The festival marking the opening of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) was held last weekend. Hundreds of campaigners spurned what promised to be the worst cycling event ever, instead heading to the city centre to protest a lack of provision for cyclists on the new road as well as the severing of a popular cycle route.
One of the protestors, Ben Butler, told the Evening Express: “The main reason we’re here is the lack of investment in cycling in Aberdeen.
“The ultimate reason for the demo is because of the AWPR and that cycling event they tried to organise which was a kick in the teeth for cyclists.”
The Go North East Road Festival represented the only time cyclists would be able to ride any part of the £749m road as they are banned from it once it has officially opened.
The original plan was to allow cyclists to ride on a small section of the road – but not on their own bikes – with access to the site only possible via shuttle bus. (The Press and Journal also reports that people who lived 400 yards away were asked to travel miles to catch the shuttle bus back again, rather than just being allowed to walk in.)
Organisers later bowed to pressure and allowed 1,500 people to ride a stretch of the road on their own bikes, provided they booked in advance. All the tickets were taken up. One lad rode a double-decker bike.
Reflecting on the festival, local resident, Luke Beesley said: “It’s almost like saying ‘here’s a beautiful bit of infrastructure that you can’t use, except for today’.”
But the festival has really just been a lightning rod for ill-feeling. Campaigners say the real issues are a road that does not cater for cyclists and which has also left anyone using the popular off-road route the Deeside Way riding into the path of oncoming traffic because a pavement leading to a bridge over the new road hasn’t been built.
Transport Scotland promised to rectify the situation, but correspondence subsequently emerged showing that it had been told of the missing link in the Deeside Way last year, but did nothing about it.
The route is used by many cycle commuters and there is still no confirmed date when the dangerous crossing will be fixed.
Those defending the AWPR argue that it will be of benefit to cyclists and pedestrians by ‘relieving’ the local road network of traffic.
“What the AWPR’s done for me is it’s severed my route to work and it’s severed my commute,” observed one local cyclist.