19 February 2014

We have a large customer car park....

This text is on the website of Edinburgh's Commonwealth Pool.  No mention of bike parking (which is okay but not great, being to the front of the building, and with CCTV coverage, supposedly, but lacking any shelter). There's also no mention of bike routes in their 'how to find us' blurb, despite their positioning at a key point near some of Edinburgh's best off-road paths.

What baffled me tonight was not the absence of  bikes -- there were lots -- but the complete shambles of the car park.  There were cars parked on the 'keep clear' hatched areas (not shown) and cars parked - no driver, no passengers - on the 'drop-off zone' -- that's the two cars to the right of the image below, which are as close as you can get to the front door.

And there were cars parked down the middle of the car park in an ersatz double line. The picture below shows it when I arrived, when it wasn't too bad.  About 10 minutes later the double line was longer and a car trying to navigate around it was unable to turn without a sort of quasi-three-point manoeuvre (I was at the point getting onto my bike on the tarmac, and I suspect she blamed me for her bad turn, rather than the cars obstructing the middle of the car park).

I didn't go round to the the 'large car park at the rear'.  I have no idea if it was also full. I suppose it could have been closed or full today.  But it seems more likely that  people just couldn't be bothered, so they blocked up the side car park, which is nearest the main entrance, and supposedly reserved for 'disabled, parent and child parking'.

On the one hand, we could say 'why blame people' -- Edinburgh Leisure is clearly happy to encourage their customers to drive.  Although they could rethink the signage, and policing a little?  The laissez-faire attitude I witnessed seems likely to lead to tears.  On the other hand, don't you have to wonder about people driving to the gym/pool/exercise class, who can't bear to walk from the 'large car park at the rear' all the way around to the front?  Yes, it is half-term. Quite a lot of folk there probably were collecting children (as I was), but again, what message are they sending to their kids?  That spots reserved for parents wrestling babies, prams etc, or those with mobility issues, are fair game so that you can save 30 seconds to get inside to the soft-play?

10 February 2014

Dummy signals

Home Street runs from Tollcross to the King's Theatre junction.  It ought to be a bustling shopping street with an independent cinema, lots of housing, schools, and good public transport connections, but its width and role funnelling  traffic on Lothian Rd, means that it is rarely a pleasant place to walk.  The pavements are narrow - a fraction of the road width - and there is only one crossing point between Tollcross and the King's Theatre.

The problem is, that one crossing is a 'dummy' - better known as a 'placebo' - it's a pelican crossing in appearance, so you (may) get the mental boost of 'pushing a button' (or at least your three year old does), but that button does nothing.  The green man only appears when the pedestrian walk lights at the nearby Kings Junction are also green.  It doesn't matter how many people need to cross, or how long they've been waiting, the crossing is linked to the junction.  So, if you've been at Biketrax on Lochrin Place, just off the west side of Home street, and feel minded to visit the ever-friendly Provenance wines on the east side of the street, you might as well walk up to the intersection and cross there. The last time I tried to cross at the pelican crossing, there was a lorry parked on it, and I couldn't see the lights anyway.

I'd like to campaign for this pelican to be made more responsive - a little bit up the road on Bruntsfield place, there's an excellent toucan crossing that changes expeditiously in the morning and evening rush hours, with a steady flow of people back and forth. But I've been told that whenever the local community council has queried it, they've been told it is 'impossible'. I recently asked if the lights on the adjoining intersection could be fractionally adjusted to enable cyclists to clear the right hand turn, and was again told 'impossible'.

Why?  The great god 'traffic flow' must be appeased.  Pedestrians - no matter how many, how important to the local economy - all must be sacrificed to the gods of traffic, and their acolytes the traffic engineers.

The Council recently passed a motion that included this goal " to assess the need for further support for walking as a travel mode such that it is encouraged and supported in the way that cycling is."  

One step forward would be to shorten the wait time and increase the crossing time at all such intersections.  Another would be to replace crossings like this one with zebra-crossings, as is proposed for much of Leith Walk, and to similarly bring in a 20 mph zone.  

But none of that is going to happen unless we organise and get together and convince our politicians that there are votes in it (not to mention a healthier population and stronger local economy).  So, I'm off to Living Streets tomorrow night, to pitch in and do my part.  Are you  coming too?