18 January 2014

Getting to Jack Brown's

We have three regular events on Saturday mornings: the farmer's market, football practice, and a trip to the optometrist.  The first two happen every Saturday, without fail, but the third - visiting the optometrists, is sadly nearly as regular.

We go to Jack Brown's, which was the only optometrist in town that had frames to fit the then sixteen-month daughter when the Eye Pavilion sent us out with a prescription.  We now all go there; they're lovely people with an excellent service. Luckily, it's also very central, located at the east end of Edinburgh's main shopping area on Elder Street, just off York Place, where the new tram-line will terminate.

But - no surprises to regular readers - it's nerve-wracking to get to by bike.  The proposed new bi-directional bike lane on George Street, which is supposed to solve problems of cycling in the city centre will deposit us about 400 metres away, but those 400 metres are composed of either a series of  right turns across busy streets including tram tracks, and a section of 'shared use' pavement cycling on an already too narrow pavement, or a dismount and brisk walk through a pedestrianised shopping precinct with about 30 intimidating bollards on either end.  

James Craig Walk
Instead today, I decided to try going straight down Princes' Street, which involved leap-frogging buses up and down, while dodging tram tracks, before finally having to dismount and walk up the aptly named James Craig Walk. It's actually only posted as no cycling at the other end, but I was trying not to be intimidating.

So, two of the three possible routes involve either dismounting and walking, or using a pavement that really ought to be restricted to pedestrians.  The third option involves cycling down Queen Street, which despite being marked as a 'quiet route' by cycle streets, is a thoroughly unpleasant 6 lanes of traffic, with added tram tracks to turn across when it becomes York Place.

Depressingly, this is what cycling in our city centre has become - thoroughly unpleasant and often dangerous - and I see no evidence that a '£10 million cycle path'  will in fact provide a “ high quality, family-friendly east-west cycle route ... right through the city centre" nor will it  "make it as easy as possible to cycle in the heart of Edinburgh.”. If it does, I'll be the first to celebrate - along with my friends at Jack Browns, whose business would no doubt be just one of many that would benefit.

1 comment:

Dave H said...

It does leave you wondering about those who plan some of the major transport projects and demand big new toys as proof that they are doing it right.

Just started up is another 14.5Km tram route (roughly same length as the 14Km Edinburgh tram) in Besancon, France which cost€17m per km and is open. Edinburgh (to date) is costing €66.5m per Km.

Besancon bought an off-the peg design of tram, and selected a design which can be extended by adding further intermediate sections, saving the initial big hit in costs, and allowing the growth to be paid for as the patronage brings in revenue.

Some schemes, especially in the US, are making even greater savings on start-up costs, by getting the service going with refurbished secondhand trams, very much like the Island Line on the Isle of Wight uses 75 year old Tube trains to deliver an electrified railway where the cost of doing it with new trains would have ruled out the continued existence of the line.

Besancon also used much less disruptive and simpler systems for putting rails in the road, and many systems actually aim to put as much track on a reserved median as possible , or even underground to avoid the competition for space.

Edinburgh's tram should have gone under Princes Street with a key benefit (to Waverley Market and the rail station, of having a stop, bringing footfall through the market on the intermediate level. This would have removed the many issues linked to trams and buses and cycles and pedestrians, and even some general motor traffic, all competing for road space on the current road surface, It might also have been achieved with a lot less disturbance on the surface, and offered a whole area of new retail potential, connecting to the basement sales floors of many stores, and creating new opportunities in an all-weather Princes Street, Low Level.

Now I just wonder if ther might eb a developer who could fund that?