Edinburgh City Council’s June 20 Transport & Environment Committee has moved the CCWEL project on to the next stage and agreed some small but useful improvements to resurfacing policy – both by 7-4 votes, opposed by Conservatives and Lib Dems.
The Council considered a report on the objections to the TRO and RSO Orders needed to implement the Council’s flagship West-East route. Legally, some types of objection have to be referred to the Scottish Government for decision and a possible public hearing. The report proposed to continue work on the project in those aspects not affected by the continuing objections – an approach which the Council has successfully used before in other projects, for example Leith Walk active travel projects.
Disappointingly, the Lib Dems put forward an amendment [page 3, here] supported by the Conservatives, which would effectively halt further development on the project and instead institute yet another round of consultation, until the Scottish Government decision – a process for which there is no specified time limit and which can take months or even years – also potentially messing up project funding and staffing arrangements. Yet the objections to the route, mainly related to parking and loading, were well known at the time of the 2016 all-party agreement in support of the route, and so the amendment is basically re-visiting that agreement.
Spokes emailed all councillors on the Committee expressing our concerns over the amendment – see our letter.
At the Committee, whilst the Lib Dem proposer, Cllr Gloyer, did at least express support for the principle of the route the first Conservative speaker (a new councillor, Cllr Douglas) was much tougher and left the impression he would like it scrapped, though he did not quite say that. Faced with twitter concern, both the Lib Dems and Conservatives later said they remain committed to the principle of the route – but the fact is that the areas of objection were well known at the time of the all-party agreement – and a potentially substantial delay could even derail the whole project.
In the event, the motion was passed 7-4, with SNP, Labour and Greens in support, and with some minor Coalition and Green amendments [pages 1 & 2] strengthening it further.
Road Resurfacing policies
Note: for some history on resurfacing policies, see this page.
Thanks to a Green amendment [page 7] by Cllr Chas Booth the Committee agreed two policy changes (again by 7-4 votes) which, whilst not major, help to further entrench consideration for cycling (and, in one case, walking) into council procedures. We were very disappointed to find both Conservatives and Lib Dems voting against these changes which seem non-controversial and were endorsed by Council officers as well as the ruling SNP/Lab coalition. Conservative spokesperson Cllr Nick Cook felt them ‘not necessary’ (and later tweeted this) whilst Lib Dem Cllr Gillian Gloyer did not explain her vote against.
Cycle prioritisation weighting improved
Every year there is a Committee Report [this year’s example] containing a massive list of roads to be resurfaced, their ordering decided by a prioritisation algorithm based on factors such as surface deterioration, type of use and so on. In 2014, thanks to literally years of lobbying by Spokes, the Council added a 5% weighting for roads deemed particularly important for cycling. This, for example, brought forward the hugely welcome resurfacing of Whitehouse Loan. Edinburgh is thought to be the only Council in Scotland to give such a weighting to roads important for cycling – and indeed the only Council to give a weighting (10%) for bus routes.
Initially this weighting applied only to roads on the Council’s ‘quiet network’ and since 2014 Spokes has repeatedly pressed for it to be extended to all roads containing stretches of cycle lane or signed as recommended cycle routes. Thanks to the above amendment, this is now agreed policy. It is important to note that this merely pushes such roads up the priority list somewhat – it does not mean that all onroad cycle lanes will suddenly become perfect!!
Consultation on relevant resurfacing projects
In 2016 the Council instituted an excellent new policy such that roads to be resurfaced would be assessed for what cycling and/or walking improvements could be incorporated at the same time, something else we had long argued for. Previously, resurfacing had just replaced the existing layouts.
However no consultation arrangements were set up – although there has been occasional ad-hoc consultation – for example the last-minute Silverknowes Roundabout changes achieved thanks to an alert Spokes member, Graeme Hart. Undoubtedly a number of opportunities have been missed, and some facilities that were not ideal have been devised.
Although, as stated above, the list of projects for each year is published, it is a truly massive list and it gives virtually no details other than the road name, in part because details have not yet been worked out. Spokes Planning Group has not always had the capacity to work through the list in sufficient detail.
Now, thanks to the amendment, the Council will formally consult cycling and walking representatives once a year after the list is published. The purpose of the meeting will be to identify which of the projects is likely to provide opportunities for new or improved facilities, and of course there can later be detailed consultation on those individual schemes. Note that we cannot argue about which projects are undertaken – that comes from the algorithm – but about the details of what is done within each project.
What you can do
- We issued several tweets about the Committee – please retweet if you agree…
- If you have ages to spare, check out this year’s resurfacing list and let us (and your councillors!) know which schemes you think have potential to include cycling facilities, whether minor or major
- Watch the webcast of the Committee here. The Committee lasts 2 hours, but you can jump to items 7.1 and 7.3 for the debates on the two Reports above.