Archive for May, 2008

“Higher fuel prices = cycling boom”

Posted by chdot on May 30, 2008

The CTC (the “UK’s national cyclists’ organisation” – and world’s oldest) has been quick to counteract the fuel price whingers.

Its HQ has sent out a Press Release headed “Higher fuel prices = cycling boom” which boldly predicts that “an extra 1.25 million trips will be made by bicycle every day due to the rising price of petrol and diesel.” (It will be interesting to see which papers mention it tomorrow – The Scotsman had a good article Why price rises are fuelling a push to pedal yesterday.)

This (possibly modest) assertion is based on the consequences of the last ‘oil crisis’ in 1979 when “cycling increased by almost 40%”. Now the CTC “expects thousands of motorists to leave their cars at home and go to work by bike instead”. It will be hard to tell in Edinburgh – what with the great May weather (OK not today! Might clear up in time for Critical Mass at 5.30), the general increase in cycling to work here and the tram works disruption.

CTC Director Kevin Mayne says “The amount commuters pay for fuel has a direct correlation with people deciding to take up cycling. Going by bike to work is a cheap, quick, healthy and an environmentally friendly way to commute and as people look to save money where they can, it’s the obvious choice”.

But it’s not just individual cyclists who save money. The CTC points to a study by Cycling England – which estimates that “every new cyclist contributes an economic benefit of up to £382 to the nation”. The CTC calculates that “a 40% increase in cycling would provide at least £1bn worth of benefits”.

Estimated results of 40% increase in cycling (£m)
Reduction in premature deaths
Reduced NHS costs
Reduced absence from work
Reduced pollution
Reduced congestion

CTC’s list of benefits of cycling to work –

1. It saves you money – no petrol, tax or parking charges.
2. It’s twice as fast as a car in rush hour.
3. It’s efficient.
4. It’s environmentally friendly.
5. It keeps you fit and healthy too.

Posted in Active Travel, Bike Week, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, commuting, CTC, cycle parking, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, Peak Oil, TryCycling, walking | Leave a Comment »

Challenging Fuel Prices

Posted by chdot on May 27, 2008

Today and tomorrow, newspapers, radio and TV will be full of headlines and stories about ‘hardships’ caused by the cost of fuel, the effect on ‘poor’ people of the proposed Vehicle Excise Duty increase, etc.

It seems likely that Labour politicians worried about losing their seats and Conservative politicians keen to achieve power will all be maneuvering to propose ‘popular’ ‘solutions’.

The simple fact is that fuel prices are likely to rise significantly in the coming years, due to increasing world demand. Also, whether or not ‘Peak oil’ has been reached, it will become more difficult (and therefore more expensive) to find and extract future oil – especially the grades that produce transport fuels.

A 1998 Government report Car Dependence in Rural Scotland, (published on Christmas Eve – so perhaps hardly noticed), contained the heading Transport policy : reactions and evaluations. It noted: “Given the central place which cars occupy in the collective consciousness, any policy designed to make driving less convenient or more expensive will be strongly resisted, regardless of whether households would be significantly affected or not.”

Not much has changed in ten years. It’s not clear whether politicians are reluctant to ‘offend’ floating voters or just have equal desires to own and use cars without sufficient thought for the implications or consequences.

In spite of the notion that ‘everyone’ is a ‘motorist’, a significant proportion of Scottish households don’t have ‘access to a car’ – over 30% (report based on 2001 census) – and much higher in some parts of urban areas. Under 17s aren’t allowed to drive and many elderly or infirm people don’t, so car ownership and use is far from universal. There is also a noticeable gender gap. Just look at the people waiting for buses. As well as young and old, there are generally far more women than men. Anyone who advocates a ‘fairer society’ – all political parties these days – should perhaps wonder whether it’s fair to listen to the travellers who make the most noise, or the ones with fewer (or different) choices.

The photos at the top were taken in Muenster (there are similar images from elsewhere). They clearly show the benefits for cyclists and pedestrians of the ‘modal shift’ that governments claim to want. More space to move, cleaner air to breathe, quicker, more reliable, bus services etc.

