Our three asks: Where do the parties stand?

 

Politicians at POP
Politicians line up at Pedal on Parliament in Glasgow

With just over a week to go before the elections, we’ve been crunching the numbers again. We’ve now had more than 350 candidates respond in some way or another to our three asks – which is over 13% of the 2,569 candidates standing in total.

You can see the full table online, but here’s an overview of which candidates have responded by party:

Figures showing the share of candidates responding by party
The Greens are well out in front, with 58.3% of candidates responding, followed by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats who are almost neck and neck with 12.6% and 12.5% of candidates responding respectively. The SNP are on 11.5% and Labour are on 9.5%.

Of course responding is one thing – the more interesting question is whether candidates actually support our asks or not. At the moment, almost every candidate who has actually responded has done so positively, either fully or partially supporting some or all of our pledges, but the parties do vary somewhat as to the degree of support. The graphs below show the share of all candidates standing who have either partially or fully supported each ask, by party. The difference is clearest when it comes to our question on investment:

candidate responses on investment, by party
Share of all candidates by party who fully or partially supported our call for investment in active travel of 10% of the transport budget

Perhaps because this is the most ‘measurable’ of the asks, it’s tended to attract the most cautious replies, particularly among Conservatives. Looking at the individual responses, this seems to be a mixture of candidates not wanting to commit themselves to a figure, or feeling that 10% of the transport budget is too high.

Support for decent ‘all ability’ infrastructure has attracted the most whole-hearted support – it’s clear that most candidates recognise that if we’re going to build cycle paths, then it’s worth doing it properly.

candidates supporting infrastructure by party
Share of all candidates  by party who fully or supported our call for infrastructure suitable for all ages and all abilities

Support for removing local barriers was somewhere in the middle – and when you analyse individual candidate responses it’s clear that some of them have taken ‘barriers’ fairly literally, to mean the removal of bollards or other obstructions on cycle paths, which might explain why some are less enthusiastic! Clearly we need to work on our wording – but if you’re contacting your candidates you might want to explain that this is the removal of any kind of barrier, which could translate into the need for a dropped kerb or a new pedestrian crossing, as much as removing an actual physical barrier.

share of candidates supporting local barrier removal by party
Share of all candidates by party fully or partially supporting the removal of local barriers to walking and cycling

We’ve also now added several party manifestos to our candidate information base so even if your candidate hasn’t responded you can still find out where your local parties stand (and they vary widely from local authority area to local authority area!). But we’d still rather hear from the candidates directly if we can. Not only does it mean they’ve had to think about active travel and realise it’s an issue for some of their voters – remember, they’ll be hearing all about parking and potholes from others – but because some of the individual responses have been great. We’ve been heartened to learn how many of our wannabe councillors actually get the issues, ride a bike and walk themselves, and are excited about our campaign!

We’ve a week to go, so there’s still time for more responses! We’ll be updating our website every night with new data so keep on contacting your councillors and letting them know we want to hear from them! They can email us on contact@walkcyclevote.scot, contact us on Twitter at @walkcyclevote or just fill in our super-quick candidates’ survey.

NB: If you’re interested in the actual data you can see the figures here.

 

Solving the cycling parent’s dilemma? Guest post by Playing Out

We hope that eventually our campaigning efforts will radically change our streets so that this dilemma goes away completely. Until that happy day, one of our supporting organisations, Playing Out, has a radical solution that transforms our streets now – albeit temporarily – to give children the freedom some of us remember as kids to just ‘play out’, whether on two wheels or not.

By Daniella Radice of Playing Out.

Ok, so you’ve hauled your children around for the past few years, first in a seat and then graduating to an axle-challenging trailer.  They’re now just too heavy to cart around with your own steam but yet to master two wheels on their own.

Dad helping child to ride

In your mind’s eye you can see family cycling trips at weekends, with the children happily racing along and enjoying the freedom of two wheels as much as you do. But where and when do they learn to ride safely?

Many kids learn to ride on the pavement, often with the stabilisers on. But pavements are usually narrow or cluttered with bins, making it hard to learn. Also, learner cyclists can disconcert younger toddlers, older people and other pedestrians. As they get bigger, they need more space to get the feel for a bike, and yet you don’t feel happy to let a wobbly five year old onto the road.

One option is to take the children and their bike to the local park or nearest flat car park at the weekend so they can master manoeuvring and balance in a safe space. This can mean the hassle of putting bikes into the car or attempting to carry a bike whilst safely ushering small child(ren) along the pavement and across busy roads. A recipe for meltdown (theirs and/or yours) if ever there was one.

