Edinburgh cyclist blasts Leith Walk cycle path after fall leaves him with broken rib

Pensioner left with broken rib and other injuries after flying over handlebars on Leith Walk

An Edinburgh pensioner has labelled the cycle path on Leith Walk ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ after he flew over his handlebars and sustained several injuries including a broken rib.

John Kerr was cycling with his friends on Leith Walk last Tuesday (November 29), when he was thrown from his bicycle after his front tyre passed over a shallow kerb that forms the edge of the track. The 69-year-old said he ‘went down like a tonne of bricks’ and said he has concerns that similar accidents will happen in the future.

Mr Kerr said: “I landed on my head but thankfully I was wearing my helmet. I’ve got an ache in my wrist and it’s definitely weaker and I think I might have a cracked rib. I’m not seriously injured but someone might be if this keeps happening.”

John Kerr (centre) said he is concerned that more accidents will take place on the Leith Walk cycle track and said the path was 'not fit for purpose'

Mr Kerr said the ‘shallow rise’ of the kerb was not obvious, adding it is not uncommon for cyclists to transfer onto the pavement to avoid pedestrians and obstacles.

He added: “It doesn’t seem to me to have any effective purpose other than to unseat cyclists. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

The council has stated that the Leith Walk cycle route is currently closed with diversions in place ahead of its launch in early 2023. The council added the cycle path’s closed status has been widely publicised with signage in place to warn the local community not to use the cycleway – but Mr Kerr and cycling campaign group, Spokes, say signage to inform people on this is inadequate.

Mr Kerr initially cycled on the road but moved to the cycle track as it seemed ‘the obvious thing to do because it took us away from the traffic and the tram tracks’ adding that the signage to indicate the route was closed was ‘not evident’.

Mr Kerr said the small uplift at the edge of the cycle track is a 'disaster waiting to happen'

The kerb that runs along the edge of the cycle path, varies in height along the track and was designed in line with Edinburgh Street Design Guidance to segregate the route from the pavement in addition to providing clear ‘ground level detection’ for visually impaired pedestrians. The council said the route’s design involved consultation with residents, local businesses and key stakeholders including Spokes and Living Streets in 2018.

But Mr Kerr believes that even when the cycleway is officially opened, the ‘terrible design’ will continue to be hazardous to bike users.

A Leith Walk trader, Gordon Young, who witnessed the accident said he has seen several similar accidents on the cycle path in recent months. Mr Young said cyclists “cannot see it” adding “I don’t know what boffin they have employed to design these cycle lanes but it’s not working.

“When things are up and running and cars are buzzing about the place, it’s only a matter of time that a cyclist will fall of his bike and go into the line of traffic. That is a certainty.”

Spokes members say that a small 25mm kerb found along sections of the cycle track will cause accidents in the future. The organisation say a higher kerb found elsewhere on the track will be more visible to cyclists. Top left: A 50mm uplift can be seen at the edge of the cycle track at York Place. Top right: The same can be seen outside Gayfield Square. Below: In other sections, a small edge and tactile paving has been incorporated.

Ian Maxwell, member of cycling campaign group, Spokes, said: “It is a real shame that people have to suffer accidents like this as a consequence of poor design.”

The council advised that the kerb’s size fluctuates along the route due to ‘shallow surfaces’ along sections of the street. They added that where no kerb has been constructed due to loading bays and bus stops, tactile paving will be incorporated.

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “During this time the cycle lane remains closed – I have been told there is clear signage on the street, and any pavement works are fenced off."

Cllr Arthur added: “The current layout complies with the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance, which recognises that flexibility is required to accommodate a variety of modes in the design of existing streets. The lip between the footway and the cycleway is there to provide clear segregation for visually impaired pedestrians.”