Report by Professor Gilbert N. Hanson states –

* Bicycle: 72 people are transported on 72 bikes, which requires 90 square meters.
* Car: Based on an average occupancy of 1.2 people per car, 60 cars are needed to transport 72 people, which takes 1,000 square meters.
* Bus: 72 people can be transported on 1 bus, which only requires 30 square meters of space and no permanent parking space, since it can be parked elsewhere.

Posted in Active Travel, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, commuting, CTC, cycle parking, Cycling News, Cycling on the Radio, Cycling on TV, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Demonstration Towns, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, European Moblity Week, HEALTH, Lothian Buses, Peak Oil, Safe Routes to School, Safety, TryCycling, walking, What the papers say | 1 Comment »

Council Scores in Cycle Survey

Posted by chdot on May 22, 2008

The second Cycling Scotland National Assessment of Local Authority Cycling Policy (the first was in 2005) awarded City of Edinburgh Council 60% overall – across a range of criteria. It shares this score with three other councils. Only Fife was better with 71%.

The Assessment is a “qualitative assessment of local authority cycling policy. The purpose of the study is to encourage an organisational culture that ensures cycling becomes a realistic travel and leisure choice for the travelling public.”

The areas covered (scores – Edinburgh/Scottish average [overall position])  

  1. Leadership & Commitment 73/60 [2nd]
  2. Strategy 71/62 [5th]
  3. Resources & Co-ordination 86/57 [1st=]
  4. Cycle Skills Development 23/47 [26th – out of 32]
  5. Infrastructure 70/56 [2nd]
  6. Marketing 38/52 [22nd=]
  7. Policy & Strategy Evaluation 50/46 [9th=]
  8. Monitoring Cycling 76/56 [1st]
  9. Understanding Users & Stakeholders 84/55 [1st]

The very low score for “Cycle Skills Development” will surprise no-one who has been campaigning for many years for universal Cycle Training. A tiny number of Edinburgh primary schools organise Cycle Training in school time. A few more schools have CT as an after school option – which means that only a small proportion of pupils take part.

Until August last year, Cycle Training in Edinburgh was the responsibility of the Police. Lothian & Borders has decided to concentrate resources on ‘young driver training‘. L&BP seems to be unaware of the irony that better cycling (and pedestrian) training might reduce the need for training young drivers…

Cycle Training is now firmly the responsibility of the Council – primarily the Children and Families Department. Safe Routes to School measures, and even the provision of cycle parking in schools, has mostly been the result of the actions (and money) of City Development. In spite of campaigning (and the support of councillors with responsibility for both departments), there has been very little progress in the last ten years.

This may be about to change. Last year the Scottish Government provided money (to Cycling Scotland) for 60,000 reflective waistcoats, 120,000 reflective slapbands, 12,600 portable road signs and 2,100 “cycle activity skills kits” – enough for all schools in Scotland.

Cycling Scotland advocate that training should take place on road and recommend that all children should be offered training.

Cycling Scotland’s new report’s recommendations for Edinburgh –

􀂄 Incorporate indicators on cycle use into the Single Outcome Agreement

􀂄 Develop a cycling action plan cutting across policy areas to support strategy delivery

􀂄 Strengthen policy to tackle unnecessary private car use in town centres

􀂄 Deliver Scottish Cycle Training Scheme cycle training to 10-12 year olds on-road

􀂄 Introduce delivery of multi-stage child cycle training

􀂄 Carry out market research and market segmentation

􀂄 Develop an outcome-based marketing strategy for cycling, cutting across departments

􀂄 Pilot targeted marketing campaigns linked to a broader marketing strategy

Posted in Active Travel, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, commuting, Core Path Network, cycle parking, cycle training, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Demonstration Towns, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, paths, Peak Oil, Safe Routes to School, Safety, Spokes, Sustrans, TryCycling, walking | 1 Comment »

Forestry Commission Continues to Encourage Cycling

Posted by chdot on May 20, 2008

The Forestry Commission has come a long way since 1919 when it was created to deal with timber shortages caused by the First World War. The main demand was for pit props which resulted in swathes of straight growing trees being planted, in rigid formations, on many UK hillsides.

In recent decades this has been ‘softened’ with a broader range of tree species used. Importantly the Commission has had it’s role changed and it also plays an important part in leisure and tourism. As the FC web site states: “We are constantly looking for ways to share our knowledge, plan activities and develop new initiatives to provide benefits for the economy and for our health and wellbeing.”

