Letters from readers about Phase 2 of Bears Way

Milngavie Road, Phase 1 of the Bears Way project.

Milngavie Road, Phase 1 of the Bears Way project.

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Have your say

We have been inundated with letters from people this week about the Bears Way project after last week’s first meeting about the proposed Phase 2 - which would create a cyclepath from Hillfoot to Kessington on the A81 Milngavie Road.

These letters will also be appearing in this week’s Milngavie and Bearsden Herald.

bears way

Public meeting ‘shambles’

Sir, – I, along with approximately 400 others, attended the sham consultation on the second phase of Bears Way in the Milngavie Town Hall on Thursday, September 1. What an absolute, badly organised, shambles that turned out to be.

East Dunbartonshire Council, thought it wise to bring in a facilitator (or another title for a fall guy) to manage the meeting.

I don’t know what they paid him but I am sure it was worth it not to have to put a councillor up to answer questions, and he was able to direct the flak to a council employee, who had to field the vitriolic abuse from the audience.

Obviously she had a script to work from and did not want to be diverted by questions until she had finished. She came up with answers like, “We consulted with police, fire and ambulance services who said they had not experienced any difficulty with the First Phase.”

Unfortunately for her a member of the audience had, that week, witnessed an ambulance trying desperately to pass a column of traffic while heading south. And no matter how many times it used its 
siren and blue lights it just had to wait as there was no place for traffic to move to, to let it pass. This response was totally ignored by her, she didn’t even blush. After all she didn’t write the script.

Now to address the charges of being against cycling, no one that I heard said they were 
anti cycling. What the audience was complaining about was the imposition of Bears Way and how inappropriate it is. But perhaps if there was more than one microphone, and the visual presentation was large enough to be read from the back of the hall, we might have understood the council’s point of view. And the Scottish Government’s wish to promote a healthier life style.

I like a joke as well as anyone, but this is too serious to laugh at. An individual apparently from Torrance was at pains to tell us how good Bears Way was for us and that we should be more like Amsterdam.

He’s got to be kidding, how many hills has Holland got never mind Amsterdam. How can you take these people seriously, have they been inhaling too much carbon monoxide? Perhaps it’s affecting their reasoning. Send for an ambulance. – Yours, etc.,

Ian Rankine

By email

poor show

Badly conducted meeting

Sir, – I read with interest the report (Public have a say on phase two of Bears Way, Friday, September 2) published by East Dunbartonshire Council on their website regarding the Bears Way meeting, which I attended.

I was surprised by Councillor Moir’s comments (obviously not present at such an important council event) regarding the behaviour of some of the audience.

This meeting was organised in an extremely poor fashion with the panel being seated at ground level and not visible to the majority of the audience; there was therefore no way of identifying the speakers easily; the projector screen was also initially situated at floor level and was only moved onto the stage when the audience vocalised that it could not be seen by most.

The screen itself looked like something out of the Antiques Roadshow, the slides were of very poor quality - a primary seven class could have done a better PowerPoint presentation. The microphone system was not fit for purpose resulting in an employee running backwards and forwards between the people making a point and the panel, preventing any supplementary discussion between questioner and panel.

The selection of people allowed to ask questions was arbitrary and there was a gentleman in what appeared to be a paramilitary uniform with a yellow high viz jacket with Doctor emblazoned across the back who stomped up and down the aisles remonstrating with members of the public and instilling a degree of fear into some of the older members in the audience.

There is no acknowledgement in the EDC report that the vast majority of comments were against the development of phase two of the Bears Way and that phase one is inherently dangerous to all road users despite the council seeking opinions from various bodies and doing various modelling exercises.

I am sure the council will have a robust protocol in place regarding the organisation of such public meetings particularly in view of the debacle which was the consultation process for phase 1 of the Bears Way.

If the council and its officers are unable to manage a simple public meeting to an acceptable fashion how can we trust them to manage a multi-million pound project to the satisfaction of private and commercial vehicle users, cyclists, pedestrians and the residents of both Bearsden and Milngavie, who are, and will continue for many years to be detrimentally affected by this construction? – Yours, etc.,

Dr Robin Yates

By email

queuing

An inconvenience to road users

Sir, – The long traffic queues in Milngavie Road this week are another consequence of the unwanted and badly designed Bears Way cycle scheme. Before the road was narrowed to half it’s previous width a contractor could dig up one lane and using cones still mark out two usable lanes to allow traffic to flow.

Now every time there are roadworks on Milngavie Road the resulting traffic light controlled single lane road will result in traffic chaos. The vast majority of the travelling public, including those using public transport, are being inconvenienced because of this flawed scheme. – Yours, etc.,

Iain Cullen

By email

raucous

A depressing occasion

Sir, – I attended the somewhat raucous meeting in Milngavie Town Hall to discuss possible options for Phase 2 of the Bears Way. I came away somewhat disappointed and depressed by the occasion.

