Iain Longstaff is a Physics Graduate, who is currently in the midst of a Phd in Glasgow. As an active contributor to the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain forum, he has been inspired to modify the latest draft plans for Leith Walk produced by the City of Edinburgh Council to show how it could be improved further.
As he has gone to so much effort, we thought that he certainly deserved a guest post on Greener Leith, explaining more about his proposals.
His alternative design has appeared at an opportune time, as this week council officials are meeting to consider the feedback they have received from the public after publishing a new set of “enhanced designs” last week.
Iain’s proposals align fairly well with the suggestions for improvement Greener Leith have also made to the council. Here’s what Iain has to say:
I have lived in Edinburgh for 5 years in Old Town and Newington and always used my bike or the bus to get around. I have felt that there was something not quite right; using a bike is easily the quickest and most convenient way around Edinburgh but why didn’t many other people use bikes?
Stumbling upon A View From The Cycle Path was a complete revelation to me. I have since been to Amsterdam and experienced how the cycling infrastructure works there, there’s no real substitute for being there and riding it.
The Netherlands’s bike infrastructure is so good that children, families, elderly and disabled are free to go out independently without fear of traffic. That’s my standard, if its good enough for children, its good enough for mass cycling.
When I saw the enhanced proposal of Leith Walk I could see that it was not going to work. In order to encourage people to use bikes rather than cars, cycling must become a more attractive and convenient alternative. On busy roads, separated bike paths must be continuous, its a disaster if a train runs off the rails and its a disaster if a child is forced on to the roads with the cars and buses.
To the designers’ credit, the south east side of Leith Walk has a bike track behind the parking bays and bus lanes. Having a bike lane up against parked cars is exceptionally dangerous in a busy street. This video below shows how ‘dooring’ can throw bike users into the path of oncoming cars. Would you let a child ride such a bike facility?
I thought it would be constructive to share a vision of what a child friendly bike infrastructure should look like based on what is standard in the Netherlands.
The main points in my design are:
- The bike paths are continuous, otherwise it will not attract new bike users.
- Junctions allow for a safe experience across busy junctions using bike specific lights such as the intersection in Amsterdam shown in the photo at the top of this post.
- Bike paths go behind parking bays and bus stops to avoid dooring and conflicts with buses. This is already done in some stretches of the updated designs which is wonderful.
- The minor side street entrances are raised and cars give way to pedestrians and bikes like this one in Amsterdam.
- The remaining space between the roads would still need to be finalised.
I use colour schemes to highlight the different functions of the road:
- Yellow = pavement or raised surface,
- Dark Red = cycle path
- Grey Blue = parking (for cars or bikes depending on demand),
- Orange = bus stop
- Light green = Raised minor side street entrance where cars are guests
- Deep green = Pedestrian crossing.
Editors note: The plans are difficult to display in an accessible way on a website, so the design has been split up into (almost) continuous sections. You can click on any of the sections below to see a larger version, and you can find a large image showing the whole street here.
Haddington Place to MacDonald Road
Shrubhill to Dalmeny Street
Dalmeny Street to Springfield Street
Jane Street to the Foot of the Walk
I was discussing Leith Walk with one of the councillors today which brought up a very interesting point.
He was worried that cyclist that want to go fast with the cars, would not use the proposed cycle tracks and consequently get hassle from car drivers. Thus some painted lanes would be needed for “vehicular cyclists” as well as a bike path for normal bike users, a concept known as “dual-networking.”
Dual-networking would provide for the tiny minority of people willing to cycle with cars and buses such as myself, it should not get in the way of providing safe attractive bike infrastructure for the majority of the population. Well designed bike infrastructure will be quicker than traveling by the car network, this is the case in the Netherlands and certainly would be the case during the traffic jams that Leith Walk suffers.
If the bike infrastructure is safe for children, it is attractive for all members of society. If more people leave their cars behind and bike to their local shops I believe business will thrive.
I don’t see how local shops can compete with out of town shopping centres if people think that cars are the only safe way to shop. I don’t want another “Quality Bike Corridor” to happen again, the people of Leith deserve something that works.
What do you think of Iain’s redesign? Would you change anything to make them better?