12 April 2014

Why most families won't cycle in Edinburgh

(inspired by a comment on my last post....)

Earlier in the week, it being the Easter Holidays, a plan was concocted that required getting the kids to Waverley, with bikes.  It's not that far from us. Haymarket is closer so we often choose to start journeys there, but we were meeting people, and riding to Waverley didn't seem like a problem.  The first third is on a 30 mph rd, but one that we ride everyday to school.  So, not a big obstacle.  The middle section is off-road segregated lanes.  Very nice.  It's the final bit -- part of the city's Quality Bike Corridor (official map here) -- that turned out to be a  nerve-wracking 5 minutes, despite there hardly being any traffic at all.

I'm not sharing this video as an example of 'great family cycling'  -- I've got others that show how we do it much better -- but I think we did okay. There's only one place - where the big lorry overtakes us down the Mound - where I think I should have been closer to her.  There are other places, where she's trying too hard to keep up with her Dad - who is too far ahead, and coping with me shouting stuff at both him and her.  But this was probably the hardest bit of family cycling we've done over the past 3 years.

What makes me angry though, is that this is touted as 'quality'. It is a route than many families wanting to visit the National Museum, events at Princes Street Gardens, the Museum of Art etc would all want to do. And it shows perfectly why most sane people would choose not to cycle in Edinburgh with kids, despite the excellent nearby off-road paths.

Just to point out the highlights: as you can see, the access from Middle Meadow Walk (c 60s) is inadequate, as it requires cyclists to merge into traffic coming from a totally different direction, with no indication to them that cyclists are allowed to do this.  The van 'loading' in the bike lane outside Greggs (c1.10) doesn't help.  Neither does the taxi parked further on.  You can really see here how dangerous door zones and leap-frogging are for kids.   At c2.22 you can also see why bus lanes don't count as cycle infrastructure.

Then, there is the comedy bike lane beside the Missoni  (c.2.40-3.15), just before the intersection with the High Street. For once, the bike lane itself was un-blocked. But because the turning Lorry is in the ASL, we end up out in front of it - and blocking the fire engine's access.  But I was worried the second lorry -- the arctic with crane -- was also turning, so didn't want to risk sitting in the bike lane.

And finally, we get that  downhill, with vehicles overtaking at speed - where we are had to change lanes and turn right as well.  Madness.  The entrance to Waverley itself, doesn't help -- it is entirely unclear that the first entrance is not for cyclists (there's a teeny weeny sign), and the at the second entrance, again, it's unclear that cyclists ARE in fact allowed to carry on down the ramp.  Inside the station, it's very well-signposted, but obviously if your journey originates at Waverley, you're not going to have arrived by bike.

I'm sure some folk will think we're mad to let a 7 year old cycle this.  But she wanted to, and she had a great day out. On the way back, with a lot more traffic on the roads, we rode some of the same intersections in a much tighter convoy configuration with more cyclists around us, and it was great.  But at 9 in the morning, with hardly any personal vehicles out, the roads felt ridiculously dangerous.  It also shows how dominated our roads are by lorries, vans, and taxis during the day - and how much difference a reduction in them would make for cyclists. But my main reflection is that if there was proper infrastructure on this route then little mistakes - either by a 7 year old or by a professional lorry driver - wouldn't matter. And I can't see many other families following us down this path.

It's five minutes riding - about half a mile - that could easily be fixed, but without those changes, it's not going to be a part of the 'family network' that sees many families.


Ian said...

"But because the turning Lorry is in the ASL, we end up out in front of it - and blocking the fire engine's access. But I was worried the second lorry -- the arctic with crane -- was also turning, so didn't want to risk sitting in the bike lane."

Although I fully agree that there are problems with the road layout and the unprotected right turn off the Mound looks horrible, don't understand why for this part couldn't you just have got out into primary and sat behind the second lorry?

Sara Dorman said...

Yes, I would probably have - although I also knew this was a long light with 2 ped phases. However, this is a classic example of why magnatom calls ASLs and feeder lanes, the spawn of the devil. My husband - like many others - thought he 'ought' to use it. I didn't want us to get separated, and it didn't want him sitting in the lane either. So I thought it best to enter it, and try to get him to move.