Making St Andrews Scotland’s most cycle-friendly town

Celebrating World Car Free Day in September 2018
Tony Waterston of St Andrews Space for Cycling chats to Cycling UK’s Jim Densham about how local cycle campaigning can make St Andrews the most cycle-friendly town in Scotland

What’s the story behind St Andrews Space for Cycling?

St Andrews seems to be the perfect town for cycling. It’s small, flat with plenty of students and lots of visitors. However, there are no cycle routes in the town centre and motor traffic increases year on year.

I grew up here in the ’50s and cycled to school every day, but now the heavy traffic makes this possible only for the most courageous and the cycling rate is stagnant.

St Andrews Space for Cycling started at the end of 2016. We aim to make St Andrews the most cycle-friendly town in Scotland. We had strong councillor support for the campaign and a core group of keen cyclists – so our aim seemed achievable.

A family-friendly ride with St Andrews Space for Cycling

What do you want to change?

There were three main objectives from the start. First, the pedestrianisation of Market Street, taking away much of the town centre traffic; second, a big increase in cycle parking in the centre, to make it an attractive destination for town bike shoppers; and third, to set in place the cycle lanes and paths that encourage less daring cyclists to get out and about – and in particular to encourage far more children to cycle to school.

What successes have you had so far?

We started by getting the politicians behind us by arranging town cycle tours for all four councillors, the MP and both MSPs. All of them (with several replacements following new elections) have proved to be strong supporters of our aims.

Since then, highlights have included:

Car free day

On World Car Free day in September 2018 we persuaded the council to close Market Street and put on a lot of events. It was a glorious day and really well attended.

We had cycle acrobatics, stalls, drumming and children’s play. Most people loved it, although some nearby shopkeepers grumbled. Definitely one to be repeated.

People in the street
Car Free Day – removing cars from the streets makes them accessible to people

Rolling back South Street parking

During Covid, the council (following national example) put into place measures to widen pavements and make walking and cycling easier. These measures were restricted to the centre of town but initially involved removing quite a lot of parking and widening the pavements in both south street and Market Street, indeed following our suggestions closely.

However, there was a big backlash from traders. They complained vociferously and held a special meeting with the cabinet member for transport in the council to protest that their businesses would suffer, and most of the parking was put back afterwards.

Nevertheless, some of the measures were retained, particularly in South Street, and after wider consultation have been kept in place. This shows what kind of a street might be developed if more cars were taken out, and people and cycles could use the whole width of the road.

Election hustings

We have organised two election hustings over the last five years at both national and Scottish parliamentary elections. These have been well attended, constructive and fun, and deserve repeating.

Putting prospective councillors or MPs on the spot and establishing their understanding and level of commitment on sustainable travel is always worthwhile. We support the national campaigning group Pedal on Parliament and its aims of increasing funding for cycling.

A man is adjusting a bike wheel. The bike is on a stand.
Cycle maintenance keeps more bikes on the road

Winning a Sustrans grant with the Transition University of St Andrews

Entitled ‘The Active Way’, the programme is progressing through the stages and there is now a routes plan which is open for consultation, with six new safe cycling routes across St Andrews. These are badly needed if St Andrews is to become a genuine cycling town.

As well as routes, we need measures to discourage motorists from entering the old town (Market Street and South Street) as the heavy traffic level into the centre is very discouraging to less courageous cyclists and children.

Pedestrianisation must clearly be in the planning process but the negative reactions of many traders have so far discouraged the council from taking this forward. We continue to look for ways to build support for a rational approach to urban planning for the town centre.

Starting monthly rides

St Andrews Space for Cycling now has a monthly programme of short rides in and around the town, particularly aimed at families. These use safe and off-road routes and at a time of Zoom meetings, are great for bringing people together.

What are you currently focused on?

As well as our collaboration for ‘The Active Way’, we are also promoting the rebuilding of Petheram Bridge as a cycling, walking and wheeling route from the town centre to the beach and the Guardbridge cycle path.

We received a grant from the Royal and Ancient (golf club) Legacy fund to carry out a feasibility study on reconstructing the bridge which offers a formal entry to St Andrews just beside the Old Course Hotel. The study was carried out by engineering company Arcadis and a costing has been provided.

An active travel bridge here would provide what is bound to be a very popular route for sustainable travel to the sands and golf course and we’ll be working with other organisations in the coming year to find the necessary funding.

St Andrews Space for Cycling campaigns for pedestrianisation of the town centre

We’re also building support for pedestrianisation in the town centre through car free days and moulding of public opinion through education and information. This is a longer-term priority but essential if the overall traffic flows into the town are to be reduced.

Park and ride is a possible adjunct and would need to be in the North Haugh area, but there is already considerable parking capacity within 200m distance of the centre.

What advice do you have for people looking to start a campaign or any other advice for groups?

  • You are in it for the long haul – don’t expect rapid results!
  • It’s great fun as long as you include a social side
  • There should be specific objectives if people are to feel it is worth joining
  • Make sure to share out the tasks from the beginning to avoid overload on a small number of members

Finally, take heart; you couldn’t find a more important and necessary campaign and one which is bound to be successful in the long run!

Cycle Advocacy Network

Has Tony’s story inspired you to make your local area more cycle friendly? Cycling UK’s Cycle Advocacy Network is a UK-wide association of people with a shared interest in enabling more people to cycle. We provide you with all the resources and support you need to improve cycling provisions where you live.