An Edinburgh journey that took three times longer than it should have done thanks to city council – Helen Martin

Helen Martin and her husband drove from Edinburgh’s Southside to Leith in 50 minutes, rather than the usual 15 or 20, encountering various new obstacles along the way.

By Helen Martin
Monday, 31st August 2020, 7:30 am
Roadworks were a constant thorn in Helen’s side as she tried to get from the Southside to Leith (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Roadworks were a constant thorn in Helen’s side as she tried to get from the Southside to Leith (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

COMPLAINTS are growing over Edinburgh City Council’s “road transformation”, everything from road closures, cycle lanes running across points where pedestrians mount buses, tram work strangling Leith, car parking banned even in residential areas, businesses being blocked . . . and so on.

To be fair to the council, safety for cyclists was their main goal – and who would object to that? But safety for pedestrians isn’t boosted by cyclists whizzing between them and their buses.

Another plus point was trying to reduce the pollution issued by cars for environmental benefit.

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So, here’s a story from last week. My husband drove me to Leith for a brief business meeting. From the Southside, we knew going via Newington was chaos, but less so than through the city centre and down Leith Walk.

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We began to head towards the West End with the aim to reach Ferry Road. Just about every street behind Lothian Road was jammed with works and bollards. (I was able to realise then that attending for a blood test next week in my GP surgery could be a problem with a block and a long one-line of traffic.)

Eventually we got through and arrived at Orchard Brae roundabout, planning to go up Crewe Road South. It was closed off, even before the Western General. (A few days after my blood test I’d be going to ward 1 for a post-cancer drip. I’d have to find another route for that.)

We turned right, passed Waitrose and planned to take the next street that led to Ferry Road. That was closed too.

To be honest I can’t remember where we went after that. My husband was a Leither and tried several roads until we hit the one leading to Asda, near the office lay-out we were heading to.

Despite him knowing the area, we were forced into bollard routes that almost took us back to Customs House. Another couple of attempts, and we reached our destination. It had taken us about 50 minutes of driving rather than the normal 15 or 20 minutes.

On the way back we saw a mother and her children standing at a bus stop with a sign saying it was out of use. She hadn’t noticed it. We saw cycle lanes that stretched for about four yards, before being stopped by waste bins. Many streets were just a slow-moving traffic jam.

It was about another 45 minutes to get home. That’s not reducing car routes and pollution. It was three times as long as it should have taken us.

We both have different commitments, and he was late for his next meeting. We are now deciding whether or not we should buy another car so that we don’t delay each other.

Could I have walked to Leith? No. Taken a bus? Very few of us do because of Covid. In any event, buses are re-routed so I’d have had to investigate which to take.

That’s just an example of what this crazy “reform” means in reality. The desire to have more cycle lanes and improve the environment is fine. But to achieve it properly would have taken a few years with planning, expert advice, consulting cities with a successful system, and consideration of businesses and citizens.

Reducing car use rather than increasing it would help, understanding the job losses in garages and sales companies that would be bust by banning it, and recognising how many people would shop, eat, drink, meet and go to cinemas and venues out of town rather than head anywhere in the city.

Will it calm down and work? I pray and hope.

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