For those of you who missed it, we had a piece in the EEN yesterday about Leith Walk – you can read it there, plus a piece by a shopkeeper with a different view.
Or for those too lazy to click, here’s the article in full:
A ‘Cycle Super Hoyway’ for Leith Walk
One of the most amazing things about Pedal on Parliament this April was the number of children who came: on child seats, tagalongs, balance bikes, Spiderman bikes and princess bikes, with or without stabilisers. It showed it was families with young children above all who wanted to see safer cycling for everyone. PoP has never been just about those of us who already cycle – it’s for everyone who wants to cycle but who doesn’t feel they can because the roads are just too hostile. And it’s roads like Leith Walk – which should be the obvious cycle route into town, just as it is in a car – which form the greatest barrier of all.
Too much cycling provision in this country falls between two stools. Fast, fit cyclists are given the bare minimum of provision: bike lanes (which disappear under parked cars or at junctions), and advanced stop lines at traffic lights, while everyone else is expected to follow canal paths and parks taking the long way round, often sharing with pedestrians. This might be fine for someone out on a Sunday run, but it means that cycling isn’t a realistic transport option for most people. Our politicians tell us they want us to cycle more – so why isn’t it made the easiest option? At PoP we want to see a single network for all cyclists, fast and slow, fit or not, taking the most direct routes in safety and comfort. Leith Walk forms an ideal opportunity for Scotland’s leading cycling city to show the country how it can be done.
People have said there isn’t room: there is, plenty of room. Spokes commissioned a report showing that even with trams there was room for a separate cycle way and, crucially, plenty of parking and delivery bays too. The council have said it would cost too much and take too long to design – but it’s going to cost far less now with the whole road being revamped anyway. Well-designed separated tracks are safer – not just for people on bikes but drivers and pedestrians too. Given the numbers seriously injured on Leith Walk in the last decade, that alone should outweigh the slight increase in cost. And the design needn’t be difficult or expensive to do. The Dutch have been redesigning roads like these for decades and have helped Chicago provide buffered bike lanes at a fraction of the cost of London’s cycle ‘Superhighways’. We don’t have to spend a fortune, just provide the will to do it right and give people on bikes their own space.
Proper cycle tracks don’t just cater to existing cyclists, they create cyclists, and the benefits – to everyone – cannot be overstated. As well as the safety aspects, Leith Walk is an important shopping street and shops need customers – and shopkeepers may not be aware that people who go into town by bike shop more often and spend more in total than those who came by car. Bikes cut congestion too. If just 5% of car drivers opt to cycle or walk, traffic jams can fall by up to 20%. Pollution falls, saving lives. Perhaps more importantly than anything, Leith Walk, even Edinburgh, will simply become a more pleasant place to be.
Leith Walk is just one road, in one city in Scotland. But if our politicians can’t – or won’t – get Leith Walk right, what will do they really have to put active travel first? If not now – with Britain’s cyclists on top of the world – then when?
Let’s make Scotland a cycle-friendly nation – for all.