The cycling festival to celebrate the opening of Aberdeen’s new by-pass takes place this weekend – but members of a local cycling forum are shunning the event and will instead be holding a demonstration in the centre of the Granite City to call for safer infrastructure for cyclists.
Transport Scotland has organised the Go North East Road Festival for the coming weekend to celebrate the forthcoming opening of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road (AWPR).
The event takes place ahead of the road being opened to motor vehicles and will be the only time cyclists will be able to ride any part of the £749 million road – they’ll be banned from it afterwards.
As originally planned, the festival would among other things allow cyclists to ride on a small section of the road – but not on their own bikes, and with access to the site only possible via shuttle bus.
After we posed the question of whether it might be the worst cycling festival ever, organisers decided to let 1,500 cyclists ride a 18-mile stretch on the Sunday morning, with pre-registration required.
But because of the lack of numbers of people registering, Mark Beaumont was recruited to drum up support, the round-the-world cyclist getting into a bit of a discussion on Twitter about it.
Meanwhile, as we reported last month, the creation of a bridge over the new road means that cyclists using the popular Deeside Way cycle path now have to ride into oncoming motor traffic to rejoin the route.
Transport Scotland has promised to rectify the situation, but since then, correspondence has emerged showing that it had been told of that missing link in the Deeside Way last year, but had done nothing about it.
And to top it all, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon created confusion in a major speech at Holyrood this week when she claimed the road would open this weekend and was swiftly forced to backtrack on her comments.
“The two parallel universes of the Worst Cycle Event Ever on the AWPR and the disruption to the Deeside Way by the AWPR seem to be coming together this weekend,” local resident and cycle campaigner Carl Gerrard told road.cc.
He won’t be at the festival this weekend – instead, on Sunday lunchtime, he will be among the members of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum staging a protest between noon and 1pm outside Marischal College in the city centre.
“There’s a lot of frustration in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire right now over the lack of infrastructure for cycling,” a post about the protest on the Aberdeen Cycle Forum’s website says.
“A ton of money has been spent on roads for motor vehicles but this has been to the detriment of active travel.
“We deserve segregated cycling infrastructure so that people of all ages and abilities (including children) can ride bikes safely.
“We want all road building developments – new builds, upgrades and road maintenance projects – to consider cycling during the design phase and for cyclists to be given greater priority.”
The protest is deliberately timed to coincide with this weekend’s festival, and the Aberdeen Cycle Forum post concludes: “If you don’t feel inclined to have a wee token ride on the AWPR within the strict parameters set by the organisers, why not join us instead and send the message that cyclists don’t want to be marginalised or forgotten about when it comes to road transportation.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.