Monday, 22 July 2013

Scotland’s Cycle Road

Understandably some cyclists are hacked off. It feels like the campaign for better cycle lanes, road junctions and respect from motorists has been around as long as the velocipede itself.

Today a group of hacked off cyclists chained a “ghost bike” – that is one entirely painted white – outside the Scottish Parliament. In fact there are two; I took a look at them after arriving at work at Holyrood by bike. They feature a message about too many deaths on the roads and not enough being done by the Scottish Government.

On these points I agree but I’m slightly baffled by the choice of location. The Scottish Parliament in theory agrees the Scottish budget but in reality it’s entirely in the gift of the Scottish National Party who have a majority. They can do pretty much what they like.

Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to chain the bikes to the railings outside the Scottish Government buildings, the First Minister’s residence or the offices of Transport Scotland? Email addresses for all 65 ofthe SNP MSPs are here.

Last year a debate in parliament led by the Greens resulted in all parties agreeing that the government should pursue a long list of measures to improve Scotland’s cycling culture, from increasing the use of 20mph zones to on-road training for every schoolchild.

Ghost bikes and tombstones aren’t really my style but the recent spate of deaths must be remarked upon.
Today a woman died near Drumnadrochit; last week a young lad died in Aberdeenshire and just recently a super-fit guy in his seventies was hit by a truck in West Lothian. I note that these were not city centre accidents, and I wonder how we tackle the risks in rural or semi-rural locations. These horrible deaths have brought back memories of a friend of a friend who died several years ago while cycling along the A835 north of Inverness. He was hit by a Tesco lorry.

In built up areas there are obvious things we can do right now if we choose. We can lower speed limits, install traffic calming, remove on-street parking to give space for cycle lanes and give priority to cyclists at junctions.

Once you get out of the towns what do you do about roads where the speed limit is 60mph and while they’re not too busy it’s all too common for traffic, including HGVs, to go as fast as possible, often surprising cyclists at bends and junctions. I think that requires some serious thinking and major off-road infrastructure.
I live in East Lothian where the coast road – Scotland’s “Golf Coast Road” according to the new signs – is routinely peppered with hardy road cyclists clearly motivated by the prospect of an ice cream in North Berwick. It can be a very busy road, and a fast one. I’ve never felt completely safe cycling on it. There are off-road options, including paths right next to the road but if you’re a serious road cyclist with skinny tyres you’ll want to stay on the road.

So, perhaps it’s time we looked at the most popular A and B roads for serious cyclists and found a way of designating them as priority cycle routes. Instead of signs proclaiming a Golf Coast road why not a Cycle Coast road? This would remind motorists to “keep the heid and mind the fitwork” as my East Lothian granny puts it.

The Golf Coast road signs were officially unveiled by the tourism minister. Will it lead to an increase in traffic? I bet he hopes so. He wants more tourism. And the cyclists? Their purchase of an ice cream in NB melts away when compared to the cash spent by those in Pringle jumpers. So let’s get practical – let’s start a campaign to reclaim a road as Scotland’s Cycle Road. Any suggestions?

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