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A few images of the “Quality Bike Corridor” Edinburgh

A few images of the “Quality Bike Corridor” Edinburgh

I my last post I gave a few thoughts on the “Quality Bike Corridor” in Edinburgh, but I forgot to add any images. So here are a few, just count the number of parked cars…

Quality Bike Corridor?
Note the way the cycle lane takes cyclists around the outside of the parked cars and down the left side of queuing traffic which may turn left at the lights. There is no way this can be considered to be best practice.

Quality Bike Corridor?

Quality Bike Corridor?

Quality Bike Corridor?

Note that only two of the motor vehicles shown above are parked legally, the one in the first picture and the yellow car.

The Quality Bike Corridor (QBiC) does have a 20mph speed limit along only a short section:

Southern end of the 20mph limit:
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking south (end of 20mph)
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking north (start of 20mph)

Northern end of the 20mph limit:
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking south (start of 20mph)
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking north (end of 20mph)

It is worth noting that at the northern end of the 20 mph zone stops short of an existing accident black sport, so not the best place to encourage drivers to accelerate.

Yet the roads with the highest rates of Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) are not given 20mph speed limits:
RTAs south Edinburgh
From ITO road casualties UK.

Thoughts on the Quality Bike Corridor

Thoughts on the Quality Bike Corridor

This post first appeared on the STV Edinburgh website, as part of a series of articles for Bike Week. I have slightly rewritten and expanded it here.

As I have said before, cycling is a good thing, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion, it can boost local economic activity. It is healthy – active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer and make fewer calls on the NHS. In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health costs alone make worthwhile). Apart from all that, over distances of up to 10Km cycling is fast and efficient, it is also fun and increasingly fashionable. So it is no wonder that many people want to be able to use bicycles to make short journeys. Surveys have shown that up to 60% of ordinary people would like to be able cycle for transport on short journeys, at least some of the time. So what is stopping them? The answer is simple, they don’t feel it is safe to ride on the roads, and this is the major barrier to increasing cycling rates across Scotland.

When I first heard about the proposed Quality Bike Corridor between the King’s Buildings and George IV Bridge, I thought this was a great idea. I have been cycling in Edinburgh for nearly 20 years and must have ridden parts of this route thousands of times, starting from when I was a student at the King’s Buildings. Over the years I have noticed a number of changes around the city. In the early years there were the new, and then controversial, cycle lanes painted red at the side of the road, then the introduction of Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) at traffic lights. Over that same period, the annual counts of commuter cyclists carried out by the SPOKES Cycle Campaign, have risen steadily.

However, cycling as a share of all means of transport for all short journeys remains low. Why isn’t utility cycling taking off, when cycling is apparently booming and the City of Edinburgh Council has committed 5% of its transport budget to cycling? Part of the problem is the “dual network” approach. This is based on the idea that people will start off on the “family network” which is “catering for less confident cyclists” and then, as they gain confidence (and maybe have some training), they will “graduate” to using the “Quality Bike Corridors” as part of the “cycle-friendly city”. According to the council’s Active Travel Action Plan this is to “include on street cycle facilities such as cycle lanes, enhanced cycle parking/loading restrictions and marketing” [sic]. Here is the central flaw, this “cycle-friendly city” is aimed at “confident cyclists” who are happy to ride on the roads with the existing motor traffic. These are the people who are already cycling, not the ordinary people who want to cycle but don’t at present because they don’t feel safe. If the aim is to create a truly cycle-friendly city, then there would be no need for a “family network”, all areas of the city would be accessible by people riding bicycles, as almost all Dutch cities and many more cities across Europe are.

The section of the Active Travel Action Plan which deals with cycling recognises that “safety, and perceived safety, especially on busy roads” is a barrier to cycling. However, given the rising rates of pedestrians and cyclists injured on the roads across Scotland as a result of collisions with motor vehicles (Provisional results from Transport Scotland for 2011), it is time for a change in approach. We need to look to best practice internationally. In the Netherlands, where 25% of trips are by bicycle, the risk of being killed or seriously injured is over seven times lower than in the UK. The “dual network” approach does not in any way fit with the Dutch approach, which is based on the concept of Sustainable Safety. In order to make cycling as a means of transport attractive to the greatest number of people, the routes available need to be direct, pleasant and safe. It should not be required to make a choice between direct and safe, however this is implicit in the dual network approach. Only on the “family network” is there any form of separation or traffic calming (i.e., on quite back roads, which are quiet because they don’t offer direct easy access to anywhere). This is the central flaw to the “dual network” approach, that it is designed to avoid making any changes to the road environment which might “inconvenience” the motorist. For this reason, we have painted bike lanes which go around car parking bays on the “Quality Bike Corridor” (aka QBiC or QBC), rather than removing the parking on main roads. In Paris before introducing their Vélib cycle share scheme 7000 car parking spaces were removed and cycle lanes introduced, the world did not end, the city did not grind to a halt.

