cllr Ian Perry (Labour):
Thank you for your comments
Cllr Steve Burgess (Green):
Thanks for your letter highlighting the importance of funding for cycling.
As you may be aware Green Councillors and MSPs have also consistently pushed at council and parliamentary level for a diversion of funds away from the private car towards spending on active travel. Alison Johnstone MSP and myself were at the recent rally outside the Scottish Executive to lobby the Government about its intention to reduce its funding.
Following several letters like yours, yesterday I raised the question of where the council funding would be spent with the Head of Transport. His response was that the funds would be channelled into the existing Active Travel Plan to bring forward projects that are currently unfunded.
I expressed the view to him that if the Council is serious about achieving the target of 15% of commutes by cycle by 2020, that we’d have to make a lot more people feel safer about taking to the roads on their bikes. Interestingly he said there’s a lot can be done but there has to be the political will. So please keep up the lobbying!
Cllr Gordon Mackenzie (Lib Dem):
thank you for your e-mail. I was pleased with the outcome of the budget; not only the Cycling committment but also the additional funding for Schools, Older People and the Environment. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work but the Cycling element was definitely a highlight for me as well.
It’s fair to say the decision to allocate a minimum of 5% for Cycling (and make provision to increase by 1% annually) has been well received both locally and nationally. I was a bit disappointed Labour and the Conservative didn’t have something similar in their budget proposals (the Greens haven’t put forward a budget for a few years) but hopefully they will get behind the decision and respond to it in their manifestos for the forthcoming elections – it certainly something to press them on.
It’s also been good to see quite a number of supportive e-mails coming in since the decision. Cycling doesn’t have the profile given to car use so the more people who contact Councillors of all parties to support this initiative the better.
As for your suggestions on how we use the funding, I’m also keen to see the money is well spent and have been in touch with Dave (du Feu) since the decision was confirmed, to see about using the SPOKES network to get views. Dave has kindly referred me to a survey on priorities SPOKES did in 2009 which is a good starting point. I’ve also been following the chat on the Forums about priorities, I’ll use the Council’s Cycle Forum (which I Chair!) and perhaps use a focus groups approach with some cyclists, non-cyclists and businesses to get a wider range of views on what might work best for Edinburgh.
All in all I think the future for cycling in Edinburgh is even more positive, in light of this decision, and thank you once again for your support.
The take home message from these replies is that our Councillors are willing to support an increase in cycling if they are encouraged to do so by the voters. It is up to us to keep asking for better facilities and send messages of support when they do move in the right direction. So don’t just sit there, write to them, politicians are there to serve us, the people.