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.