This year, at the end of summer, the City Centre West to East Cycle Link project was discussed at Edinburgh City Council’s Transport and Environment Committee. It was encouraging to see cross-party support for the project.
However, the committee postponed a final decision on the design regarding two sections of the route and subsequently set up a cross-party stakeholder group to review the options for these sections. I wrote a blog about it at the time.
It has been an eventful few months since this decision. We have seen two segregated cycle routes voted down: the second phase of the Bears Way, from suburban Milngavie to the boundary with Glasgow alongside the busy A81, as well as the Holmston Road project in Ayr, which was voted to be ‘ripped up’. We have seen ambitious projects, ones that seek to rebalance our streets in favour of those on foot and bike, face intense criticism. Some have been subject to intensely focused and active campaigns, which seemed to put aside a wealth of evidence in order to win the argument.
We have seen narratives that create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ – pitting ‘motorists’ against ‘cyclists’ against ‘pedestrians’. With such projects, it is hugely disheartening to see what should have been a force for positive change become a focus for anger. It is equally disheartening to see strong evidence and the policies of the Scottish Government which support a more active, greener Scotland being undermined by such opposition.
In darker moments, I have been tempted to draw parallels to the post-fact world that we seem to inhabit at present.
What has happened since 30 August?
We have taken part in the cross-party stakeholder group created by the Edinburgh City Council’s Transport and Environment Committee and have had an opportunity to put forward our views on this project. This group has met regularly over the last three months and has tackled sensitive issues with many competing interests. The process hasn’t been easy, however it has been fair, rigorous and balanced.
We have always believed that this project, if implemented well, could provide major benefits for the city of Edinburgh as a whole, whilst creating a better public realm for all in Roseburn and Haymarket. Throughout the process, our view has not changed.
The robust and sometimes heated discussions, both in favour and against the options, have been complemented by the enthusiasm and commitment of those involved. We are facing similar arguments as before, ones that rely on emotion rather than evidence, yet we continue in our efforts to persuade with the wealth of facts and evidence at hand.
So what is at stake here?
At its heart, Edinburgh has a choice between a route that provides direct, seamless and segregated access to and through the city centre (option A) versus one that is less direct and has more crossings that cause, in our opinion, unnecessary conflict in places (option B).
We face a choice between a city moving towards a healthier, more sustainable future for our children versus one that continues to steadfastly prioritise vehicle movement over travel by foot and bike.
We have worked with colleagues across the design, planning and active travel world to review the designs and present our view to the stakeholder group. We are hoping all the evidence that has been collected and presented will allow Edinburgh’s leaders to make a truly informed decision this Friday.
I am optimistic.
I believe that the city leaders will look closely at the evidence on both sides of the argument and make a decision on that basis.
What we have at stake here is important; a city that can be vibrant, healthy, more active and less congested, aligned with the capital cities of other Northern European nations. Most importantly, a city that has people at its heart.