Cyclists need to realise that pavements that are not officially designated for shared use are the preserve of pedestrians, writes Robert Aldridge.
Pavement politics is in the DNA of Liberal politicians. Across the country numerous Liberal politicians have campaigned to get broken pavements fixed, uneven pavements sorted and kerbs lowered to make crossing the road easier for those who use wheelchairs or with prams.
In Edinburgh it’s still a regular and important part of my email inbox. There’s a huge backlog of work to make our neighbourhoods and city centre easily useable for those on foot. There’s still a huge amount to be done to prioritise pedestrians at crossing points, rather than traffic, so that pedestrians don’t get half way across a junction and have to wait for another full sequence of traffic lights before the ‘green man’ which lets them complete their crossing.
Have you ever tried to get from Clifton Terrace opposite Haymarket Station to Morrison Street? I rest my case.
But in addition to that I’ve become a bit of a militant pedestrian. To me footways or pavements or whatever we like to call them are places for the use of pedestrians. They are not parking bays.
Two wheels on the road and two on the pavement is not acceptable, especially for those who need the full width of the pavement for their buggies, wheelchairs etc.
Nor are they segregated cycle paths. I’m a reasonable person and I accept that young children should not be forced to cycle on roads, and I and others have been known to cycle (slowly) on the pavement on the Queensferry Road at rush hour when there are no pedestrians.
But we pedestrians are not only single-minded commuters who march purposefully in a straight line to get from A to B. We are also dog walkers, with dogs which veer unpredictably to the next interesting scent, people in charge of children who unexpectedly see interesting things and walk in any direction except a straight line.
We are also people with visual impairments, hearing difficulties, problems with balance, and on occasion people who have had too much to drink or simply people out for a gentle stroll. The pavement is important as a safe area where we can be our unpredictable and diverse selves in safety.
Unfortunately I am hearing of more and more conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians where they are both on the footway. As the tourist season gets into full swing our pavements are getting more and more crowded at the same time as more and more pedestrians are oblivious to their surroundings on their phones or listening to music.
I am a strong supporter of increasing cycling in the city. Indeed it was the Lib Dems in power who introduced the policy of devoting a significant proportion of the roads budget to cycling and walking.
However, we need to be clear. Where a pavement is not officially designated as for shared use it should be the preserve of pedestrians, and cyclists should dismount if they want to use it. Where a path (such as the former railway lines) is for shared use, we need to be a lot better at being considerate to each other. As pedestrians we need to respect their legitimate use by cyclists, and as cyclists better respect the fact that dog walkers won’t necessarily walk in a straight line and understand that many pedestrians simply don’t hear you coming!
It’s great that so many people are getting out of their cars and walking or cycling. Let’s remember we are all on the same side and make a little space for each other.
Cllr Robert Aldridge is Lib Dem group leader on City of Edinburgh Council