Edinburgh: Model Cycling City
Or... Thou Shalt Not Pass...
Some time ago now Edinburgh City Council declared it wanted to make Edinburgh a 'Model Cycling City'. Visions of Copenhagen and Amsterdam sprang to mind. It's just a pity that Edinburgh is so.... lacking in momentum. You see, while there are those in the local media who will be quite happy to stoke the 'war on the motorist' fire, the reality on the ground is somewhat different if you want to ride or walk around the city.
War? Really? Well it's a war the motorist is winning, that's one thing you can be sure of.
Take this crossing for example. It's a junction that is being redesigned because, to be honest, it was a shambles for cyclists and pedestrians - and it's a busy junction for accessing the shared path through the Meadows. Very busy, with schools, the uni, and the city centre directly in line. Just remember that, the fact this crossing is busy.
So, the junction is closed for redesign, so far so normal. Except, on this busy crossing, while they put in place big yellow 'diversion' signs for those in cars... Pedestrians and cyclists, the people for whom this is being redesigned, have the crossing switched off, and.... Nothing. No temporary crossing, just... Nothing. On one of the busiest roads in the city.... Nothing.
The fact that it took various people on a cycling forum to complain before even a temporary crossing was put in is frankly laughable. That they put it in then don't provide any signs that it is in use (because it's in a different location) is just ridiculous. So tonight I stopped and watched as numerous pedestrians, confused by the layout, in the dark and the rain, waited at the defunct crossing, unable to see there wasn't a gap on the other side to walk through the railings, and having to walk 20 yards on the road, with traffic around, to find the salvation of a pavement. Another old lady was almost hit by a car. And that was at the temporary crossing...
I've created some guerrilla signage.
It's one small, but regular, occurrence that really shows how far up the thinking cyclists and pedestrians are in the city. Another example would be the 'Quality Bike Corridor'. On the Quality Bike Corridor there's the section (half a mile long) without a bike lane because there was not the space to address the needs of cyclists and drivers - so on the Quality Bike Corridor, when there's not space for both a bike lane and car parking, they put in.... car parking. On the Quality Bike Corridor (I still find it astounding that one of the stated aims of the Quality Bike Corridor was actually 'increased car parking').
Copenhagen we're not. Amsterdam we're miles from being. We're not Stockholm or Portland or Bogota (yes, Bogota, that place is astounding for cycling) or even London, Paris or New York, all of which have made great strides in cycling provision (and consequently made parts of the cities that are suddenly 'liveable'. Those cities haven't 'died' at all. It's a regular claim that if you make life more difficult for cars that the city will become a ghost town - fact of the matter is all evidence from around the world points to the exact opposite - without the noise and space taken up by cars cities thrive, people can still buy washing machines (it's a common complaint, 'what use is a bike if you buy a washing machine?' I do wonder how many people take a new washing machine home in their car rather than having it delivered), sales actually go up (there's a street in Manhatten got re-landscaped to reduce space and parking for cars, giving more to cyclists (a segregated two way lane) and pedestrians, and sales went up something like 50%. Cyclists and pedestrians can stop more easily, you see, and you can fit more of them into parking spaces.
Edinburgh remains a city for cars. If you doubt that just go out at any time during rush hour and see how full of them the roads are. Those queues are not caused by traffic calming, or buses, or speed cameras. Lots of cars are, remarkably, caused by lots of cars. Hell, there was an article in the local paper about road deaths recently and the increase was, amongst other things, apparently caused by too many cyclists; pedestrians reading Facebook on their phones; too many signs; and 20mph limits meaning driving were bored, whereas things being more interesting at 40mph meant they paid more attention.
Anyone who reads what I write will know that I am not, in any way, anti-car. I've got one. I love it. I drive it... with spirit. But it has its place. And that place should not, ever, be at the expense of people. Because people are what make a city. Not roads.