Now Leith has the best bus stop in Edinburgh

Leith Late Henderson Street

Thanks to artist Russell Dempster and Leith Late, Henderson Street is now the location of the best bus stop in Edinburgh.

The new artwork, a portrait and celebration of another Leith artist Eduardo Paolozzi, is a truly inspired transformation of a neglected eye-sore shop front.

It’s a brilliant addition to the growing panopoly of Leith Late artworks, although whether the work ‘imortalises’ Poalozzi as claimed by The Scotsman, is debatable.

The unintentionally sad side effect of making long-derelict shop units more appealing, is that all of a sudden, letting agents decide there’s a chance the shop could be bought back into use* and attach garish signage all over the very artwork that makes the shop more attractive in the first place.

Yes, Edinburgh Commercial Property, this is about you, and what you’ve done to the Guido van Helten artwork on Leith Walk.

Leith Late Leith Walk

*Of course it would be a good thing if any derelict shop is bought back into use, but are those signs really necessary?

You can read more about street art in Leith, in this excellent round up on Edinburgh Spotlight.

Q: When is a big budget for cycling a bad thing?

Leith Links cycle path

A: When the budget is wasted on bad facilities that deter the thing they were supposed to promote.

If you’ve been to Leith Links recently, you’ll have noticed that the path that runs along the north edge of the park is in the midst of being upgraded.

This work is being carried out to improve the surface, and make it wider. Whilst many of the paths in Leith Links need similar treatment, this path is important because it is now a key part of the city’s active travel network – and as a consequence this means it’s being used by a lot more cyclists.

But sadly it would seem that the important details of the upgrade work fails to meet national standards, with a design so poor, that questions must be asked about the specification and management of the whole project. So what’s wrong with it?

Well, first off, as the photo above shows, folk have already noticed that the “wrong” kind of tactile paving is being installed on the path. This tactile paving is largely to help visually impaired people navigate the paths, to indicate junctions and to try to make it clear which side of the path is for cyclists and which is for pedestrians.

In the case of Leith Links, where the path is, for the most part, not split along it’s whole length into a side for cyclists and a side for pedestrians like some of the paths are in the Meadows, whether it’s really beneficial to suggest that the path is to be used like this to visually impaired people is questionable.

Tactile Paving guidance

Furthermore, on paths which are designed as shared use paths, for the use of cyclists and pedestrians, the ridges on this tactile paving are supposed to be flat topped, not round, to reduce the chance of people on bikes falling off when they go over them. The diagram above taken from DETR guidance clearly shows this. In Leith Links they’re busy installing tactile paving with the more slippy, rounded profile.

tactile slabs

Remarkably, when the council chose to install this paving in the Meadows exactly the same mistake over the type of surface was made and it all had to be replaced at great expense to the council.

After what happened in the Meadows, it’s jaw droppingly hard to believe the same mistake has been made months later on Leith Links, but it has. The question is, will the council rectify their mistakes in Leith Links too?

However, that ain’t the only bizarre design decision that’s been taken.

Ever since the volume of cycle traffic on the Leith Links path began to increase, the chicane gates outside St Mary’s Primary School were looking more and more problematic.

The gates were so close together that virtually every cyclist simply took a detour onto the Links to avoid them, either because they were simply inconvenient, or for people with a trailer, a recumbent, or a tandem, they were impassible, because they were so close together these bikes wouldn’t fit through the gap.

Remarkably, as part of the path upgrade, someone took the decision to remove the old chicanes, and simply replace them with new ones which are still too close together.

The new gates prevent still people with child trailers from using the path without going on the grass.

Yet the path goes to a school, and there are two nursery schools just a few hundred metres from the same cycle route. Apparently no-one thought that making it easier for people to transport their children to school or nursery by bike might be a good thing to do, as part of the design process.

Instead the designers took the decision to install chicanes which fail to comply with Transport Scotland guidance.

Lesley Hinds, the city transport convenor and MSP candidate for the area has defended the current design on the basis that the chicanes are necessary, because the path passes a school at this point. However there are plenty of other ways to slow cyclists down – including speed bumps, signage, colouring the path, rumble strips and, of course, more widely spaced chicanes.

Best practice urban design this isn’t, because all that is going to happen as a consequence of these new gates is what happened before: people will cycle on the grass around the chicanes.

So to sum up, we seem to have a Leith Links path upgrade that does nothing to solve the existing design issues that afflict the path outside St Mary’s school whilst the poorly thought through tactile paving would seem, if anything, to increase the chances of visually impaired people coming into conflict with cyclists.

Not just Leith Links

Lest you think it’s only Leith Links, people have also been baffled by this map that’s recently appeared as part of attempts to revamp the Craigleith junction further west on the North Edinburgh path network.

There are so many mistakes in the map – see for example that the A90 appears in two places, and the place that Haymarket has been transplanted to – that it’s been dubbed the most confusing map ever by local cyclists.

