Documents leaked to Greener Leith suggest that local councillors are planning to back pedal on providing protected cycle lanes on Leith Walk despite clear local support for measures to improve the safety of cyclists using the street.
The papers suggest councillors have apparently agreed to abandon first draft designs produced for the street seen by Greener Leith in September – in favour of proposals that would be cheaper but more dangerous for cyclists. (Officers refused to provide us with electronic copies of the September design at the time so we can’t include the plans in detail here).
That first draft wasn’t perfect but it did include a protected lane – with cyclists able to travel on the inside of parked cars next to the pavement – installed on the uphill carriageway from Pilrig Street to Picardy Place along with improvements to the two round abouts at the top of the Walk.
We now understand that the latest proposals will only include a tiny section of protected lanes between the two roundabouts at the top of Leith Walk.
The design of the rest of Leith Walk may barely change at all from how it was laid out before the Omni-trambles hit the street.
Back at that September consultation meeting we also sought to emphasise that the current arrangements that force cyclists to share space with buses deters too many would-be cyclists from using the street. We know that 51% of Leith households have no access to a car and 49% say that improvements to bike infrastructure would encourage them to cycle more. If the council is to meet local aspirations, its own targets for boosting cycle use and its legal obligations under air quality laws – it must consider protected cycle lanes that run the full length of the Walk.
And as this map shows pedestrians and cyclists get injured North of Elm Row too – almost always by cars.
It remains unclear why the council has seemingly decided to ignore the top priority action identified by so many locals for the area.
At the last focus group we attended on this issue, Greener Leith also called on the council to present more than one design for the street – or at least a range of options for key parts of the street – so that local residents could make an informed decision between different design proposals. Sadly – and we would love to be proved wrong – the indications are that that officers plan to present local residents with just one design option, as set out in the summary above.
Bizarrely, local councillors are warned in the most recent note (pictured above) not to promise members of the public anything that can’t be delivered within budget during the next phase of consultation – as it would appear that council officers have already decided what most of the money will be spent on.
The papers also suggests that local neighbourhood staff, whilst happy to spend £4500 on consultation consultants, believe they need further funding from other council departments – especially the cycling section or possibly SUSTRANS – to complete their draft original plan which included a protected cycle lane from Pilrig Street.
Earlier this week Dutch experts were invited over to Edinburgh in order to attend the national Cycling Scotland conference. After the conference, Cllr Jim Orr, Vice Convenor of the city Transport Committee published a blog post on the council website urging other Scottish councils to “Go Dutch” – and he says: “more local authorities should be following Edinburgh’s example.”
On present evidence, the only lessons Leith Walk will offer for other Scottish local authorities is as an example of how to throw away a golden opportunity to revitalise a whole neighbourhood.
Instead, Scottish councillors may do better to see what they could learn from New York.
Residents will be able to make their views known once again at a dedicated public consultation on the proposals planned for the 3rd of December in the Nelson Hall.