AN ambitious plan aimed at improving the Union Canal for walkers and cyclists has gained widespread praise from a host of organisations.
City cycling charity Spokes has commissioned a report into improvements along the Edinburgh stretch of the popular waterway with a view to reducing conflict between users.
And the blueprint has been roundly welcomed by both Scottish Canals and Sustrans plus city council leader and Fountainbridge councillor Andrew Burns.
The report has been compiled by respected city landscape architect Marion Preez, who is also a member of Spokes Planning Group and a representative on the Lowland Canals Stakeholder Group.
Her recommendations include access improvements at several locations, new surfacing and on-road cycle improvements running parallel to the canal.
She said: “It is possible to improve behaviour with good design and I believe these improvements would greatly help all towpath users.
“It’s encouraging that people are so positive about these proposals. However, it will take a lot more work and funding to bring them forward.”
A mixture of new ramps and steps are called for at Viewforth, Yeaman Place, Allan Park Road and Slateford Road.
Meanwhile, segregated cyclepaths are highlighted along Gilmore Place, Polwarth Gardens, Polwarth Grove and Colinton Road.
A secondary cycleway is also suggested through Fountainbridge, Dundee Street, Angle Park Terrace, Slateford Road and Lanark Road. This would enable cyclists who wish to travel faster to use the roads in comfort, thus reducing towpath congestion and potential conflict.
New surfacing is also requested from Canal Basin to Leamington Bridge, Canal Basin to Lower Gilmore Place, Viewforth Bridge to Gibson Terrace and the section of towpath beside the soon-to-open Boroughmuir High School.
Councillor Burns, who is himself a keen canal path runner and cyclist, welcomed the plans.
He said: “Personally I see on a daily basis what a great resource the canal is, but it does get crowded at peak times. These are very ambitious proposals and they merit discussion.”
This view was echoed by Alasdair Smart, Lowland Canals Waterway manager at Scottish Canals, who said: “Spokes’ proposals are well thought-out, innovative, and recognise the importance of the 200-year-old scheduled ancient monument that is the Union Canal.
“We look forward to meeting to discuss how we can continue to work together to make the most of the fantastic environments offered by the towpaths.”
A round-table meeting is now soon to be held between all concerned parties.
Paul Downie, community links project officer at Sustrans Scotland, said: “Any measures that seek to increase the permeability while reducing potential conflict on the route are encouraged.”