Nobody wins except the bold thrusting lycra lout
I enjoyed a stonker of a traffic jam on the way home yesterday – I counted more than a hundred jammed vehicles, busy going nowhere in all directions from London Street all the way to South Bridge.
As you’ll see, for an experienced or daring cyclist, traffic as heavy as this doesn’t pose much of an obstacle (I’m less of the latter, as you’ll see when I repeatedly pass up easy opportunities to slide past buses).
It took four minutes to get from the back of the queue to the front, so I’d guess it added 60-90 seconds to my day… a damn sight better than half an hour or more which drivers were going to be stewing for…
Incidentally, if you’re interested in getting a camera yourself, I’m using (and can highly recommend) this compact HD video camera by Contour.
And they say that cyclists cause congestion – what rot.
However, where I’d normally be semi-jubillant at riding past so many stuck motors, my recent experience mentoring a new cyclist at work got me thinking along unusual and unexpected lines.
One of the main counterarguments to building cycling infrastructure on the Leith Walk corridor is that there are bus lanes, but they’re self-evidently not much use in this case.
Even when they aren’t jammed, a bus lane generally involves being closely tailgated by buses, closely passed and cut up by buses and/or having to swerve around dangerously parked vehicles into a ‘express’ traffic stream.
As a young man my work colleague can look forward to developing the power and aggression necessary to ride in these conditions (if he doesn’t give it up entirely) but the outlook’s not so bright for Joe Public and his Granny, who’s off down the bingo on her shopper.
The fact that Edinburgh is lucky enough to have Lothian Buses’ superb drivers doesn’t change the basic mechanics, and while you can make it work by assertively riding your bike in everyone’s way, that’s no way to develop active travel. “Hi Gran, why don’t you bike more and save HM treasury some of the massive cost of treating sedentary disease in OAPs? What do you mean you don’t want to dodder along in the way of a constant stream of double deckers?”
I think not.
It’s even worse on Leith Walk at present because the bus lane is next to lots of parking, so even people trying to get their cars off the road cause a dangerous obstruction. A segregated lane which people can’t drive across to park is the only way to make Leith Walk even vaguely plausible as a bike corridor (and, by no coincidence, rejuvenate the run-down street at the same time by making it all-round more liveable).
I’m highly skeptical that City of Edinburgh Council will have the cojones to redevelop Leith Walk into a pleasant street, rather than taking the easy option of turning it back into the unpleasant pre-tram expressway it was until 2007 or so.
However, we can but hope (and campaign endlessly).