04 June 2013

Is this the worst intersection in Edinburgh?

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I've blogged about this intersection before, but hearing today that it's not going to be resurfaced for at least another year has driven me to it again.

King's Junction courtesy of Andy Arthur
First off, I should note that it needs more than just a resurface.  It also needs a redesign.  But, the design would not be as bad if you could take a clear and confident line on it.  Unfortunately, as you can just see in streetview above the road to the left and ahead of that blue van resembles the lunar surface. I burst two tyres here in a month earlier this year. The picture on the right shows the surface as you carry on through the intersection.

It doesn't help that cars waiting in the turn lane opposite regularly gamble on slow starts and nip across, even though vehicles coming from Tarvit street onto Gilmore Place have priority.  But anyone who rides or drives it frequently knows that their light is short and that only the first 2 or 3 cars will make it across, so they feel pressured to bully their way through.  And, if you are lucky enough to approach the light while it is green and make it through, inevitably a pededstrian walks out in front of you.  One day I hit the jackpot and had pedestrians wander out on the west side of the intersection AND on the east side as I tried to navigate my way through.

But it's not just that direction that is dodgy.  Coming along Gilmore Place you know it's going to be a bad intersection because of the ferocity with which other drivers overtake you, just so that they can reach the red lights first.

You can't go straight-ahead, so the road divides into two lanes: a left turn lane that gets an advance green and a right turn lane that has to wait for oncoming traffic.  (Except that usually it doesn't.)  The left turn lane is also usually splayed out into the putative right turn lane because of badly parked cars and a bus stop, as you can see here.

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If you're in the right turn lane, as I usually am, you then have to decide whether you want to be in the ASZ or not (assuming there's not a car or a number 27 bus in it).  I usually do sit in it, unless there's a queue of cars. But a lot of experienced cyclists I know avoid it, because vehicles turning left from Home St tend to clip the ASZ.  Steel-capped boots recommended.

The intersection's not too bad if you approach from Leven Street or Home Street but fast and busy with too many lanes.  If you try to come down Home St and turn left onto Gilmore Place in the evening, the pedestrian gamble hits you again - they're usually trying to catch a bus.

On the other hand, if you are trying to come from Tollcross and turn onto Gilmore Place, you have to do one of those fun fast lane changes, usually surrounded by buses and taxis.  But let's face it, if you cycled through Tollcross to get there, you're probably tough enough to handle it.

Thing is -- this is one of the city's main commuter routes.  It's part of NCN75.   It ought to be a nice route to do some shopping in Realfoods, Provenance wines,  and Lupe Pintos, to name only my favourites.   But it's horrendous, and anyone in their right mind avoids it.

Plans are afoot to provide a safer, more family-friendly access from the Canal to the Meadows.  I'm hoping to get some insight into what that will look like soon.  But a good proportion of the city's cyclists will still be heading through here most days.  Surely we can come up with some way of improving it?


Anonymous said...

Could not agree more. I also have to move across this treacherous intersection. It has been in a state of disrepair for literally years and is very dangerous.

lionfish said...

Agreed. I don't know if it's the worst though... there's probably lots of contenders for that! But it is a key route for cyclists (I'm always with at least a couple of other bikes in the ASZ). Also "It's part of NCN75." and it's part of the 'family friendly network' I believe - the test of which is (or should be) that one would let a young child cycle across it independently.

I think the immediate solution (besides resurfacing) is to either a. Allow cyclists to cross on pedestrian, b. give cyclists their own phase, or at least c. give each of those roads its own phase? A full redesign, with a bit less space for cars would probably be better (e.g. only one lane entering the jn from each direction?). I don't know exactly what the answer is though :/

Rosie said...

I dread it. I work in Fountainbridge and it would be a good way to get to the Southside via cycle paths except for that hideous intersection.

Wolfgang Zeller said...

Have used that crossing many times but must nowadays avoid it entirely because I pull my son in a trailer and my wife has a panic attack if we get near it. I can handle all of these separately but NOT AT THE SAME TIME.
There are various issue in the surrounding area. E.g. the dead-end of the southern side of the Union Canal route could easily be opened up to lead down Lochrin Place, a nice and quiet street (with a very good bike shop!). Also, if cyclists (and not cars) were allowed to use Valleyfield street, Leven Terrace and Travit St in both directions it would save a lot of hassle. This practice allowing bikes to use one-way streets both ways is common (legally official) practice in many German cities.

Sara Dorman said...

The Council has a policy of creating cycle contra-flows on one-way streets, but so far very few have been created....