Aberdeen: Explaining Eight to Eighty

If Glasgow showed the importance of investment in active travel, our visit to Aberdeen for the SNP conference showed the importance of making sure that investment is spent on the right designs (‘eight to eighty’ infrastructure, as the phrase goes) – aka designs that enable the cyclist on the right to cycle just as easily as the one on the left

Father and son
Ride leader Matt with his son

After a great session chatting with delegates and politicians outside the AECC a small group of our more intrepid supporters (cycling in Aberdeen is really not for the faint hearted) set off on bikes to look at works on the third Don crossing and associated cycling infrastructure.

With a child in tow (literally – Matt’s tagalong attracted a fair bit of attention before the ride) we opted for the shared-use path rather than the dual carriageway that runs alongside the conference centre. This got us off the road, which was a relief – but in places it was far too narrow for bikes to share with pedestrians, and ran in front of houses and shops, likely bringing people into conflict. There’s no point catering for bikes, if it ends up discouraging people from walking as a result.

The new cycling infrastructure going in for the crossing is better – it looks like bikes and pedestrians each get their own space and by UK standards it was fairly generous. However, where the path met side roads it was the cars, rather than bikes and pedestrians which had priority (even when the ‘side road’ was a six-foot long dead end!). Sweeping corners meant that drivers wouldn’t need to slow down which can make paths like these very difficult to use safely as cyclists have to be aware of cars coming up behing them which might suddenly turn across their path.

Approach to the 3rd Don crossing
Approach to the new bridge over the Don – note that the ‘road’ on the left is just six feet long.

Fortunately there is a better design – note this new Cycle Superhighway in London. Not only do cars have to give way to bikes, but pedestrians get a nice continuous pavement over the side road, making it crystal clear that active travel modes have priority. The corners are tight and square, so drivers are forced to slow down. It’s details like this that enable tracks to be used by everyone – fast commuting cyclists who don’t want to have to stop at every junction, as well as families accompanying small children or older riders who can’t easily turn their heads to check behind them.

This is why we’re not just asking for investment – we want that investment to go on infrastructure that can be used by anybody, and that everybody will want to use. London’s new Cycle Superhighways show that it’s equally possible to design for such cycling in the UK – using existing rules and regulations but Scotland’s current design standards need to be updated and strengthened to make sure we get the same high quality infrastructure whether it’s in Aberdeen or Edinburgh or beyond. We know that the minister will be announcing details soon of an award for an exemplary piece of cycling infrastructure – let’s make sure that this is for something truly exemplary, from end to end, with no compromises where it gets a bit difficult at the junctions.

Loan McAlpine and Aileen McLeod
Meeting MSP Joan McAlpine and Minister Aileen McLeod outside the conference

Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday, including Minister Aileen McLeod and MSP Joan McAlpine, and the members of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum who led the ride (and guided us safely back to the train station). The next stop on our campaign bandwagon will be Dunfermline on the 24th for the Lib Dem conference – and Perth on the 31st for the Labour one. We hope to see you there!