Playing out event
When the roads are closed to traffic, kids can get on with being kids

But there is another way! Many streets around the UK are now regularly closing to traffic as a way of allowing children to play safely outside their own front door. When their street is closed to cars for up to three hours a week, children can simply get out their dusty bikes and ride. They have the freedom of a largely car-free space but experiencing the feel of a road. In a recent survey of parents involved in ‘playing out’ sessions, 80% reported that children have learnt to cycle or improved their skills and confidence as a result. This quote from Louis Schafer (aged 5), who has been ‘playing out’ on his street since he was two, says it best:

 “Well I was playing outside on my bike and then I kept on falling off and then I gradually got my balance and I started to go faster but I kept on crashing into things at the end so I had to learn to make it controlled and slow down, and I learnt that and I started to learn other things and I started building ramps for it and stuff like that and bumps for it, and I went to the end of the cones and I went back down again and cycled up and down and I kept on doing that ‘til I found it really easy to do it, and that’s why I know how to do it now and now I do loads of other stuff !!”

Well, you can’t argue with that.

girl cycling on closed road

To find out how to open your own street for play, go to www.playingout.net or contact me directly: daniella@playingout.net Twitter: @PlayingOutCIC

A final PS: If you and your family do cycle – or scoot, or walk – to school, School Run Stories wants to hear from you what it’s like this week! 

Barriers … what barriers?

 

Here’s a timely guest post from Matt MacDonald, Community Links PLUS Manager for Sustrans Scotland, one of our supporting organisations. Matt knows more than most what might prevent councils from putting in ambitious schemes for active travel – and how they might be overcome. 

 

My five year old daughter learnt to cycle recently in our local park. Thanks to the wonders of a balance bike it took her about an hour to learn. She loved it. The freedom, the rush of air on her face, daddy slowly disappearing behind her as she laughs maniacally. I wanted to capitalise on this, and start riding with her to places we need to go, to shops, friends’ homes, to her nursery. However, I couldn’t, because doing so would require riding on roads I myself ride, and knowing some of the close encounters that I’ve had, I couldn’t bring myself to take the risk.

Good segregated infrastructure would enable us to build a life skill that will serve my daughter for the rest of her life. We’re starting to see infrastructure of this kind in Scotland, slowly but surely, there is still a lot more that needs to be done.

Given what I’ve just said, I’m privileged to manage a design competition called Community Links PLUS for Sustrans Scotland. Community Links PLUS seeks big, game-changing infrastructure projects that recalibrate streets in favour of people on foot and on bike.

The concept is simple but powerful; reallocate road space and create places that work for people. The proposals are multi-year, multi-million pound projects in densely populated areas, with all the complications that they can bring.

The competition finds us moving away from the old fashioned view of delivering off road networks* to understanding that people want to walk and cycle safely on the majority of streets.

For example, the first winner of the competition, the South City Way, is an incredible project by Glasgow City Council. The South City Way will offer over 3km of Copenhagen style terraced segregation from Queens Park in Glasgow’s Southside, right into the heart of the city.

I’ve gathered together a few insights into the elements required to successfully deliver public realm infrastructure projects, and I hope that in sharing them it enables you to identify and support projects in your own area.

I’d like to tell a short story that highlights the biggest determining factor in successful delivery of cycling and walking projects. A couple of my colleagues recently went on a research trip to Copenhagen. I wasn’t even remotely jealous as I knew they’d come back with precious insights, honest! And they did. Whilst there, they met with the team from Gehl Architects. Jan Gehl is the man credited with much of the public realm improvements in Copenhagen that have helped shape it into the thriving city that it now is. My colleagues were taken to the busiest, most desirable shopping street, Stroeget, photo below.

Stroeget as it is now

I’m sure you agree, it’s pretty amazing. Who wouldn’t want to spend time there, meeting friends, letting children play, shopping, eating out? But let me show you how it used to look:

Stroeget as it was in the past

Not so pleasant. Truthfully, quite cool, looking like a scene from an Orson Welles movie, but not somewhere you’d want to hang around too long, and certainly not somewhere children could cycle or walk around without parents desperately holding onto their hands. When it was closed as a temporary street trial, in 1962, it caused outrage in the media and amongst the general public. So what led it to become the chic street you see in the first image? Strong political support! There was cross-party and cross-political term support for change. The lesson is to support, involve and be nice to your Councillors, and for that matter MSPs and MPs. Involve them, empower them with knowledge, invite them to see the issues. Don’t just fling pelters on social media!

Despite the optimistic title, there are obviously barriers, but I want to focus on how we overcome them, so what are they?

Funding: in these times of austerity local authority’s budgets are being constrained. Seek sources of funding, and share them with your local authority officers, offering to help write bids for funding. Our own Community Links and Community Links PLUS funding streams offer 50% of project costs but the local authorities must find the rest. When successful projects are delivered and the benefits seen, more local authority funding will be allocated for similar projects, as Edinburgh have demonstrated over the last decade.

