East Dunbartonshire SNP councillors revolt over Bears Way phase 2

The Bears Way is a segregated cycleway alongside Milngavie Road (the A81), intended to run from Milngavie station into the centre of Glasgow. Phase one was built last year, with a further three phases planned by East Dunbartonshire Council. It’s not perfect, but much like the South West City Way in Glasgow, Bears Way is markedly better than anything else in urban Strathclyde and is a promising sign of councils beginning to get to grips with what quality cycle infrastructure could look like.

Last night East Dunbartonshire SNP councillors, led by Keith Small, rebelled against all published SNP policies, targets and statements (eg Caps), and moved to obstruct the start of work on phase 2. All eight members voted against progressing the route. Collaborating with the Lib Dems and two independents, this was sufficient to overrule the Conservative and Labour support and block the council.

I wrote earlier this year that councils need to be brave about active transport, and am going to be particularly decadent and quote myself liberally:

If active transport is seen as a safe, convenient and quick option – particularly by people sat morning after morning in stationary traffic – more people will choose to leave the car on the driveway. A minority of locals complain at the personal inconvenience, missing the point that the disruption to their established lifestyle is the whole point. We don’t want you to drive ten minutes to the shops. If the only way to persuade you not to do that is to make the journey take twice as long, then so be it.

The problem is that councils are influenced, informed, directed, impeded and undermined by political folk; people who rely on popular favour to stay in their jobs. When councillors attack award-winning active infrastructure, we need councils to be brave and stick to their plans. The objectives of someone trying to be re-elected on popular opinion and of someone trying to allow children to safely cycle to school are unfortunately opposed – kids can’t vote, after all.
DarkerSide.org – Change is the hardest thing

East Dunbartonshire, to their credit, were brave. They pushed out plans for phase 2 of Bears Way and put it to the councillors for a vote. Unfortunately, with the local council elections are next May, the SNP councillors bought popularity by burning the future welfare and cash of their constituents.

Because lets not pretend that this is anything but a short-sighted grab for public favour. No Scottish local authority can afford to keep mindlessly slogging down the same, tired, private-car-is-king transport method. Their diminishing budgets and soaring congestion and public health issues simply don’t allow it – a more efficient form of transport must be pushed. Small business and local high streets are being crushed because it’s too easy to hop in the car and head to a retail park. Globally, we are already paying the price for our fossil-fuel addiction (see https://xkcd.com/1732/). On all spectrums – personally, locally, nationally and globally – continuing to ignore active transport is not an option. SNP national policy relfects that:

The SNP believe active travel should be part of our everyday life from the earliest years, and we support active and sustainable travel. The SNP Scottish Government are committed to a vision of 10% of everyday journeys being undertaken by bike by 2020.
SNP homepage – How are the SNP encouraging active travel?l

However, people don’t like change. We settle into routines, and if we’ve driven to the shops for the last 20 years, be have to be forced out of that rut. Small has led his colleagues on a course of rank cowardice, throwing out election friendly soundbites like:

Pure car, pure parking, pure business…People work hard to own a car and run it and they should not be penalised for that.
Keith Small, East Dunbartonshire SNP Councillor, 29 September 2016

When local businesses board up their windows on dead high streets and taxes and rates rise to support a council encumbered by the car-addictions of its residents, no doubt the local SNP representatives will stand behind their gamesmanship.

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You should know that Keith Small is not a candidate for election to council on in May.The objection to the particular proposal for phase 2 was grounded on the unsuitability of the route proposed. The overall Bearsway project is not so vitiated by the failure of one small part.

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