Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cycling boost for Edinburgh with new dedicated bike route?

The Council officially opened the "Quality" Bike Corridor, which runs from the King's Buildings Campus in South Edinburgh to George IV Bridge in the city centre, in the middle of last month ... details in the News Release here.

I caused a bit of a twitter-storm, when in response to some fairly robust criticism of the new route, I tweeted that I thought it was "at least a step in the right direction" :-(

Needless to say, I was challenged to cycle the route and find out for myself the error of my assertions!

So - at the end of last week I did just that and, in the company of a few of my on-line critics, cycled the route from Kings Buildings to the City Chambers.

Now - I'm probably about to start another twitter-storm, but I may as well be frank with my assessment of what I found on the ground ... so to speak!

Three problems did stand out:

  •  the 'chipped' surfacing on most of the route just isn't as clear/visible (particularly for drivers, never mind cyclists) as the more regularly-used red-paint for cycle-lanes in Edinburgh ... was especially evident (or not) as I cycled the route in relatively poor light around 8.30am on Friday.
  • a large section of the route is within a 20mph zone, but the signage is not as clear as it could be, and most car traffic (the morning I cycled anyhow) was clearly travelling a lot faster. Better signage could help - as a driver (as well as a cyclist), I'd respond positively to that - but more enforcement is clearly also needed.
  • some detail is pretty disappointing ... broken lane, when it need not be; some poor demarcation-lines, when they need not be; and some kerbs and other small infrastructure could be much better.

Overall though, I reckon the big mistake we made as a Council (and that's ultimately my responsibility) was to 'over-claim' just what's been implemented along this corridor: its a cycle-lane, and I can see now why my twitter comments led to such a storm of response.

So - thanks to my critics for cycling with me.

I'll pursue the points above - to see if they can be improved on ... and I've already reflected carefully on just how these developments are publicly promoted.

As ever, I'd welcome any further (constructive!) feedback?


Alex Mitchell said...

Could you please BAN bicycle users from the ALL pavements and pedestrian areas?

The latest idiotic cyclist I have met was cycling along the narrow and busy pavement on the south side of Shandwick Place. NO BELL and thought he had a God given right to do so.

The pavement is NO place for cyclists.

If you believe they have then they should be paying Road Tax, have a registration plate , be licensed, fully insured and have a bleeding BELL or HORN.

Cycling on the footway (pavement) is an offence under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 as amended by Section 85 (1) of the Local Government Act 1888

The enforcement of cycling offences is an operational matter for local police forces.The police use the Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of £30, which provides them with a direct means of dealing with most minor offences.The Road Traffic Act 1991 makes the two most serious cycling offences parallel to those of dangerous and careless driving. The maximum fines are currently £2,500 for dangerous cycling and £1,000 for careless cycling.


Andrew said...

As you rightly say Alex - that's a Police matter ... do report any such issues to them, Andrew.

Alex Mitchell said...

What can be reported as there is no registration plate number to report?

A man ,estimated age 40, wearing a red jacket does not hack it.

Andrew said...

Location, time, frequency etc. and some monitoring/enforcement may be feasible?

Anonymous said...

The chances are he was in the pavement because the roads are too dangerous - there are so many nutcase drivers on the road, and it is the cyclists who get injured, not the motorists.

Spokes said...

Thanks for trying it out and for your realistic comments. A few thoughts from Spokes...

a. Biggest problem is car parking - tackling this needs political courage - that is the main reason why QBiC was too timid - it's a decision for the politicians, not the officers! Another powerful but politically difficult option would be to not allow through motor traffic in the narrow section - or make it bus/bike/walk only - after all, there are 2 other parallel north-south roads available for cars!

b. As implemented, the QBiC is not revolutionary or anything on a European level but, nonetheless, it is an incremental improvement on what was there before. An early Spokes count suggests it has already brought some rise in bike use though one can't be very definitive on the basis of one count at one time of one day. The real test as to its impact (or not) will be in the council's own more thorough before and after counts - presumably after a year?