If the council is going to spend 5% of its transport budget on cycling, surely it can do better than this?

Pedal on Parliament 2014 Leith Feeder Ride

Pop feeder ride 2013

It’s time to Pedal on Parliament again.

If you’ve never heard of Pedal on Parliament, then you can find out more about it on their website.

Essentially, thousands of people from all over Scotland converge in the Meadows, and then ride together to Holyrood in the hope of to persuading politicians to do more to make cycling safer for everyone.

Every year since the first Pedal on Parliament protest took place, there has been an organised ‘feeder’ ride from Leith, to help local folk who might not be confident in cycling on their own to the Meadows get there more easily. This photo above shows the amazing turn-out we had for the 2013 Leith feeder ride.

Pedal on Parliament 2014 poster

As you can see we had a huge range of ages and abilities turn out on the day, and even the odd politician joined us, so if you would like to take part in Pedal on Parliament this year but aren’t sure how to get there with your bike then you’d be welcome to join the Leith Feeder ride this year.

Leither Grant Mason has kindly agreed to show everyone which way to go, but please bear in mind that he’s a volunteer, and that this is an informal ride. Therefore, please also remember you’re responsible for your own safety, the safety of any dependants you bring with you, and to bring your own puncture repair kits and so on.

Like last year, the plan is to meet outside the Cricket Club on Leith Links at 9.45am for a 10am departure on Saturday the 26th of April.

The ride will then take mostly traffic free paths to the Meadows. The route is quite scenic, taking in Lochend Park and Holyrood Park along the way. There’s also a bit of an uphill stretch around Holyrood Park to get the heart going, but don’t worry no-one will judge you if you get off an push that bit!

Sadly, it still isn’t possible to get there entirely on traffic free paths, so if you do plan to bring young ones, you should know that you will be responsible for them. As the Pedal on Parliament ride finishes at Holyrood, there’s also an assumption that you’ll be able to retrace your steps back to Leith in your own time on the return journey.

Any questions? Add them into the comments to this post and we’ll try to get back as soon as possible.

Victoria Park revamp plan gets funding boost

A £100,000 plan to install two tennis courts and a basket ball court in Victoria Park has received a funding boost, after the Scottish Government announced that they are to foot half of the bill.

The proposals are apparently for the disused former courts area, and so shouldn’t be confused with mooted plans to convert some of the underused bowling greens in the park to other uses as well.

The funding is from the Active Place fund, and is one of the means that the Scottish Government hopes to give the Commonwealth Games some sporting legacy after the games themselves are over. The Victoria Park project is one of 45 sports projects across Scotland to have received cash.

It’s not clear whether the remaining £50,000 required to build the project has already been secured by the council, but nevertheless, now that nearly half the cash has been secured, this will increase the chances that other funders will back the project.

Louise Martin CBE, Chair of sportscotland, said: “I am delighted that another 45 projects are set to benefit from the Active Places Fund, as we aim to encourage more people of all ages and abilities to become involved in sport and physical activity.

“sportscotland and the Scottish Government are working closely to deliver a successful sporting legacy from Glasgow 2014, and the Active Places Fund is a key component of that vision.”

‘Micro eco-village’ plans for Rennies Isle revealed

rennies isle eco-lodges

Plans to bring a series of “eco-lodges” to The Shore area have recently reached an important milestone, as the firm behind the idea, SRT Eco-build, has submitted formal proposals to the council for planning permission.

The plans show proposals for three small, single-storey, buildings by the waterside at Rennies Isle. Two would be ‘eco-lodges’ whilst the third building, to be constructed on the site of the former bandstand, would be a “research facility.”

The planning application explains: “The proposal is to create a research facility comprising two Eco lodges and an Eco office and Research facility. The lodges will be offered on short term and long term rentals to the post graduate and doctoral community to allow a high degree of energy consumption and carbon emissions to be recorded in family living conditions, while acting as a living laboratory collecting data with the ultimate aim of improving the lodges to create a zero carbon emission home.

“By utilising the latest technology, and with careful design and construction considerations the energy requirement has been reduced considerably. The use of renewable energy sources such as rainwater harvesting, reduced CO2 emissions in some locations can get close to energy self sufficiency.

“Facilities for cycle parking is proposed adjacent to each lodge. The office and research facility will be sited in the position of the old ‘bandstand’ and the iron columns will be retained as a feature, creating a focal point to this micro Eco village.”

Although not part of this planning application, the same firm is also working up wider proposals that could see a further group of ‘green’ floating offices or houseboats in the water around The Shore, as well as proposals for a floating solar array on the docks adjacent to the Scottish Government’s Victoria Quay building.

Shore floating eco-lodges

You can find more photos of the proposals on the SRT UK Ecobuild website and you can find the planning application for the ‘micro eco-village’ on the council planning portal at ref: 14/01061/FUL