Edinburgh Council warned that new Elm Row cycle path will put pedestrians at risk

Cyclists are at risk of hitting people on new Edinburgh bike paths that cross a pedestrian area, it has been warned.
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Edinburgh Council has been told to “learn lessons” following its decision to press on with the construction of the new one-way cycle paths along Elm Row as part of the Trams to Newhaven project.

Designs for the project, finalised in 2020, show the paths separated by a row of trees in the space between the street and the pavement at the top of Leith Walk.

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Different to the original plans for a single two-way route, a group which represents communities impacted by the tram line’s extension repeatedly warned the council that making pedestrians cross over two separate lanes would increase the likelihood of cyclists hitting pedestrians.

In a letter to the council in November, Community Councils Together on Trams (CCTT) said it was “not clear” why designs were changed, adding the reasons for doing so “have not been made public.”

The statement said: “It has been suggested that this was required to improve cyclist access to the crossing at Annandale Street but it is not apparent what benefits the current design has over the previous one.”

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“It is though very clear that the latest design has very significant adverse impacts for pedestrians. This is particularly true for those with any visual impairment.

A community group have complained about new designs for a cycle path in Edinburgh.A community group have complained about new designs for a cycle path in Edinburgh.
A community group have complained about new designs for a cycle path in Edinburgh.
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“This section of public realm is expected to be very busy with pedestrians heading north or south on Leith Walk, accessing the various retail businesses on Elm Row and boarding or alighting the buses at the two bus stops.

“Pedestrians and wheelers wishing to traverse this area will need to cross two separate cycle paths in order to access or egress a bus stop or in the event of wanting to walk from the London Road pedestrian crossing down Leith Walk will need to cross four separate cycle paths.”

The group also highlighted plans for the Elm Row section of the network as failing to meet the councils own street design standards for bike lane width and the separation of cycle paths and pavements.

And the various concerns mentioned in the letter had been previously raised by CCTT and other groups in response to Traffic Regulation Orders.

The beginning of Elm Row and the 'Leith Wall'.The beginning of Elm Row and the 'Leith Wall'.
The beginning of Elm Row and the 'Leith Wall'.
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But in a report to the transport and environment committee this week officers confirmed the work would be completed “as per the existing design.”

Addressing the committee on Thursday (March 31), Mike Birch from CCTT said: “What we are concerned about is that the design that has been used — and indeed it is being constructed at the moment — does not reflect some of the earlier discussions that took place with the active stakeholders and the consequence of that is we’ve ended up with two one-way paths which cut across this pedestrian area.

“This makes it extremely difficult for all pedestrians but particularly for those with sight or mobility issues. These issues have been highlighted by the access panel, by Living Streets and indeed by Spokes. None of the active travel stakeholders have felt that the current design is correct.

“I think it’s important to say these are not recent concerns; these are concerns that date back at least a year.”

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Mr Birch urged councillors and officers to “learn lessons from this situation.”

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