c. Re the method of colouring, it's a very difficult problem, which we understand the cycling staff spent some time investigating. The old style coloured surface is always great when first installed, but deteriorates badly within 1-2 years, leading to many complaints. Reinstatement every few years was costly and used up too much of the cycle budget, so it often wasn't done. The chippings method is less visually effective but is virtually permanent, so it's a balance which approach to use. The ideal would be if the chippings method could somehow be enhanced to retain the permanency but increase the brightness - a higher proportion of chips? Brighter chips? Colouring added to the tarmac mix in addition to the chips?

d. Re the 'small infrastructure' improvements, here are two: since QBiC is officially KB to Princes ST it was disappointing that the Mound lanes were not refurbished as part of the project. The left-hand downhill blind corner is particularly bad. Second, Hotel Missoni is still far from ideal.

Anonymous said...

This is not a "step in the right direction" but quite the opposite. What has been installed flies in the face of all thinking about what constitutes modern cycling infrastructure and it belongs firmly in the sixties. And it came at great cost - £650,000 - for a brightly coloured parking bay. And it is a shame that Spokes were so gushing in their praise - until even they were forced to admit to its sheer awfulness. And now we are stuck with it, and money thrown away, with more money required to undo the damage. And the city is still no further towards building proper, segregated cycle infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

Dear Spokes - the increase in cycling on this route came prior to the poor-quality bike corridor.

Spokes said...

Dear 'anonymous' - re. your comments - please see the survey results below...

If you have other data suggesting something different, please publish it.

As in our previous comment above, the real test will be in the council before and after counts. If you are right, we should presumably expect a decline in cycle use (as compared to other parts of the city). If we are right that it's an incremental improvement, then there should be a rise - though obviously not the sort of rise they could have achieved with more political courage such as suggested above.

Kirst said...

Alex, your remarks have nothing to do with the QBC.

Andrew, I'm surprised you had nothing to say about the number of cars parked in the bike lane of the QBC.

Andrew said...

Anonymous(X various) and Spokes

Thanks for all the comments and feedback - much appreciated.


Andrew said...


As per the post, I cycled it at 8.30am in the rush-hour, and parking restrictions where still in force. On the south-bound route that morning we only came across 1 car parked in the lane ... along with several Xmas trees :-(

Completely agree that parking is a much bigger problem on the north-bound section (I could see that!) and outwith rush-hour restrictions.

I am seeking better enforcement.


Andy said...

Hello. A few suggestions:

• immediately stop calling it the quality bike corridor. It isn't and it makes the council look stupid.
• tell councillors such as Lesley Hinds to take more of an interest in what her officials are doing before being so public in endorsing and promoting such initiatives
• have an urgent look at how the cycling team were allowed to spend so much of our money on this nonsense and check what else they have in the pipeline. Were councillors looking the other way when this was approved?
• and finally, please, for once start installing genuine cycle lanes - starting on Leith Walk (Princes Street is lost to cyclists for another generation now).

Andy said...

Dissapointing to read Spokes defending the indefensible. I fear you misunderstand the word incremental - which suggests "bit by bit". There is nothing like that here as this scheme and the things that have been put in place we are now stuck with for years. There will never be budget to undo all the damage done on this route and it will be a long time before this route is revisited. in some places it is so dangerous as to require being painted over.

Bad design can be worse than nothing, and the only reason they get away with designs like this is because lobby groups connive with them - rather than gratefully accepting any old bit of red paint, they should be told that some of the things they do actually set us back. A step backwards is not a step in the right direction, nor is a dangerous cycle lane and false high expectations an incremental improvement.

Andrew said...


Thanks for your 2 comments.

The difference of view(s) on all of this, amongst cyclists (of which I am most definitely one), is at the heart of what led to my original tweets and subsequent ride/post above.

I'm not sure it can be resolved in an exchange of blog comments, but I am genuinely interested in whether this (relatively significant??) divergence amongst cyclists is actually helping the wider cause of encouraging more cycling?

Needs to be discussed in a pub methinks ;-)


Spokes said...

Andy - I suspect we agree on the ideal solutions, even if not on the current political compromise solution. Unfortunately a European-type solution requires much tougher approach to car use and parking, otherwise there is not enough space for ideal solution - it is the politicians rather than the designers who have to tackle this.