I am not alone in being disappointed that the first “Quality Bike Corridor” has made no attempt to provide a separated on-street cycle lane, or cycle priority junctions (no, ASLs just don’t cut it). Many of the 3,000 people who Pedalled on Parliament feel the same disappointed that a more ambition approach wasn’t tried. There are cities in the UK which are experimenting with separated cycle infrastructure, among them Birmingham, Manchester, London and even Glasgow! Although none of these have cycling rates approaching those of cycle-friendly cities on mainland Europe. No, the Edinburgh approach is simply not good enough, we need change, we need to move forward and learn from our near neighbours across the North Sea.

Addendum: I have added a new post with images from the “Quality Bike Corridor”.

Of on street parking and bus/cycle lanes

Of on street parking and bus/cycle lanes

Earlier this week I wrote up a few thoughts on the Spokes Hustings last week, where I commented on my memory of Cllr Gordon Mackenzie’s replies on the issue of Pay & Display parking in bus lanes and cycle lanes. Since then, Cllr Mackenzie has left a comment on my post to correct my memory and continue the debate. So I thought I would take the opportunity to write a new post.

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie wrote:


I didn’t say we couldn’t remove parking but I think the point I was making about local shops depending for some of their income on passing car trade has been covered by the first contributor. I read your comments about they traders in Gorgie but if you pop down to the shops near you on Newington Rd you will find that many recently suffered substantially from the loss of trade during the gas mains works in the area which removed quite a lot of the parking. I’ve no doubt several would go out of business if that became the norm. Similarly if you’ve been to a GP practice, like the one near me on Dalkeith Rd you’d appreciate that while many patients could do with a bit more exercise there are also a substantial number who have impaired mobility and a ban on parking would mean that they’d have to move practice or require more home visits.

However I wasn’t arguing in either scenario that we couldn’t change or improve the situation for cyclists, I was mainly highlighting the fact that it’s not as easy as saying ‘lets remove parking’. There would undoubtedly be significant consequences for many of those involved. Loss of trade could mean a business becoming unprofitable and a loss of jobs. Having to move GP could involve more travel, loss of a key relationship and additional costs to the NHS. These are not insurmountable obstacles but they’re not easy or cost free to remedy. That’s why I’m not sure that a parking restriction is always the best option.

Thanks for your comments, Gordon.

Interesting that you should mention the effects of the recent gas mains works on traders on Newington Rd. As I live nearby, I did go to some of these shops while these works was in progress. It was very noticeable at the time that pedestrian access was also hampered by the work going on. Firstly, all of the temporary traffic signs were placed on the pavement, causing obstructions to pedestrians (including wheelchairs, prams etc.). Also, the pedestrian crossing at Salisbury Place was not available because of the temporary lights which had no provision for pedestrians. There is a Pelican crossing 150m north on Newington Road. However, from experience, using this Pelican crossing was more hazardous when the works were going on, as drivers were choosing to ignore the red light and driving straight through during the pedestrian phase. I had a number of near misses and I know of other people who had similar experiences. Given these difficulties in pedestrian access, it is not surprising that there was a decline in trade during the gas mains works, and it can hardly be attributed to the loss of a few parking spaces alone.

Neither the GP practice nor the dental surgery I use have parking outside, yet both are busy. So, here again, parking is not the key issue that it is often made out to be. You say that a parking ban would impact on patients with “impaired mobility”, but Blue Badge holders are permitted to park on yellow lines, and disabled-only bays could easily be provided (as long as they were enforced). Since July of last year I have had to make regular trips to the Royal Infirmary, all of these I have made by bus, including the initial trip to A&E, to have my broken collarbone diagnosed. I have a friend who broke his leg playing football, he travelled to all of his outpatient appointments by bus, too. The suggestion that access to a car is needed in order to receive medical treatment really is a red herring.

People need to have a choice of transport, but the over-emphasis on making it easy to use a car, as the default, leads to car dependence and a closing-off of opportunities for active travel. International experience has shown that restricting parking is effective at increasing active travel, and quality of life for those living in urban areas. It is very noticeable that places which often are voted as being “the best place to live” are those where walking and cycling are easy and car access is restricted. This doesn’t mean that people living in these places own fewer cars or have less access to cars, just that they use them far less often.

If you are serious about reducing congestion and air pollution in the city, for the benefit of all, then you really do have to grasp the nettle and reduce car parking. Again, looking at international evidence of places where these changes have been applied, they didn’t always have high approval rating when they were first brought in. But after a couple of years when people had experienced the benefits of having more people-friendly streets, they have proved to be highly popular. To quote Jeremy Clarkson (I never thought I would find myself doing this) writing about CopenhagenThe upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat.” This is the way I would like Edinburgh to be!

With regard to the “Quality Bike Corridor”, there is no reason why drivers have to be able to park on the main road. They could be provided with a small number of short term Pay & Display parking bays in nearby side streets and walk the last few metres. If active travel is to become the default means of transport, it must be made the easier option, with driving being a less attractive option. Current policies are having the opposite effect, this needs to change for the benefit of everyone.

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