An ‘experimental’ cycle path in Edinburgh, separated from car traffic by rubber “armadillos” and planters, is due to open on September 1st, but campaigners are concerned the best route was not chosen.
The new George Street cycle track has been welcomed by local campaign group Spokes, but concerns remain about how it will connect to a wider network, adding adjacent Princes Street, with 50% more cycle traffic, would have been a better route.
Edinburgh City Council says the two way track on George Street will be part of a bigger, east-west “family cycle route” yet it has a number of unmarked cycle crossings, and switches from one side of the road to the other halfway along.
Kim Harding, Director of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, has concerns about the quality of the East-West route.
She said: “The only proposals so far are for torturous routes which sent the cyclist the longest way round and get off and walk to cross junctions, rather the taking a straight line route from Haymarket eastwards. The obvious place to put such an east/west route would be along Princes Street, which has been proposed by every cycling group, including Spokes.”
Dave du Feu, of Lothian cycle campaign, Spokes, said: “We support the project, as an experiment, but with quite a lot of caveats. A further point we’d not appreciated… we don’t think they have an ideal solution at any of the north-south road crossings – not just the one where the path switches sides.”
Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said the Council is keen to see a high quality family friendly route across the city, and that this route was identified as the best option.
Hinds said: “[George Street] forms part of the National Cycle Network and has been installed as part of a one-year experimental traffic order aimed at opening up the street and improving access for pedestrians and cyclists.
The new layout of Princes Street, with trams in operation, means that it would not be suitable for a two-way cycle route.” A council spokesperson said the route could be completed in three years.
Harding added: “The thing which has had the greatest impact on cycling levels in Edinburgh in the last 20 years, has been the building of the tram [on Princes Street]. While it was being built, it was so hard to drive across Edinburgh it actively discouraged people from trying to do so.”
In a response to the scheme’s earlier consultation stages Spokes commented: “We…would like also to see greater emphasis on permeability, particularly in a city centre location.
We fear a mindset in which it is assumed almost without thinking that all trips are long-distance, right through the city centre from east to west or vice versa.”
“Thus ‘the George Street route’ needs to be seen as a part of city centre cycling infrastructure as much as, or more than, solely an ‘east-west route.'”