Edinburgh Climate Fringe Festival: Cycling campaign group to quiz transport convener on manifesto promises

As part of this year’s Climate Fringe Festival, Lothian cycling campaign group, Spokes, will host their first in-person meeting in two years to discuss ways the council can best address needs of city bicycle users and deliver on Active Travel policies.

Cycling campaign group, Spokes, would like to see more safe and segregated cycle routes through the middle of Edinburgh. Photo credit: Ian Rutherford.
Cycling campaign group, Spokes, would like to see more safe and segregated cycle routes through the middle of Edinburgh. Photo credit: Ian Rutherford.

Transport convener Scott Arthur is to attend the event on Friday (September 23) where he will be quizzed on Edinburgh Labour manifesto promises and asked to detail the council’s plans to deliver a series of strategies that will help reduce CO2 emissions in the Capital as well as make cycling safer across Edinburgh.

The event, which will be streamed online, will take place at Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge between 7.30pm – 9.30pm. Guests will be able to arrive from 6.45pm and are encouraged to email questions for Councillor Arthur to the Spokes panel in advance via email using [email protected]

Spokes member Ian Maxwell said: “Labour had some good commitments in their manifesto so the idea is to find out how councillor Arthur is going to make that work. There’s a difference between making a commitment and actually making something happen.

“The cyclists at the meeting will definitely want to find out how long it’s going to take before these changes actually come into place. We want them to carry out the policies they have suggested but if they’re not being carried out properly we will comment. That’s the approach Spokes has always taken as a critical friend.”

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The Edinburgh Labour manifesto detailed several ways on how they will deliver on Active Travel (AT) projects to reach their target of achieving net zero emissions by 2030.

These measures included improving and extending “a network of safe and protected cycle routes”, increasing funding for road maintenance, increasing the AT budget to 15% of the council’s transport budget, and implementing a “fast track repair service for dangerous pot holes.”

Mr Maxwell said that, although he admires the council’s ambition, he believes “there’s not a lot of time left” and only by providing incentives for residents to use public transport and other forms of active travel can the council “reach these quite ambitious targets”.

He said on-going strategies including low emission zones and low traffic neighbourhoods alongside future projects are important in tackling climate change, improving air quality as well as the general fitness of people who choose to walk and cycle.

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“They’re all positives and that’s why we feel we’ve got a real justification for these measures to be carried out,” Mr Maxwell said.

He added that, although Edinburgh has good off-road cycle routes in the surrounding areas of the Capital, more has to be done in the city centre to make cycling safer and to encourage more residents to choose their bike over their car.

He said: “Edinburgh is already getting an increase on cycling year on year, so it is quite a progressive cycling city but although Edinburgh is one of the better cities in the UK, we’re nowhere near the levels of cycling you get in comparable cities, including cities that have similar weather conditions.

“One priority would be to provide a lot more safe and segregated cycle routes through the middle of the city. It’s also really important to improve the road surfaces in the city centre and that will help all road users not just cyclists.

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“At the moment the quality on some of the main roads such as the east end of Princes Street is appalling. There are lots of cracks and potholes and we really need to have attention paid so that we get a good smooth road surface so that everybody benefits from it.

“These are things that could be done relatively easily.”

Mr Maxwell said The City Centre West to East Link (CCWEL), that provides a safe cycle route for “less confident cyclists” and similar projects in Edinburgh have taken a long time to come into development.

He said: “They have definitely put priorities for cycling and other forms of sustainable transport but there is a bit of impatience about how long it’s taking to carry out these changes.

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“This is something which is maybe about five or six years since it was first agreed and the completion date is still not here. So I think Spokes would continue to keep up the pressure. This is a major corridor that will help people get through the centre of the city so it is important that this one and the north south corridor are completed as soon as possible.

“Understandably there have been delays because of material shortages and things like that, but even allowing for that we note that some other Scottish cities seem to be making faster progress so we want Edinburgh to accelerate.

In addition to progressive measures being taken by the City of Edinburgh Council, Spokes also welcomes an increase in AT staffing and a boost from the government in the AT budget this year of £34.5 million.

Mr Maxwell said: “I think that’s very encouraging because you need the money and the staff and the capacity to do the work. That has often been a restraining force in the past but the ambition has been there but the people and the money to carry them out have not been in place. That’s a good omen for the next year or two.”