First, I was concerned by the cost involved in the whole exercise: the presence of ‘facilitator’, presumably not a council employee and at a fee, when a senior official or elected member should or could have fulfilled the role; the shiny leaflet circulated before the meeting, understandably in an attempt to brief interested parties; the consequences of implementing one of the options at a time when there appears to be other local priorities; the consequences of reorganising the Hillfoot area a year or two after a considerable amount of public money was spent on parking, with little apparent concern – £360k if I remember correctly.

The justification for spending money on a cyclepath where the numbers, apparently, are about 300 per week against, in my estimate, close to 15,000 to 18,000 cars per day. My estimate is based on counting the number of cars passing Sports Direct between 9am and 11am while recovering from ‘my healthy lifestyle’ – the number has been remarkably consistent in recent years and is probably rising since I last had the breath to count about six months ago. Even at the lower estimate of cars, based on a 15 hour day, the ratio of cars passing to bicycles is approximately 50:1. Is that ratio a justification for the expense? I am surprised that Audit Scotland has not commented, or has been asked to comment, on the related use of public funding.

Second, the absence of senior officials or elected members, such as the chief executive or appropriate director, either to act as chairman/’facilitator’, at a meeting where it is obvious there was a great deal of local public concern, if not anger, at what has been going on and what may be implemented.

I wonder if the decision to go ahead would be different if those who actually make it had to stand up at such meetings. Perhaps, senior officials and elected members should delay the September deadline and consider another couple of meetings which they attend and answer the many questions which were either not taken or not answered satisfactorily. I have a degree of sympathy for the officials who had to take the flak at the meeting and had, presumably, little option but to tow the official line.

Third, the visual presentation was poor: it was only being set up at the meeting start time; the screen was too small for the size of the hall and out of focus, making it difficult, if not impossible, to see at the back of the hall; the associated talk was merely a repeat of what was handed out and failed, in my opinion, to focus on essentials, leaving, I suspect, many to try and grasp what the real options are; some of the slides were too detailed and others incomprehensible, especially the one showing, I believe, traffic times through Boclair Road.

Fourthly, it seemed clear that some option will go ahead, regardless of the concerns. That position is understandable, bearing in mind the time and effort since 2011 to put the project in place. I very much doubt if the option, not really presented, of cancelling phase 2 will be debated.

There appeared to be agreement that any discussion should not be an argument between cyclists and motorists, but it is evident it is becoming or has become one. Like ‘motherhood and apple pie’, ways and means of encouraging all, regardless of age, to sustain or improve our lifestyle with exercise is to be commended, but a focus on a considerable amount of public funding to one - cycling - in a locale where there are evident logistical and safety concerns is debatable. The stated aims of the Bears Way are commendable, but unrealistic, using, like so many other projects, all the buzzwords about health and economic benefits. It would be more credible if these were toned down and took account of the fact that in an authority such as East Dunbartonshire there is an ageing, but active, population that, for example, walk, go to the gym and golf,but are unlikely “to get on your bike”.

At least one in the audience pointed out that there are many ways to engage in a healthy lifestyle without cycling. That issue raises the question of why the council has not put a more broadly based sports/activities policy with emphasis on, for example, maintaining or even extending playing areas, and improving the long-awaited modernisation of the Allander Sports Centre, which will be another contentious issue when it re-engages with Cala on who pays how much for what when the number of houses on the neighbouring site has been reduced. If there is such a policy, sadly, it has passed me by.

Sustrans has done a splendid job nationally in encouraging and developing cycle paths and it should be encouraged to continue with its efforts. I am not convinced by examples from abroad where culture, topography and resources are different help the case. The more I reflect and experience the road transport and parking arrangements around Bearsden and Milngavie, the more I conclude that the roads are, sadly, not fit for purpose when proposing cycle paths. The opportunity to provide a more imaginative, safe and less costly proposal has probably gone because too much time and effort has been put into what appears to be a flawed solution to a generally sensible principle; it was interesting to hear the suggestion of putting the path alongside the railway line. It takes courage to state that “we got it wrong”, so public money, at a time when other resources and priorities could be addressed, will be spent on a project that will continue to cause anger and worries no matter what is put in place.

I find it difficult to support the current first phase and any of the options being put forward. No doubt, my attempt at an objective view will be criticised but I hope sincerely that what is already in place and what will be put in place in phase 2, because it will go ahead regardless of the many concerns, is not an accident waiting to happen and that it does not take a tragic accident to appreciate that there were better solutions.

Even at this very late date, there may still be an opportunity to think ‘smart’ and imaginatively so that we can all benefit. – Yours, etc.,

By email

attitude problem

Officials are ignoring public

Sir, – Councillor Gibbons you appear to be disgusted by the attitude of people who attended the cycle path meeting in Milngavie Town Hall. It works both ways, as members of the council and the so called MP John Nicolson could not even bother to acknowledge my email.

