18 January 2015

Can do better?

So, according to a media report on a report prepared for TFL, there are 11 conditions that are needed for 'world class' cycling cities.  So, I thought I'd rate Edinburgh. I've written these fairly quickly - more for debate than trying to be definitive:

1. There is strong, clear political and technical  pro-cycling leadership which is supported through all parts of the lead organisation.  7/10  There is some political and technical leadership, but it's not yet fully mainstreamed. 

2. Cycling is considered an entirely legitimate, desirable, everyday, ‘grown up’ mode of transport, worthy of investment, even if current cycling levels are comparatively low.  8/10 The Council's decision to commit 5% of its transport budget to cycling and to increase that by 1% each year, is laudable, and very much signals that cycling is 'legitimate'.  It helps that when I approach my elected reps, they take me seriously, since all three of them (Labour, SNP and Greens) cycle daily as well. 

3. Increasing cycle mode share is part of an integrated approach to decreasing car mode share. There is no intended overall abstraction from walking and public transport; and improving cycle safety and convenience is not intended to diminish pedestrian safety and convenience. 6/10 The Local Transport Strategy and Active Travel Action plan are steps in the right direction, but there's a long way to go. 

4. Loss of traffic capacity or parking to create better cycling facilities, while often a considerable challenge, is not a veto on such action.  4/10  There are very few examples of Edinburgh being willing to remove or limit parking - Leith walk comes to mind.  In some cases, parking is 'traded-off' or moved, on others it has been reinstated. 

5. There is dedicated, fit-for-purpose space for cycling, generally free of intrusion by heavy and fast motor vehicle traffic. In cities where the aim is to grow cycling rapidly, simple, cheap and effective means of securing this space have been used as first steps, with more permanent solutions following in due course.  5/10 It feels like we're on the cusp on this one, with a three short areas of segregation in planning/implementation stages, and the George Street 'experiment'.  But these are just baby-steps.

6. There is clarity about the overall cycling network (including planned future development), with connectedness, continuity, directness and legibility all being key attributes.  8/10 yes, this, I think is well in hand, but the current plans do not have capacity for growth beyond 10% modal share. Some routes are already crowded. 

7. There is no differential cycle route branding, simply three principal types of cycle facility that make up well-planned and designed cycle networks. The current 'family network' approach fails pretty spectacularly here, but I've graded these three separate aspects individually:

a. Paths/tracks/lanes on busier streets which provide a degree of separation from motor vehicles that is appropriate to motor traffic flows/speeds and the demand for cycling.  1/10  Nope. Not yet, but presently...

b. Quiet streets/’bicycle streets’ with 30kph/20mph or lower speed limits and often restrictions on motor vehicle access, particularly for through movements. 5/10 the recent decision to make 80% of Edinburgh's streets 20mph goes some way to achieving this. We also have some examples of permeable infrastructure, but not near enough. 

c. Cycleways/‘greenways’ away from the main highway (e.g. bicycle-only streets, paths in parks and along old railway lines and canals), but still well connected to the rest of the network at frequent intervals.  10/10  I'm being absurdly generous here - there are a number of improvements that could still be made - but this is surely one of Edinburgh's great successes, and the council's commitment to gritting much of it in winter makes it really functional.

8. There is clear, widely-accepted and routinely-used guidance on the design of cycling infrastructure.   6/10 there's guidance, but too often its been ignored or poorly followed, and council has to revisit and replace. 

9. The frequency of occasions when cyclists need to give way or stop is minimised. This means that people cycling are able to make steady progress at a comfortable speed.  6/10 Can we all say chicanes

10. At least subjectively, where the cycle mode share is greater, the driving culture (and indeed city culture generally) is more respectful of the needs of cyclists. Local traffic laws often play a part in this.  6/10 This remains to be seen, but the move to 20mph may contribute to a better environment. 

11. Making better provision for cycling, even in the most well-cycled cities, is an ongoing challenge; with growth in cycling, and of city populations as a whole, requiring clear forward planning.  7/10 Edinburgh's pretty good at the planning, but not so hot on the 'doing'.  And I'm pretty convinced that their current planning is only good for a modal share of 7-9%. It's not even remotely prepared for 15 or 20% modal shares. 

I make that out to be a mean and a mode of 6.  Translates as 'could do better' in my marking scheme. 


Dave H said...

7(a) There are many locations where basic observation shouts that at peak times especially there are such high levels of cycle traffic that a very specific lane and/or other traffic management measures have to be designed in.

By default of course 20 or more people on bikes will effectively take over the lane space as a virtual motor vehicle.

David G said...

A fair assessment of the 'story so far'. Not only are the present cycling lanes used as top up car parking during the week but on Sundays they disappear totally. (Bristo Place is a fine example of driver generated road narrowing with parking on both sides).
We also need to reverse priorities to allow cycles to move without start stopping at every side road when parallel bike lanes are built alongside busy roads.

Stephan Matthiesen said...

9: Chicanes! (Well you asked for it).

It's basically a fair summary, although it is unclear if (2) refers to the decision makers or to other road users. For the council I also see much support and many travel on bikes, but in the general public there are still many prejudices.

Regarding (7c) 10/10 perhaps for North/Central, but in the Southeast there is only the (quite good) Innocent but absolutely not a "network" of paths that gets you anywhere close to where you want to be. So I would vote that down to perhaps 7/10.

Stephan Matthiesen said...

Current example of (4): New ASL at Mayfield Rd junction with Liberton Rd. Very steep approach, bike lane ends about 100m before, and the new ASL is difficult to reach. REsponse to my question about extending the bike lane instead: "2 lanes req for approach to junction. So cycle lane ends in advance. ASL is there to assist where cyclists can reach it." (https://twitter.com/south_team/status/557523879829446656)

Interestingly, if you've been to that junction at rush hour, it is clear that cyclists struggling uphills hold up the cars much more than removing a few metres of the second lane would.