Edinburgh's Spaces for People programme: campaigners claim key data not shown to councillors

Key data showing that a controversial Spaces for People cycle lane had not achieved its objective was omitted from information provided to councillors when they voted to continue the scheme, campaigners have claimed.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 4:55 am

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The council installed a temporary cycle lane on Lanark Road as an alternative route to the busy Water of Leith walkway, where it said social distancing was difficult.

But a cycle count in August 2021 found the average number of bikes using Lanark Road had dipped since the cycle lane was introduced while cyclists using the Water of Leith had soared by 65 per cent.

Activists take part in a protest on Lanark Road's cycle lane in June 2021. Picture: Chris Hill

The figures for Lanark Road – down from 117 in October 2020 to 114 in August 2021 – were reported to the transport committee in October 2021 when officials recommended retaining the cycle lane, but the Water of Leith figures were not.

In response to a Freedom of Information request by campaign group South West Edinburgh in Motion (SWEM), the council published the Water of Leith data showing average cycle journeys there had jumped from 135 in October 2020 to 223 in August 2021.

SWEM chair Professor Derryck Reid said the data had been available when the decision to retain the Lanark Road cycle lane was made and should have been provided to the committee.

“Taking the data at face value, twice the number of cyclists now choose to use the Water of Leith path, and the bollard scheme may even have deterred cyclists from using Lanark Road.

“Local cyclists like myself know why these schemes have not been successful in increasing on-road cycling. Badly designed sporadic segregation, the steep gradient, close passes to dozens of driveways and the distance from the city centre means that the Water of Leith will always be more popular for novice cyclists even though there are issues with quality of the surface.

“The data underlines how the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme has failed to meet its objectives and that its continuation cannot be justified.”

Colinton/Fairmilehead Conservative councillor Jason Rust also voiced concern.

He said: "Clearly the council's scheme has not had the desired effect and on the basis of a genuine public health issue on the Water of Leith path one would have assumed the council would have acted as soon as it was apparent that the Lanark Road cycle lanes were not having the desired impact.

"It’s important councillors are provided with all available data when making decisions, especially when proposals have negative impacts."

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said the decision to retain any Spaces for People measure was based on several factors including public consultation responses, independent market research and reviews by technical officers.

Retaining the Lanark Road cycle lane had not been based only on providing an alternative to the Water of Leith walkway.

“However, these figures do demonstrate this is indeed a busy corridor and we need to look at additional routes, including cycle infrastructure on key roads such as Lanark Road.

“There seems to be a significant misunderstanding by SWEM of the nature of the transport network needed in the city, including for people choosing more sustainable means of getting around. We can’t simply contain all people cycling on off-road paths; we need multiple routes. There’s clearly an appetite for cycling and it’s essential we support that.”

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Edinburgh Spaces for People scheme on Lanark Road to stay in place

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