The City of Edinburgh Council have opened the online consultation on the details of the future design of Leith Walk this week.
Alongside the consultation – a series of plans have been released showing what is proposed.
As the documents we previously released suggested, there is remarkably little improvement from the pre-trams street layout in this plan – even though the council is spending £6million on the street.
The biggest changes to the design of the street are around the two round-abouts at London Road and Picardy Place. (For all these maps you can see larger versions by clicking on the icons at the bottom of them).
At these junctions some short stretches of segregated bike lane are proposed. It will mean that for people travelling South from London Road to Leith Street that they will be able to avoid sharing the road with cars completely. Similarly, cyclists traveling North from Picardy place to Leith Walk will also be able to avoid the roundabouts.
But despite this, the new segregated paths feel piecemeal. They don’t join up with any other cycling infrastructure and therefore we have to ask who they are for? Potential users will still be expected to navigate their way through some of the busiest bus lanes in the city to get to the segregated path – only to be unceremoniously dumped back into the bus lane a few metres further up the road.
Furthermore, just downhill from the end of the segregated path on the Northbound carriageway, cyclists are expected to cut across one of the busiest bus lanes in the city to get in the right position on an unmodified Annandale Street junction.
If the left turn feeder lane on this junction were removed, safety at this junction for pedestrians and cyclists could be improved.
So do the proposed segregated sections add up do much to enourage more people to take to two wheels? It seems unlikely.
As we expected, the protected cycle lane that ran on the southbound lane of Leith Walk from Pilrig Street to Elm Row that we saw in the first draft of the Leith Walk plans (that was never made public) has been removed from this version for consultation.
At a focus group for cyclists held this week council officers involved in the project conceded that they had not even bothered costing this design – despite the public support for better cycle facilities – even though they acknowledged it would be technicially feasible.
If the protected lane had been retained, it could have provided some hint of a link – via MacDonald Road – to the network of offroad paths that criss crosses North Edinburgh and the more residential areas of tenements around Dalmeny Street.
Instead the council has decided to retain a large shaded “central reservation” in the middle of the street between Elm Row and Pilrig Street – rather than use this space to provide safe protected cycle lanes on the inside of parked cars. This is a more dangerous design – and an inexplicable – some may say inexcusable – waste of expensive tarmac.
Below you can see the plans covering the stretch between MacDonald Road and Pilrig Street Junctions. As you can see, there are no protected cycle lanes – although the council has pledged to remove redundant signage, railings and to pave over some unsused vehicle entrances on this stretch.
The design of Pilrig Street junction remains largely unchanged – although south bound cyclists have been provided with another advanced stop line at this junction.
Safety for pedestrians and cyclists could have been improved at this junction if the two stage crossing was removed – with pedestrians allowed to cross all the way accross Pilrig Street, or all the way accross Leith Walk, without having to wait at a traffic island in the middle of the street.
The only reason we can see for prioritising the current junction design is a perception amongst the design team that the throughput of motorised traffic should be given priority instead of the safe and convenient passage of pedestrians and bikes.
South of Pilrig Street, Leith Walk narrows. To get a protected cycle lane on even one carriageway at this section of Leith Walk would require the council to remove parking from one side of the street. Needless to say, cutting parking spaces, even if it’s only on one side of the street, for a couple of blocks, is something that no council officer in Edinburgh can consider doing ever. Even when there’s public support for it.
Even though the council has decided to prioritise motor vehicle throughput over sustainable transport at the Pilrig Street junction, at the Kirkgate some limited improvements to the pedestrian experience have been granted. The three stage crossing at Leith Walk has been reduced to two stages and the raised traffic humps at the nearby junctions will be repaired.
This said, the new road layout, involving ‘advisory bike lanes’ squeezed amongst the loading bays, extra pavement buildouts, bus stops and multiple lanes of traffic don’t do anything to improve cycle safety around this part of the street.
The design at the Foot of the Walk could be made safer for pedestrians and cyclists if the number of northbound traffic lanes were reduced from three to two – and pedestrians were permitted to cross all sides of this cross roads in one stage. This would also allow the council to reduce the number of traffic islands, cutting street clutter too.
Changes to the Baltic Street and Bernard Street junction are to largely to be welcomed as they will finally see the inexplicably absent pedestrian crossing added across Constitution Street. Significantly, the Assembly Street access is to be closed off – with a new pavement build out added accross the junction.
The council consultation will run until the end of January, so there is no hurry to get your response in.
Needless to say – although the council can claim that conditions will have improved for cyclists and pedestrians if this draft design is implemented, and there is some evidence that an attempt will be made to cut street clutter on the street, the plans will not go far enough for many.
For example, even though the council has pledged to move domestic communal bins to a position on the street no mention is made in the consultation on tackling the far worse problem of commercial waste bins on Leith Walk.
And – where’s the clock gone from the London Road round-about?
We’ll be putting together a detailed response to the consultation of our own in due course – as well as some FOI requests.
However, there is also a public meeting on the proposals planned for the 3rd of December in the Nelson Hall, where you can make your views known.
We’d also be keen to hear from any other people or organisations that may be submitting a response to this consultation – as we’d like to publish our own round-up of local residents views at a later date.
You can find the carefully worded online consultation here.
This post was updated on on the 28th of November.