Is QBiC as implemented an improvement over what was there before (even though it's not the ideal solution)? Let us see what the council's before and after count and casualty figures reveal - that must be the test.

Incremental - that is what has happened in Edinburgh. Cycle to work 1981 1%; 1991 2%; 2001 4%; 2009 7%. At the same time as static in UK as a whole. Our 'theory' why is in this document ... Nothing is cast in stone. 1980 - you were not even allowed to cycle on Middle Meadow Walk!! Each improvement gets more people onto bikes, and that adds to pressure for more and better infrastructure.

Ditto - "Princes Street is lost to cyclists for another generation now". Yes, it is really bad just now thanks to the method of tram design, but no way will we give up, and nor should you. It has to be motor-free on at least one side and there is growing pressure at many levels for that to happen.

Sara Dorman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara Dorman said...

Andrew, I think you transpose North-bound and south-bound in your reply above!

Always up for a pub-based discussion :)


Andrew said...

Ooops - you're right :-(

I'll just leave it, as can only delete whole comment, and am sure others will spot/self-correct my minor error!

Barney Dellar said...

To my mind, there are four problems with the QBC:

1) Cars can park on it. This means that there is an ongoing need for enforcement, as opposed to designing it so that cars can't park on it in the first place. (Maybe this is just the engineer in me talking, but systems that need to be worked on just to keep them functioning normally are badly designed).

2) Cars have to cut across the path to park, and then the driver's door open onto the cycle path. If the path went the other side of the parked cars, both these would be avoided.

3) Buses have to decide if they can overtake bikes before stopping at bus stops. This puts buses and bikes into conflict.

4) The lane stops at critical places. For example, heading south just before Gifford Park, where the road narrows, and cars might cut into cyclists, the path vanishes.

Andrew said...


Thanks for the further feedback and for taking the time to comment.


Dc03 said...

Edinburgh has some lovely traffic free cycle and pedestrian routes especially in the north of the city. I use them quite a lot when commuting. The bonus of these paths is, where they do route on roads, they are in quiet areas where there is less vehicular traffic. This new 'cycle path' is routed on a busy commuter route and not through the grange where the north south flow is less busy.

No matter how good infrastructure is, there will always be someone who will point out the less attractive parts, (like being discontinuous, which is frustrating sometimes as much as vehicles parked in cycle paths, something the NEPN suffers less from). But good for you, cycling then route and then being able to see the feedback users give is valid. We all have to take feedback on the work we do, otherwise non of our products would sell. I'm sure the feedback you have been given on the QBC is well intentioned.

Cheers, Dave Crampton

Andrew said...


Thanks - I have *really* appreciated all of the feedback; and will reflect on it carefully.


Anonymous said...

There is no excuse for cyclist using the pavement . They should dismount if they are between roads. Roads are for wheeled vehicles and pavements are for pedestrians.

Andrew said...

Many thanks for all the comments.

Switching-off 'anonymous' comments for a bit, as huge amount of spam coming through ...

... comments still open, you'll just need to use an ID.

Thanks again all,


Sara Dorman said...

Just cycled from MMW to Princes Street, with the idea of getting out of stressful office. Not a good idea. cars and vans stopped everywhere, especially Forest Road. Nowhere to park the bike on Princes Street for shopping. and then on the way back, cycle lane in terrible condition up the mound. Finally 3 white vans between Royal Mile and Chambers st. To be finished with rat run down bristo Place. Almost as stressful as office on last day of exam marking.

Dave H said...

Well I think it is a real advance that we are actually discussing this and monitoring the results - in a way far better that is seen elsewhere in the UK.

One of the tenets of good design is that it invites appropriate use, be it infrastructure, or vehicle. John Adams famously promoted the 'safe' car as one in which you were reminded of your vulnerability in a crash, rather than forever padded with 'cotton wool' to protect you against the world outside, and your failure to adapt to it.

A good cycle route should almost present itself as the intuitive choice over a footway, and where streets are laid out for pedestrian priority, the design should generally inhibit cycling to such an extent that anyone doing so soon abandons the practice, because ot os patently easier to ride on the permitted cycle routes.