Princes Street cycle path danger fears

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CYCLISTS fear a new cycle path – which cuts across one of the busiest pavements in the city – is an accident waiting to happen.

Markings outlining the route have just been sprayed on the busy corner at the bottom of The Mound and Princes Street.

The cycleway near the RSA at The Mound brings cyclists and pedestrians close. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The cycleway near the RSA at The Mound brings cyclists and pedestrians close. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Its location has been branded ill-conceived and has already resulted in near misses.

However, its siting comes at a time when the council faces having to divvy up urban space and keep everyone happy.

But this time, road users say the solution to the problem is ill-thought out.

And it comes after the Evening News revealed how pedestrians in North St Andrew Street are expected to share space with cyclists bombing along a broad cycle path.

Last night Kim Harding, spokesman for Pedal on Parliament, said he thought The Mound plan would never work.

He said: “It’s designed to create conflict, not solve it. I don’t know any cycling ­organisation that would ­actually support it, or their members would support it.

“We don’t want to be taking away space from pedestrians. Basically the problem’s come about because they haven’t actually stopped to think things through. There is no overall plan of how to deal with transport in the city – it’s all just piecemeal. They stick things here and there and wonder why it doesn’t work.

“The fundamental problem with Princes Street is they don’t want to think through how it will all work properly with the trams running. Until the trams start running, they’re just blind to all the problems. I can’t believe they keep doing this stuff.”

Spokes – the Lothian cycle campaign group – called for bikers to show extra consideration in that area. Their spokesman Ian Maxwell said of The Mound design: “It’s an experimental move and there’s a couple of other places in the city like Haymarket where, if it works, this could be adopted.

“There’s a bit of learning on both sides. Cyclists using a busy bit of shared space like on Princes Street are going to have to be sensitive to pedestrians.”

While the council’s shared space plan has been labelled a worthwhile experiment by Spokes, the vast majority of campaigners said evidence from other cities showed mixing did not work in high footfall areas, with packed groups of pedestrians leaving little room for those on two wheels.

It has been brought in because the traffic signals at the intersection of The Mound and Princes Street do not legally allow traffic to turn left, with the markings formalising a likely shortcut for cyclists.Plans for a segregated bike path at the location were drawn up, but rejected over concerns it would prioritise cyclists to the detriment of pedestrians.

And while bikes are banned from pavements under normal circumstances according to the Highway Code – traffic orders allowing exemptions have been passed by the council for locations such as The Mound.

City council cycling spokesman Jim Orr said the facilities at The Mound were 
“carefully developed” in ­consultation with cycling groups and were commonly used in bike-friendly cities such as Malmo in Sweden.

He said: “It was agreed this would be a shared space with a suggested route for cyclists. It’s important to stress that it’s been implemented on a trial basis – we’ll be monitoring it closely and will review arrangements if necessary. Shared footways are only considered where they are necessary to provide cyclists with a reasonably safe route separated from busy traffic. We find that most cyclists and pedestrians show consideration and respect for each other when using these.”

However, shoppers are being directed into the path of cyclists travelling downhill close to St Andrew Square.

The city council justified the move by saying it was reinstating part of the original Sustrans National Route. But Sustrans Scotland national director John Lauder said any attempt to justify the sharing arrangements by claiming the national cycle network was being reinstalled was “disingenuous”.

He said: “What they’ve done is they’re now redirecting people in a rather lazy way back to what was the route, but actually the route is compromised by the tram works.

“In addition, we haven’t been consulted. That’s disappointing and we’ll need to take that up with the city council.

“They are reinstating the national cycle network, but that’s not in the spirit of it. The whole design guidance of the network is that it doesn’t have tram lines running up it.”

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com