Cyclists have hit out at plans to open almost all bus lanes to cars outside of rush hour, claiming the move will discourage people from using their bikes.
Around 90 per cent of the network will operate during peak times only from June in an effort to standardise restrictions across the city.
If you relax regulations on the bus lanes, you also get much more parking on streets during the day. That’s a major obstacles for cyclists.Kim Harding
But campaigners have blasted the move as “frustrating” and a “retrograde step” that would hamper efforts to increase cycling.
Consultations are being carried out on two traffic orders that are needed to make the changes enforceable, with the move set to affect 22km of bus lanes.
Prominent routes affected include Leith Street, Leith Walk, Calder Road, Lanark Road, the A702 and York Place, where lanes would be enforceable from 7.30am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday, in line with most city streets.
John Lauder, national director of sustainable transport group Sustrans Scotland, said opening up more bus lanes to cars would increase traffic congestion.
He said: “We strongly urge the council to reconsider its bus lane proposals. As the lanes are shared with cyclists, we would much prefer if the council would investigate the possibility of making them all-day or 24/7 instead of peak-time only.
“The council is taking forward many commendable transport proposals, such as the introduction of 20mph speed limits. Therefore, it is particularly surprising and frustrating that they should propose such a retrograde action.
“Sustrans wants as many people as possible to be enabled to travel sustainably and we simply do not see how permitting all traffic to use the bus lanes for large chunks of the day can help to achieve this.
“In fact, we think that it will potentially have quite the opposite effect and encourage people to use their cars more often.”
Calls to re-examine the policy have been backed by cycling campaigners.
Kim Harding, one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, said: “Bus lanes aren’t ideal, but they are better than nothing. You don’t have to compete with quite as much traffic.
“If you relax regulations on the bus lanes, you also get much more parking on streets during the day. That’s a major obstacles for cyclists.
“I really don’t see why they are doing it now. It’s such a negative move.”
Transport leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said the trial would be kept under review.
She said: “It’s important to point out that the primary purpose of bus lanes is to provide journey time reliability and time savings by allowing buses to bypass congestion during busy traffic periods.
“This increases the appeal of travelling by bus compared to taking the car.”