01 March 2013

What does it take to make cyclists happy?

What does it take to make cyclists happy?

Dropped kerbs.
Photo courtesy of chdot via flickr


You think that sounds silly?  On the one hand, I agree with you. With fatalities from crashes and obesity epidemics, you'd be right to think that we need to think big about safety and supporting novice cyclists.  And that's going on too (keep Sunday 19th of May clear in your diaries).

But sometimes the smallest victories are the sweetest. And this week, a dropped kerb that I've written many emails and tweets about was finally installed.

It may not look like much, but it is one of the main access points to Harrison Park and the Union canal towpath.  This means that hundreds of commuters and leisure cyclists use it everyday.  And, anyone who's tried to get a bike with a childseat, tagalong, or trailer up (or down) a dropped kerb, knows just how much harder that is.

The depressing thing is that this bit of kerb had actually been dug up and replaced a year or so ago, well after this kerb was supposed to be on a list of planned improvements in the area.  Like the pothole patching I blogged about earlier in the year, it is just such a waste.

More pics in my flickr stream 
And its not like this is the only one. At the top of Middle Meadow Walk -- probably the most used cyclepath in Edinburgh -- a dropped kerb disappeared when roadworks were done.  It was reinstated earlier in the year, which made us very happy, except that the path markings continued to push pedestrians and cyclists into confrontation.  But finally, amid much celebration, the signage has been much improved.

So we're talking not just about small things making us happy, but retro-active things, which ought to have been unnecessary.

Is this wrong? Ought we to be more focussed on the big picture? Getting policies in place? Yes.  that's important too.  But there's a case to be made for incremental change too. And a quiet satisfaction in getting it done right.

Now, we just need to get that cycle counter installed on Middle Meadow Walk....


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Re. the former Middle Meadow Walk dropped kerb, it wasn't a mistake during roadworks which caused it to be removed. It was a deliberate decision when the pavement was being rebuilt to a higher standard in this historic area several years ago. The story we heard was that it was thought it would damage the appearance of the new pavement, though another official later denied that. Whatever the cause, resulting in totally unnecessary pedestrian/cycle conflict.

Unfortunately 'appearance' has over the years played a big part in some really bad decision-making for cycling conditions. For example, various red (or non-red) surfacing decisions; plus, worst of all, the early decisions on the layout of the tramlines - the layout could have been designed far far better if it had been a holistic tram/bus/cycling design project instead of 'design the tramlines then fit cycling in around that' - and one of several reasons why that didn't happen was pressures from parts of the very powerful streetscape/ heritage/ appearance lobby.

For the tramline example, see article on page 7 of Spokes Bulletin 107 at