More than half of Edinburgh cyclists feel '˜unsafe'

Capital cyclists are more worried about their safety on city roads than ever before '“ despite a raft of new measures geared towards improving infrastructure for riders, a new report has found.

Thursday, 10th May 2018, 6:00 am
A new cycle lane on Leith Walk which uses the pavement and roads and appears confusing for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians

Transport chiefs have introduced a number of new safety measures for cyclists following a series of accidental collisions between riders and vehicles over the past 12 months.

However, feedback delivered to councillors as part of the 2017 Edinburgh People Survey found more than half of cyclists questioned felt “unsafe” when cycling the city’s road network.

The survey results, released less than a fortnight after the Pedal on Parliament event, comes in a week when two 
cyclists have so far been left badly hurt in Fairmilehead and Portobello.

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Fifty-three per cent of Capital cyclists said they felt “unsafe” on city roads, a six per cent rise on the previous total, the survey revealed.

Campaigners have blamed the increased levels of trepidation among bike users on a “deterioration” in road conditions, coupled with a number of extensive ongoing roadworks projects across the Capital.

But they also warned several fatal road collisions involving bike users may still be “playing on the mind” of those who regularly cycle through the Capital, describing the trend as 

In May last year, Malaysian student Zhi Min Soh, 23, was struck by a minibus and later died from her injuries after her bike became jammed in the tracks at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian 

A 61-year-old man was later killed in October after colliding with a parked car in a tragic accident while cycling in the Blackford area.

Earlier this week, a road traffic accident left a female cyclist with serious head injuries in Portobello, while a second bike user had to be treated by ambulance crews after a collision near Fairmilehead.

The 2016 survey found 35 per cent of respondents felt “a bit unsafe” when cycling on city roads, while a further 12 per cent revealed they were “very unsafe”.

Ian Maxwell, representative of cycling group Spokes, said concerns over safety among cyclists could be apportioned to a number of factors concerning road maintenance across the city.

He said: “I think what we have seen in Edinburgh over the last six to nine months is a combination of widespread roadworks in key areas like Leith Walk and a deterioration in the road surface that has contributed to cyclists feeling less safe on the roads.”

“Unfortunately, these works are taking a long time, so it is unlikely we are going to see a more complete picture until they are finished.”

Mr Maxwell continued: “There is a chance that the high-profile accidents involving cyclists particularly in the city centre could still be echoing on, but while that is perhaps true, it is a bit of an awkward correlation as we have more people in Edinburgh cycling now than ever before.”

He added: “There is a trend towards cycling in Edinburgh, which, as a city, is at the forefront of cycling, but obviously anything that points towards a particular lack of confidence among bike users is a worrying trend.”

In March, transport bosses announced they were putting a series of new cycle safety proposals out for public consultation, including giving bike users a “head start” at traffic light junctions along the city’s tram route.

New traffic lights that go green for riders before other traffic – similar to those already in operation in parts of Leith – would be installed at 14 sites and could be implemented by the end of the year if approved after the consultation period.

It follows other measures, including advanced stop lines for cyclists at traffic lights at five junctions across the city and red cycle lanes for riders to cross tram lines more safely being brought in last autumn.

Last month, new cycleway “delineators”, similar to those already used in cities including London and Glasgow, were built on both sides of Leith Walk near busy junctions with Brunswick Road and Pilrig Road respectively.

The project, which was due to finish on Friday, May 4 also included road defect remedial works carried out on certain stretches of road and pavement.

The Edinburgh people survey quizzed around 5,100 residents on a number of topics surrounding life in Edinburgh, recording an overall satisfaction rating of 95 per cent.

Around 300 residents from each ward were recorded as a sample size, with ten per cent of those surveyed saying they cycle in the city on a regular basis.

Public opinion of council’s road and pavement maintenance teams remained broadly the same, at 51 and 53 per cent satisfaction ratings respectively.

Figures from the Bike Life 2017 report released last year by active travel group Sustrans in conjunction with the council found 80 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of building more “protected cycle lanes,” while 75 per cent agreed extra funding should be allocated to cycling in the Capital.

Transport and environment convener, councillor Lesley Macinnes, said concerns over cyclists’ safety were being “taken extremely seriously,” adding new projects to ensure road conditions would be improved are under way.

Cllr Macinnes said: “Each year we invest ten per cent of our transport budget into improving cycling infrastructure to make travelling by bike a safer and easier option.

“We currently have a number of new projects under way, including the city centre West to East cycle link, providing a mainly segregated route from Leith Walk to Roseburn, a direct cycle link between the Meadows and George Street, and central Edinburgh transformation, which aims to make Edinburgh’s city centre more welcoming for cyclists and pedestrians.”

She continued: “We have also seen a rise in the number of cyclists in the city and since this survey was carried out last year a series of improvements have already been carried out, such as the installation of cycleway delineators on Leith Walk and several safety improvements along the tram route.”

Cllr Macinnes added: “The results of Edinburgh People Survey reinforce our commitment to improving cycle safety as we continue to enhance provision across the city.”