Cycle paths ‘useless’ as cyclists lives at risk

A motorist drives down the cycle path on George Street. Picture: Scott Taylor
A motorist drives down the cycle path on George Street. Picture: Scott Taylor
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Cycling campaigners have branded bike paths on George Street “useless” and a “token gesture” after raising fears over dangerous junctions and cars driving down them.

The city’s transport chiefs have been forced to rush through plans for collapsible bollards after a series of damning pictures snapped by irate cyclists were collected by the Evening News.

One passer-by claims he witnessed 11 cars driving on the cycle path in the space of just five minutes, prompting the city’s transport leader to admit drivers were putting cyclists using the routes in “significant danger”.

Bikers have also complained that the experimental cycleway, which is expected to be made permanent after a year-long trial, is disconnected from the city’s other bike paths, creating “terrifying” junctions at Charlotte Square.

Sara Rich Dorman, one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, claimed riders were shunning the “incredibly under-utilised” routes.

She said: “It’s an attempt to balance so many different interests, but it’s not suited any of them, except possibly the hotels and restaurants who have extra places to sit customers at.

“The cycleways are incredibly under-utilised. I went through just before noon, and back around 2pm, and I saw precisely one cyclist going in each direction.

“It’s a token gesture, which I think is very unfortunate. It’s good that the council has done something experimental, but it’s an attempt to please everyone, and as a result it’s kind of useless for everyone.”

Motorists claim they have been caught out by a lack of signs making it clear that what was once a roadway is now off limits to cars.

Entrances to the routes feature blue cycle path signs, but none feature no-entry signs for motorists.

One motorist turned into the cycle lane while the Evening News was canvassing the street. The man, who did not want to be identified, said: “There are no signs. I was following the satnav.”

Ian Maxwell, chairman of cycling campaign Spokes, said the routes needed to be improved.

He said: “I use George Street quite a lot at different times of day, and I have noticed that every so often you get confused motorists wandering into there. Bollards will certainly help.

“The main change that needs to take place is better links at the east and west end into the lanes.

“When you get to either end, you suddenly go from a completely protected lane back into open traffic with very few clues as to what the links are.

“It’s really good to see a major street in the centre of town having half its width devoted to cycling.

“That’s a really powerful message that cycling is worthwhile promoting. But until we can better links to them, they won’t be as useful as they could be.”

While restaurants have welcomed the scheme, investing £200,000 in Italian-made outdoor marquees for alfresco dining, shops have complained the cycleways have cut off loading bays and made deliveries a nightmare.

Marcina Thomson, who works at fashion boutique Mint Velvet, said: “Our delivery drivers really have their work cut out for them.

“They have nowhere to park, so they have to bring everything across on trollies.”

Officials say the cost of the new bollards would fit within the existing budget allocated for setting up the cycle routes, which were launched at the start of September.

City transport leader councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Vehicles are not permittedin this area and their presence poses a significant danger to cyclists and pedestrians.

“It was our intention not to add physical barriers to George Street, based on feedback from our public consultation, but due to drivers consistently flouting the rules we have been forced to install new 
drop-down bollards as a deterrent.

“Thanks to the nature of this project we have been able to do this quickly, though we will continue to learn from drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to adapt aspects of its design to suit everyone.”

Councillor Hinds added: “It is essential that all those using George Street are aware of the changes, so that we can get the most out of the 12-month pilot, creating a safe, vibrant and attractive environment in the city centre.”

In 2012, the council committed to spending five per cent of the transport budget on promoting cycling initiatives, leading to additional investment in new cycle routes and bike counters.

The city is also forming an active transport forum, composed of a cycling forum and a walking forum made up of Capital residents who will be invited to comment on transport proposals.

PEDESTRIANISTION OF FAMOUS THOROUGHFARE

George Street is being part-pedestrianised in a year-long pilot that has seen cycle lanes established along the length of the Capital’s premier shopping boulevard.

Traffic is now one-way in opposite directions from a central point at Frederick Street, with one half of the road for cars, while cyclists have the other half to themselves.

Extra pavement space has been taken up with decking and £200,000 worth of Italian-made marquees for outdoor eating and drinking.

The city first experimented with outdoor eating on the street in 2013, with restaurants and bars declaring the idea a success.

The pilot is being evaluated by city officials, with the scheme due to end next September. However, deputy transport convener Councillor Adam McVey told the News in July: “If successful the council will look to make this permanent.”