Aberdeen Beach Esplanade has been transformed.
Whether that is for the good or worse is very debatable.
However, the City Council started this “Space for People”project to use the space on the Esplanade to install two cycle lanes, and separate that from the road by large bollards and painting single thick white lines to signify “do not cross”.
This report in the local Evening Express probably says it all as regards this project.
I went down there on Monday 7 September 2020, and was not all impressed with the arrangements.
Parking my car out where the middle of the road, used to be was unnerving, but probably more concerning was the realisation that in order to access the beach or the lower Esplanade/promenade, it would be necessary to unload or open passenger doors into the cycle lane.
This means that wheelchairs, disabled people, children and pushchairs have to unload – not onto the pavement as before – but onto a live cycle lane. This “cycleway”is allegedly for two -way north and south for cyclists.
My experience that day was that cyclists were riding two abreast in either direction, completely ignoring the signs, and no doubt grateful for such a sizeable chunk of road. Kerbs are difficult enough overcome for many disabled people, whether in wheelchairs or trying to walk. To be forced into crossing a dual cycle lane, with cyclists whizzing along two by two was yet another hazard to overcome whilst attempting to overcome a kerb.
Admittedly there did seem to be a dearth of cyclists, and in fact when I went for my walk, the cyclists all seemed to be using the lower esplanade anyway. Years ago, there used to be signs at the area around the Beach ballroom that forbade cycles on the lower prom. These signs were always ignored, and will probably continue to be ignored. Who or what is going to make cyclists use the new cycle lanes created just for them? Most of the encounters I have had with cyclists on the lower promenade have all been “near hits”as they approach from behind at speed in silent stealth mode seemingly unable to warn of their approach. Just too bad if one happens to stop, change direction or wander sideways to allow others to pass.
“Space for People is an allegedly temporary project set –up in various parts of the City to give room to people for social –distancing. On reading it I see a back –door to introduce schemes that would not be approved in any other time without safety concerns being approved. Cycle lanes and pedestrian areas are good things. However, “Shared Space”does need guidance from disability groups.
As usual, disabled folk are last in the thought processes of planning by Council Officials who have already changed the City centre which affects sight –impaired people and these sight –impaired folk no longer feel confident in walking there.
Of course, if planning officials are listening to the cycle, green, health and exercise, or the scientific lobby during this pandemic then it appears that nobody is giving any thought or listening to the Disabled Lobby – or more likely – simply forgot to ask them. Inviting consultation in such a quiet way smacks of wanting to rush through a decision already made.
As regards the Esplanade, planners seem to have simply forgotten that deaf, sight –impaired, aged, and infirm people will now have to enter into a possible danger zone to access the pavement. As will all those who want access to the Beach itself, like parents with children, water sports enthusiasts, and folk who just needing to walk on the sand like e tourists and visitors to the beach.
If cyclists had bells on the bikes, wore high visibility and used flashing or high intensity lights during daylight hours as well, then this hasty and ill –thought out scheme might be tolerated..
Responsible commuting cyclists probably do all these things for their own safety. However, cycles have not been required to have a bell fitted by law since 1999 at least.
Not the best thought –out plan ever foisted on Aberdeen Citizens and visitors. I have a feeling though that once all these schemes become “normal”then they will no longer be temporary.
I am not a football fan, but I foresee real problems there as Pittodrie gradually re-opens and travelling fans from outside the City try to park vehicles where they traditionally parked them. I think the term used will be gridlock. At least until football moves out of town to near Westhill.
Then again maybe gridlock, and “encouragement”to abandon petrol and diesel vehicles is what the planners want.
Being hit and injured by a bike, or electric vehicle is just as bad as being hit by one powered by fossil fuel.
Cyclists could maybe make themselves acquaint with what Cycling UK say on responsible cycling as regards Highway code and legal use of the bike.