In Scotland one major development has been the creation of Mountain Bike trails for all levels of rider. Scotland is now seen as probably the best place in the world for this type of cycling. Fairly close to Edinburgh is the (genuinely) world famous Glentress – one of the Seven Stanes.

Glentress has the Freeride Park the fairly easy Skills Loop, and several routes including the challenging Red one. Now a new trail has been added – the ‘Mushroom Pie’, which is a Red Route option avoiding the Matrix section. This trail has been built over the past few months by the Glentress Trailfairy volunteers. Anyone can volunteer – even under 12’s if they go with an adult, (under 16’s need a signed letter of consent from a parent/guardian).

Further north and west there is network of trails through Sunart Oakwoods (location map) which has just been highlighted in a new leaflet, (available here – map side, info side). It could form part of a great car-free adventure – train to Oban, ferry to Mull, ferry to Drimnin or Localine, train back from Fort William. (And cycle the bits in between of course. Bikes are taken free on all ScotRail trains, but have to be booked on these routes.)

Or a ferry from Tobermory (Mull) to Ardnamurchan, for the trails there, or (more likely) after visiting some of the 64m of tracks around the Fiunary Forest for an alternative route to Fort William or even north to Mallaig, train back from there, or perhaps on to Skye and other islands!)

The Commission (which is headquartered in Corstorphine) is planning Bike Week activities for its staff. They can also buy bikes as a result of the Government’s ‘salary sacrifice’ scheme, which the FC was wisely decided not to tie to a particular bike shop or national chain.

In addition it’s about to host a meeting for key people to discuss proposals for “2009 Scotland’s Summer of Cycling”. It’s great to see any organisation – especially a public body – taking a wide ranging, active, interest in ‘cycling’.

Posted in Cycling News | Leave a Comment »

New Cycle Map

Posted by chdot on May 14, 2008

The latest map from Spokes is a new edition of the East Lothian one [buy on-line]. It’s a revised version of the original 2003 one. One noticeable addition is the controversial Dalkeith Bypass [A68] – mostly in Midlothian – due to open later this year.

At the northern end, the map marks a “proposed cycle link”. One useful feature of Spokes maps is the ability to highlight improvements that could be made. This particular one was identified by Spokes members.

It’s just a shame that the people who plan roads (this one has been on the go for at least ten years) aren’t as aware of low cost measures that might encourage cycling and, perhaps, reduce the need for even more roads. Maybe that is why useful alternatives aren’t investigated and provided…

Spokes has also made the covers of all its Newsletters and Bulletins available on-line. A fascinating snapshot of 30 years of campaigning. The summer 2008 edition will be the one hundredth! To mark this milestone, there will be an exhibition of the leaflets and other items in the Central Library on George IV Bridge.

Posted in Active Travel, commuting, Core Path Network, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, Exhibition, Maps, Midlothian, ride, Safety, Shawfair, Spokes, Spokes maps | 1 Comment »

It Could Be Leith

Posted by chdot on May 14, 2008

Councils throughout Scotland are waiting to hear if their “Smarter Choices, Smarter Places” bids have been successful. This new funding stream from the Scottish Government is for what have also been called ‘Travel Demonstration Communities’. (Background)

Initially it was assumed that Edinburgh would be ‘too big’, but the guidelines made it clear that any ‘recognisable community’ up to 100,000 would be eligible. Various options were considered, mostly in the north and east of the city.

It was clear that “Leith” was both a well established/recognisable area and also a good candidate for this programme. It’s on the edge of path networks heading both east and west and is also having a tramline built through the middle. This is due to be completed in 2011, which will coincide with the third year of this (initially) three year funded initiative.

The precise boundaries of “Leith” are open to interpretation. It once had fixed boundaries as Leith was a town until 1920. One line was drawn across the middle of Leith Walk. As a consequence, the Boundary Bar (now called The City Limits) had different closing times in each half!

Various possible boundaries were considered by the Council for its bid. The catchment area of Leith Academy was a possibility. Adding Trinity Academy’s catchment was another option. This would have demonstrated the importance of schools (particularly the feeder primaries) in changing travel habits. City of Edinburgh Council has a long standing Safer Routes to Schools programme which mixes physical measures – traffic calming, speed restrictions etc. – with ‘softer’ initiatives including producing School Travel Plans.