Resourcing: this is linked to funding in that teams delivering cycling and walking projects are being stretched. Seek out the teams in local authorities delivering these projects and offer support, as they are your allies. As with politicians, don’t get stuck into them on social media. Constructive campaigning is far better, offering evidence of benefits and community support is far more likely to open doors than being relentlessly negative.

Misconceptions: if there is one thing that the Sustrans Scotland team have learnt from infrastructure delivery, it’s that community engagement goes a long way in dealing with issues before they arise. Good engagement that goes beyond statutory consultation requires a lot of time and effort. Do your bit to support it, go and knock on doors or deliver leaflets, help identify venues, turn up at events and proactively engage with the people that turn up. The earlier engagement happens, the better. Ideally projects should be co-designed with the community, by clearly setting objectives and working on interventions that achieve those objectives, e.g. increased footfall for businesses, safer streets, streets that allow better movement of people on foot and on bike.

Divisive labels: avoid letting a project be pigeonholed as either cycling or walking, or people as cyclists or pedestrians. We are delivering projects for people, creating safer, more attractive streets that are better for businesses and the community as a whole.

Finally, remember that you can’t please everyone. Avoid the vocal minority that often refuse to see the bigger picture and that fear change. Instead focus your efforts on those receptive to change for the good of the majority. Emotions can often run high when people’s views are challenged, but we must stay calm, be well informed, and bring people with us.

It is people that create change, be they politicians, local authority officers, business owners, or residents. It is only by everyone working together, as a team, that we can create places and spaces that work for everyone. I’m confident that if we do, in ten years’ time my daughter will be cycling to high school on infrastructure that our friends in Copenhagen will be visiting on study tours!

*Off road networks are still great by the way

Milestone reached!

Which way for walking and cycling? Do your local candidates know?
Which way for walking and cycling? Do your local candidates know?

Since going live with our Candidate Information base we’ve had a busy couple of weeks and we’ve now had responses from 272 candidates – that’s more than 10% of the total of 2,569 people who are standing in these elections

So what do the figures tell us so far?

First, we’ve had responses from 31 out of the 32 local authority areas (if there’s anyone here from Shetland, do please get in touch with your candidates because that’s the one that’s missing) and it’s not all concentrated in the cities, as you might have expected:

Council area responses % of all candidates
Aberdeen City 9 8.9%
Aberdeenshire 19 16.4%
Angus 5 9.4%
Argyll and Bute 3 3.9%
City of Edinburgh 32 26.7%
Clackmannanshire 3 8.6%
Dumfries and Galloway 16 18.2%
Dundee City 5 7.2%
East Ayrshire 2 3.2%
East Dunbartonshire 9 19.6%
East Lothian 8 18.2%
East Renfrewshire 2 4.4%
Falkirk 6 10.0%
Fife 26 14.6%
Glasgow City 26 12.4%
Highland 5 3.0%
Inverclyde 1 2.2%
Midlothian 1 2.4%
Moray 6 13.3%
Na h-Eileanan Siar 3 5.0%
North Ayrshire 8 11.4%
North Lanarkshire 11 7.0%
Orkney Islands 2 5.7%
Perth and Kinross 18 20.9%
Renfrewshire 7 7.4%
Scottish Borders 8 10.7%
Shetland Islands 0 0.0%
South Ayrshire 6 13.3%
South Lanarkshire 13 8.6%
Stirling 4 8.2%
West Dunbartonshire 1 2.3%
West Lothian 7 10.1%

 

Edinburgh comes top, with over a quarter of all candidates responding so far, but followed by Perth and Kinross, East Dunbartonshire, with East Lothian and the predominantly rural Dumfries and Galloway tied in fourth place.

How about the parties? Well, perhaps not surprisingly , the Greens are doing well. Their manifesto for the local elections has made a strong commitment to our three asks, and that’s reflected in individual candidates’ responses.

Independent 18 3.6%
Scottish Conservative and Unionist 47 12.4%
Scottish Green Party 102 46.8%
Scottish Labour Party 36 7.9%
Scottish Liberal Democrats 29 11.7%
Scottish National Party (SNP) 37 5.9%
Tommy Sheridan – Solidarity – Hope Over Fear 3 18.8%

 

But it might surprise some to see the Conservatives in second place – perhaps David Cameron’s cycling legacy hasn’t been as quickly shaken off as it has in Westminster!

We’ll look at what the responses are in more detail in a few days, but we need more responses to get an accurate picture. Please take a moment to find your candidates and ask them to let you – and us – know where they stand on our three asks. All they have to do is email us on contact@walkcyclevote.scot and we’ll do the rest.