The hottest issue to hit Edinburgh cycle campaigning is...bus lanes. Yup. Bus lanes. Not removing obstacle on paths, designing better infrastructure or even tram tracks. Nope. The thing that has got even the mild-mannered folks at Spokes up in arms this week is the council's proposal to reduce the time that bus lanes are restricted to buses (and bikes, obviously). A detailed objection from Spokes, Living Streets and Greener Leith is here.
Now, there are people out there who secretly believe that Spokes writes the council's agenda. In the deeper realms of the internet I'm sure there are people who believe that Dave du Feu has a stash of 'indiscreet' pictures of Lesley Hinds that he threatens to release...the reality is that Spokes goes out of its way to be constructive and to temper the criticism with a healthy dose of flattery. But this time, they're angry.
It's taken me a while to get my head around this one. I think bus lanes are great, but they are bus infrastructure, so surely the people who ought to be seeing red are public transport campaigners? I'm all for encouraging public transport. The worst cities I've lived in - with the most congested and dangerous roads - have been those where only 'the poor' use public transport. One of the things that makes Edinburgh liveable is its excellent public transport network.
But I've struggled to understand why cycle campaigners are so worked up about it. As far as I can see bus lanes are too often used as an excuse for not building proper cycle infrastructure. First we're told that the need for bus lanes means there 'isn't room' for cycle lanes, and then we're told that bus lanes give us protected space. This was explicit when it came to the north end of Leith Walk, where the council refused to build protected cycle lanes inside the parked cars, but told us we didn't need them anyway, because we had a bus lane. Now they're proposing to reduce the time that those lanes are active, and allow all vehicles to use them during the day.
Which made me think a bit. I think bus lanes are crap because all the ones I regularly use are already part-time. Because they're not on my commute, I never see buses in them. Take George IV Bridge - when did you last see a bus in the bus lane? If you're like me, you'll have seen buses cruising down the central lanes, and dipping in and out of the bus lanes. That's because the 'bus lane' is full of taxis and white vans loading, unloading, painting, decorating and god knows what else. So, the off-peak bus lanes are useless - unless you're a 9-5 commuter. And what the council wants to do is make all our bus lanes equally useless.
If you don't want that to happen let them know. The consultation ends on Wednesday the 18th. Otherwise all of our bus lanes will become de facto loading zones.
I still don't think bus lanes come anywhere close to being good cycle infra. The closest I have come to being smushed on the roads of Edinburgh was by a bus in a bus lane on the Dalkeith Rd. A bus had pulled in to the stop by the Commie Pool, I carried on straight. Driver saw there were no passengers and pulled back into 'his' lane without looking in his mirror (I wasn't in a blind spot, I could see where he was looking, and it was at the kerb). Proper infrastructure would have a cycle lane behind the bus stop.
I'm hoping we can start campaigning for that soon. As soon as I find out where DdF's stashed *those* pictures....