CYCLING campaigners have pinpointed the top four blackspots on the city centre tram route as they up the pressure for safety improvements.
They say the locations pose “serious risk” of injury to cyclists and must be tackled ahead of the eight- mile line going fully live.
Peter Hawkins, planning representative for cycle group Spokes, drew up the list as he surveyed the routes for the Evening News.
He said: “There was always going to be snagging issues in terms of the tram route, but with many of these problems there’s a feeling that cyclists were the last ones to be thought of.”
The heavily reported problems outside Haymarket Station have left both cyclists and taxi drivers bewildered as to the correct and safest way to navigate the tram tracks. Meanwhile, less than 100 yards up the road a small blue sign directs cyclists down a narrow cycle lane sandwiched between the pavement and the tram tracks on Haymarket Yards.
This thin slip of cycleway forms part of the National Cycle Route 1 which runs from Dover to Inverness.
Mr Hawkins said: “We’ve held numerous discussions with the council all through the tram process and urged a more balanced approach to its design. The situation at Haymarket train station is incredible and really confusing for all road users not just cyclists.
“Cycle lanes would do a lot to protect cyclists from traffic along both Princes Street and York Place. The routing of the National Cyle Route 1 down a narrow cycleway with a large tram on one side really is crazy. It looks as if cyclists and the National Cycle Route were merely an afterthought.” He added: “The council have not been too bad in terms of including us in the discussion, I just wish they’d listen more.
“Everyone talks about the Scandinavian or Dutch models in regards to transport and their roads were just as bad back in the 70s and 80s, but they then sat down and worked out a more balanced approach. That’s what we need to do.”
At the junction of South St Andrew Street and Princes Street, those on two-wheels are forced to cross the tram tracks – at present, many choose to do this by using the space offered by traffic barriers which currently sit on South St Andrew Street to widen the angle at which they cross. These barriers will be removed once the trams go live next May.
Once cyclists have completed their tram track crossing they then have to re-enter Princes Street traffic at a narrow section of roadway which barely caters for a bus.
The last issue highlighted by Spokes concerns York Place and no cycleway being provided to those on two-wheels heading west. Instead they are left to battle it out uphill alongside heavy traffic and trams.
The city council said it was working on solutions including new road markings to direct cyclists safely through Haymarket and a secondary taxi rank nearby to alleviate queueing.
The possibility of removing sections of pavement from Princes Street near to South St Andrew Street to allow more room for cyclists and traffic is also being considered by council bosses.
Cllr Jim Orr, the city’s transport vice-convener, said: “The council is in regular discussion with Spokes and considers them one of our key partners in helping to develop cycling policy in Edinburgh.
“When designing the road layout along the tram route, we have had to take into consideration the needs of all road users but we are acutely aware of the necessity of providing safe cycle routes around the city.
“At Haymarket Station we are actively addressing the issues raised there.
“We’re happy to take on board the concerns raised and will feed this into our ongoing dialogue with all cycling groups going forward.”
Chaos at the station
THE News spent less than an hour in the company of Peter Hawkins, pictured far left, at Haymarket Station and in that time witnessed a litany of problems.
Numerous cyclists passed by, each one using differing methods to navigate the area – some chose to bunnyhop the tram tracks and carry on, while others chose to ignore a green light and pull in to the council-advised jug handle junction.
After a two-minute wait – considering they had a green light on the main road – they were then sent back on their way with a taxi now on the left of them.
There was also a continuous queue of taxis in the three-vehicle rank with those unlucky enough not to find a space being forced to perform another circuit.
At the same time there is a continual succession of taxis attempting to drop passengers off at the station – taxis from the west of the city are forced to U-turn across the road, therefore blocking the entrance to the cycle way.
All of this and not yet a tram in sight . . .