The area settled on for the bid is that of the (relatively) new Leith Neighbourhood Partnership (one of twelve across the city) which covers the Leith and Leith Walk wards (population about 44,000). This is sensible as it will involve an existing dedicated team with responsibility for, or oversight of, many areas that are crucial to this demonstration project. As well as improvements to infrastructure – improved walking and cycling routes and the extension of the bustracker scheme, significant effort is planned to go into marketing the many alternatives to private car use.

This will include Travel Plans aimed at large employers and ‘destinations’ and also smaller ones for families. The purpose of the project isn’t just to substitute one means of transport for another on existing journeys. The idea is to also improve and/or highlight local amenities such as parks and path networks. These are places where people can go for fun and exercise as well as ‘transport’. Places where children can practice riding their bikes and adults can gain the confidence to consider using their own bikes for journeys – perhaps to work.

One positive spin-off from the bid process (even if it is not successful) is that there is now a recognition within the Council that not only do existing paths have to be promoted more – not least with appropriate signage – but money has to be spent on maintenance. Too often in the past ‘capital’ money has been spent without enough thought for the ‘revenue’ implications. One proposal is for a “ranger team” for the path network. This would have paid staff and not just rely on the excellent Sustrans Volunteer Rangers!

To add weight to their bids councils are expected to find partners and supporters. Greener Leith, (which has campaigned for improvements to the off-road path links in Leith), is one organisation that is supportive – and has even offered to help finding “matching money”. Alastair Tibbitt, Chair of Greener Leith, has told the Council that it “wholeheartedly supports the City of Edinburgh Council’s bid to the ‘Smarter Choices, Smarter Places’ project. There is no doubt that Leith needs investment in the local transport infrastructure if it is become more sustainable. As the regeneration of the docks proceeds, together with a number of other key sites, such as Shrubhill, the existing transport network is being placed under increasing stress. We hope that the Scottish Government will shortlist this project and we wish CEC every success in its bid. We would hope to be able to work with the council to seek further match funding for some capital improvements, should you be successful.”

Other partners include Spokes, Transport Edinburgh Limited/Lothian Buses, NHS Lothian, the Police and Sustrans. A decision is expected shortly.

Leith through to stage 2

Posted in Art, bike security theft, bike shops, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, commuting, Core Path Network, cycle parking, cycle training, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Demonstration Towns, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, European Moblity Week, Exhibition, HEALTH, Lothian Buses, Maps, paths, Peak Oil, ride, Safe Routes to School, Safety, Spokes, Sustrans, technology, Trams, TryCycling, walking | Leave a Comment »

‘Accident’ Waiting to Happen

Posted by chdot on May 3, 2008

In the week of a tragic death at a road junction, (police are still looking for witnesses), it’s disturbing to come across a ‘new’ junction with serious problems.

The ongoing evolution of closures and diversions (for the tram) is causing endless inconvenience for road users and pedestrians. It would appear that AIP (Accident, Injury, Prevention) considerations are not as prominent as they should be.

The photo shows a car going through the red lights at the Lothian Road/Castle Terrace junction. It was one of several in a fairly short period. Clearly the responsibility lies with the driver, but the amount of visual overload isn’t helping.

The brightly coloured shrouds on the out of use lights must be one contributory factor. The line of cones and the ‘no right turn’ signs perhaps imply that there is no longer any traffic coming from Castle Terrace. In addition it seems that the green phase for traffic turning right out of Castle Terrace isn’t long enough. The lights change while traffic is still turning into Lothian Road.

It is no longer clear who is responsible for any of this. It should be City of Edinburgh Council’s City Development Department, but tie (wholly owned by the Council) has responsibility for delivering the tram and is largely obviously to criticism – whether it comes from Leith Walk traders or cycle campaigners Spokes. The recent shambles over diversions for cyclists around the Shandwick Place closure doesn’t inspire confidence that things will improve.

Tram supporters constantly say that ‘the pain will be worth the gain’. It’s to be hoped that no one will suffer actual physical pain between now and February 25th 2011.

Posted in Active Travel, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, commuting, Core Path Network, cycle parking, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, Lothian Buses, Safety, Spokes, Trams, walking, What the papers say | 2 Comments »