Death threats made to Council staff over plans to extend bike lane
Plans to extend a dedicated cycle lane which, when completed, will extend from Glasgow into Milngavie on the heavily used A81, have provoked a furious backlash from some local Bearsden and Milngavie residents, culminating in a written death threat being left for employees of East Dunbartonshire Council.
The source of tensions is the plan to move beyond Phase 1 of the Bears Way cycle lane which has resulted in a two way, segregated cycle lane being created between Milngavie and Hillfoot and to continue it into the Glasgow City boundary, thus resulting in several kilometres of traffic free cycling on what is a busy arterial road into Glasgow. Funded by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Sustrans and Transport Scotland, Phase 1 was completed this summer. At its launch, Development and Regeneration Convenor for East Dunbartonshire Council, Councillor Alan Moir, was quoted as saying “The new segregated cycleway separates cyclists and motorists using kerbs – increasing safety and minimising the risk of conflict”. However, following vocal opposition from local residents and drivers, it appears that Councillor Moir may have spoken too soon.
At a drop-in public consultation held at Kessington Public Hall in Bearsden, one attendee described the atmosphere as “extremely tense” while another said it was a “very angry meeting” where Council employees were reported to have been sworn at.
Concerns were raised about falling property values, the lack of car parking and the perceived lack of road space as well as the possible adverse impact on traffic congestion. With tensions running high, Council employees were visibly shaken by the experience with one having to leave the building in the face of verbal abuse.
With members of the public being asked to leave their written comments on Post-it notes, one of the attendees left a message asking, “WHERE DO WE QUE TO EXECUTE EVERYONE HERE WHO WORKS FOR EDC?” , according to a source at the council.
In a statement to the press, Councillor Alan Moir stated: “Let me be clear – abusive behaviour towards any employee – in person, over the phone or online – is wholly unacceptable. The Council adopts a zero tolerance approach to this issue.” East Dunbartonshire Council confirmed that they have been liaising with Police Scotland over the matter.
Online comment over the matter has been somewhat polarising. One attendee, Gordon Dallas, wrote how “I felt like a rabbit who’d fallen into a bear pit (or den?) – surrounded by growling predators” and how “I was pinned against the wall by an irate local within a minute of arriving, and grilled about how I could possibly be in favour of the Bears Way”.
Other comments have been less favourable with one commentator bemoaning the road layout as requiring “ a great deal of concentration” and another commenting that “Cyclists should require to have insurance, in case they cause an accident or damage a motor with their terrible cycling!”
The consultation process itself was called into question with one respondent stating “I bet the council never asked or told anybody what was happening, it’s the way they operate, that really upsets people”.
“There was considerable engagement with the public and businesses – as well as local members – on phase one of Bears Way.”, a representative of Dunbartonshire Council told us.
“That included a consultation event in Kessington Public Hall in November 2013, an all-day event outside Kessington shops in May 2014, media releases and online engagement. In addition, in July 2014, residents along the route of the cycle lane were given full details of the project and advised where further information could be found. Throughout the design process, comments were received via the consultation pages on the Council website. These exercises resulted in alterations to the original scheme.
In addition a formal statutory consultation process was carried out as required in respect of the Road Traffic Orders associated with the development. There were also a series of consultations in relation to the Local Development Plan and the Local Transport Strategy.”
The next phase of the scheme will involve the Council taking note of the suggestions and comments which don’t constitute death threats and developing several design options to put out for consultation in the Spring.