Is it any wonder that people are fed up with the attitude of councillors in East Dunbartonshire. Their attitude is as bad as the Scottish Government – don’t listen, ignore and it will go away and then do what they want anyway. Bulldozing through projects like this and the Kirkintilloch town centre project at Cowgate, where thousands have campaigned about the changes, are two perfect examples. Local residents have been ignored!

Perhaps you could also let me know why you did not respond to my email as you are one of the Milngavie Councillors! Incidentally, you are not alone. Only Councillor Cumming responded immediately and Councillor Moir responded only after several emails, and with no real answers to my original points! Sums up our local council! You, and the others, were elected to represent the people of this area, let’s see you do it!

Robert Brown

By email

poorly planned

Anger and outrage

Sir, – I, with many others attended the Town Hall public meeting on the proposed phase two of Bears Way. Might I add what a poorly planned, disorganised event. It was obvious that such a controversial topic would be attended by a large number of people. Also, with only one microphone, this meant a lot of time wasting by a steward running from the stage to the audience and back again with it, perhaps next time better planning, but given what is being discussed, planning is not their strong point.

It was clear from the off, that there is anger and outrage amid the residents of Bearsden and Milngavie regarding the first phase and that we are not being listened to.

After many angry outbursts, we settled down to watch the slide show on the proposals. Whilst, they did raise existing issues, that in my opinion would only require small changes like filter lights and parking restrictions, the actual proposal in any shape or form of the continuance of this travesty will have a domino negative impact on the area as a whole.

A complaint was raised that the smaller streets are seeing an increase in the flow of traffic throughout the area. These are not purpose built for this flow of traffic, as was noted a few months ago when there was an accident near Hillfoot.

In the last few weeks I have witnessed, on the A81, a broken down bus, road works ongoing, accidents, the bottle neck at Kelvin Timber and McDonald’s is a hot zone for potential fatalities.

We do not live in an ideal world but we have the ability to forward plan and would hope the foresight to see potential dangers that could arise from such a venture. It would seem to me, that the powers that be have made absolutely no provision for when an accident occurs, an ambulance needs passage at peak times or when the dreaded and necessary roadworks appear.

The next thing that springs to mind is no thought has been given to working parents, trying to drop their kids off and collect their kids from school, but still get to their work on time. Employ extra childcare and leave for work earlier?

This is not hysteria as a recent reader has claimed, I have experienced this very situation, dropping several kids at nursery and school and sitting in traffic stressing about being late.

The figures bandied about are conflated nonsense. I walk that stretch of road several times a week, I have yet to see anymore than one maybe two cyclists on this road, except perhaps on a Sunday. I would ask how the figure of 1000+ 
cyclists came to be?.

The question was asked several times “What do we do? What process do we use to halt this project“? The answer given was to use cycling@eastdunbartonshire.gov.uk. However, any experience I have had of this, is only an automated response, then silence.

It was asked by a member of the audience to the meeting to raise a show of hands of those that did not want this to continue, result was an overall majority rejecting the project. There was also a request from the audience to hold a referendum on this. I have to say both of these requests were ignored by the chair.

In conclusion, in order to partake of a healthier life style it would seem we have take to our bikes, even though our weather is far from favourable. We have a large element of aged, disabled and very young population, and our area is very hilly.

As far as a public meeting goes, supposedly on a factfinding meeting, this was an absolute joke. This has already had the green light, let’s not be naive in believing this is a democracy or that our voices will be heard, eg school closures, toilet closures, and public buildings sold off. I would suggest the people of Milngavie write to their councillors, bearing in mind the elections are only around the corner in May 2017. Get petitions going, make a stand against any further progress on this project by any means within the law of course to halt this preposterous and expensive project on this road. – Yours, etc.,

Carol Keenan

By email

rude and aggressive

Older residents blamed

Sir, – I was interested to attend the public meeting at Milngavie Town Hall this week regarding the proposals to carry out the next phase of the Bears Way. Some people expressed their concerns and questions regarding this in a polite way which were responded to by the panel in an unfailingly courteous manner.

What was striking was the behaviour of a core of older residents who expressed their views in a rude and verbally aggressive manner and seemed to be completely unable to listen to different views without trying to shout them down. Although there were 
legitimate queries about 
safety and expense, the main tenor seemed to be about being personally inconvenienced by other road users and a strong sense of entitlement that their opinions are of paramount interest.

I would urge our elected councillors to consider the needs of all residents when agreeing to this plan, especially the younger generation and to take a long term view about how we would like our transport arrangements to look in 20 years time. – Yours, etc.,

Elaine Lockhart

Glasgow Road Milngavie