Building back Better – a new Dundee!


The DCF recently contacted Dundee City Council highlighting several recently published articles and reports written about the need for change in the way we design our cities and recover from lockdown.

Most recently, the “Stealing our Cities” report shows that, at Dundee Waterfront, there is a full 34.7% of space dedicated to car infrastructure. 20% of this is roads, which are clearly over-designed for the amount of traffic they carry. In addition, only 0.1% of space at the waterfront is allocated to dedicated cycle infrastructure. The report highlights that, despite ample space dedicated to pedestrians, the network is fragmented due to the wide, multi-lane roads and long waiting times (up to 5 mins) at pedestrian crossings. This is clearly not conducive to connecting the city centre to the waterfront, and (anecdotally) is a problem frequently brought up by visitors to the waterfront. 
The report recommended such quick and simple measures as reducing the pedestrian waiting times, and converting all crossings to toucan crossings to allow cyclists to use them. If funding is made available, segregated cycle infrastructure should also be implemented. Indeed DCC’s cycling spokesperson has admitted that if the waterfront had been designed today, it would have been done differently. £700k of the recent “Spaces for People” bid is for temporary cycle infrastructure; if this funding bid is successful, there will be a golden opportunity to experiment with a new layout using the ample space available. There is no reason that any changes, if successful, cannot be made permanent. 

This should, indeed, be city-wide. Communities, places of interest and the city centre need to be connected to each other via protected active travel infrastructure, integrated with public transport. Urban design experts Mikael Colville-Andersen and Dundee University’s Dr Husam AlWaer have called for Dundee to experiment with allocating space away from cars and creating safe cycle infrastructure. Bike Life Dundee has also shown that people here are in favour of this – a full 72% of residents approve the creation of safe cycle infrastructure, even when this means the reduction in roadspace. This is backed up with the Courier’s recent survey of cyclists in Dundee – 60% of Dundee cyclists feel the infrastructure here is poor or very poor. With the first “Spaces for People” bid it became abundantly clear that DCC did not have a library of “shovel-ready” projects which could be brought forward and funded. DCC’s cycling spokesperson admitted as much in a recent interview.

Highlighted in this interview was that a goal of the 2016 Cycle Strategy was to have this library ready by April 2016 so that projects could be strategically implemented as and when funding became available; this goal was missed and subsequently changed in the  2019 strategy to drop the time target (without consulting the DCF). The consultants who were engaged to produce the 2016 Dundee cycling strategy were aware that timescales for delivery on actions were essential for the council to deliver on its commitments; timescales should now be put back into the strategy as a matter of urgency otherwise the culture of non delivery will continue. There also needs to be a 10-year sustainable transport plan (much like Edinburgh’s) which includes the development of a strategic active travel network, with key dates for project phase implementation. Full funding to develop this strategy would be available from Sustrans – so again, there is no reason for this not to happen.

There is a desperate need to change the way our city is configured; as we come out of lockdown people must be able to continue to walk, wheel and cycle safely around Dundee. This will aid with the economic recovery of the city by allowing people to safely travel to work, shops and local businesses. With 42% of households without access to a car and with bus capacity severely reduced this will be absolutely key. 

This issue is very much in the public eye at the moment, and has never been more relevant. The public support a “Green recovery” from Covid, and the World Economic Forum suggest that a “nature-led” recovery could create as much as $10tn a year. Creative Dundee and UNESCO City of Design Dundee have been doing some great work collecting people’s views and thoughts about how they would like to see Dundee post-lockdown; a clear theme of sustainability runs through many people’s submissions. There has also been much talk about prioritising wellbeing, with Scotland being part of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance which is working towards an economy which serves the wellbeing of people and planet; sustainable transport is essential as part of this. They have recently published ten principles to “Build Back Better” in a report entitled “Wellbeing Economies for the COVID-19 recovery” One of these principles is the provision of green infrastructure which includes the goal to “transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use”. Additionally, the C40 Cities Network has just published the “C40 Mayors’ Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery” which highlights the importance of sustainable transport, walkable neighbourhoods and green space. As DCC is now looking to work on writing Dundee’s COVID-19 recovery plan and rethinking Dundee’s 10-year City Plan, this evidence ought to prove very useful.

There have been some great things done so far as a result of the first “Spaces for People” bid. 20mph zones have been installed in the West End and Douglas, with more to go in Fintry and Broughty Ferry. Douglas Terrance and The Esplanade have been closed to through traffic, and Union Street has been pedestrianised with space for outdoor eating and drinking. In addition, DCC has streamlined the planning process for many businesses to apply for pavement cafes, even allowing parking and road space to be taken!
The DCF was also asked by the Depute Convener of City Development to provide a “wish list” of routes; we then provided a network of very wide and multi-lane roads which would create the backbone of a cycle network around Dundee – this formed part of the second “Spaces for People” bid and we wait with baited breath the outcome of this funding application. These moves are unprecedented in the speed they have been implemented, and they are a very promising start.

The time is now to lead Dundee into a new future, and we are very much looking forward to working with DCC on this. If you’d like to help, please email your local councillors expressing your desire for things to be done differently from now on! Together we can help make this change a reality.


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