In a better world, we could go back in time and make the Quality Bike Corridor a, well, quality bike corridor: commit to a segregated/protected bike lane along most or all of the length from Edinburgh University George Square campus to King’s Buildings. Realistically, at least in the short and medium-term, this is not going to happen. Somehow, £650,000 have been spent on this poorly designed infrastructure which does hardly anything to protect cyclists from fast-driving cars. It’s disheartening to think that such a great opportunity for safe, protected infrastructure was missed by Edinburgh Council. We can and must emphatically insist on better infrastructure on any future consultations from the Council.
Let’s focus on a short section of this road which should be a good option to avoid the busier and nearby Nicholson St to go North-South, and which links up with the Meadows for people moving along the East-West axis:
If you look at this section, there are zero actual through roads for cars coming from the West side at all; there’s a connection with the off-street bike lane going East-West across the Meadows, and the rest are short dead-end streets leading into Edinburgh University campus. That means there is hardly any car traffic ever turning in and out from the West side. My wishful brain immediately thinks: this makes it a good candidate for a 2-way protected lane!
Now I think several years ago when this was being designed, a 2-way protected lane along the West side would’ve been an excellent option to follow through on. It would’ve meant the opportunity for metered parking on the East side along most of the street aside from some narrower sections and pinchpoints. It would’ve meant a safe and straightforward North-South corridor on a street with grocery stores, cafes, florists, wineries, pubs, and other shops. This is in contrast to current separated bike infrastructure in Edinburgh which is largely on old railroad tracks off the main road network, and thus no good for short trips to go buy groceries, run errands, and so on.
Most of Causewayside/Buccleuch, including this stretch, has enough space for cars to be parked along both sides on a Sunday when parking is a free for all for everyone, AND for cars to comfortable drive by in both directions without needing to serve to avoid parked cars. A two-way bike lane takes about the width of a parked car: so, there’s the space for a 2-way bike lane with a short physical separation buffer (like some concrete taking up about the width of a painted white line). Short pinchpoints like the corner of Gifford Park can be accomodated when there’s the will.
I hope that in 5 or even 10 years from now, some quality infrastructure like this can be put in along this stretch. This is a street with great potential to be reclaimed as a ‘Place for People’ rather than as merely an unpleasant transportation corridor with cars and vans breezing through.
Hopefully better speed limitations will come into effect soon for this section, but I’ve not heard whether that will come through. There are already lots of small businesses on this section that depend heavily on foot and bike traffic, and making this street more attractive can only mean good things for them. By having parking on one side of the road along most of the stretch, they can rest assured that those who choose to or must drive can also be accomodated. The demand for parking on this stretch in no way exceeds the parking available on one side of the street, as evidenced by the one-car-every-once-in-a-while pattern currently seen.
Having all the cars in one place (on one side) where they don’t form multiple obstacles for cyclists is a winner for everyone including drivers who have to wait behind, or carefully drive around, cyclists who must ‘take the (car) lane’ whenever they are going around a parked car.
That’s my wishful thinking for now. There are lots of viable short and medium-term fixes that can be done along this stretch, and that will be the focus of an upcoming post.