“Quality” Bike Corridor: council fails utterly

Concerned citizens despair as £650,000 scheme fills with parked vehicles… marginal improvements “no compensation for huge failure of ambition”.

Concerned citizens despair as £650,000 scheme fills with parked vehicles

Marginal improvements no compensation for huge failure of ambition

Edinburgh’s much-publicised “Quality Bike Corridor” launched to minor fanfare recently (although as both ends of the route are currently building sites, someone must have become bored with the wait).

95% of the route has been complete for the last few months, of course, giving cyclists and drivers alike plenty of time to acclimatise to “business as usual”, aka “cycle lanes have been painted underneath parked vehicles”.

I felt it would be unfair to lambaste the scheme before it even officially launched, so I went out after the ceremony to capture footage of my fellow cyclists and I attempting to use the QBC.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in getting a camera yourself, I’m using (and can highly recommend) this compact HD video camera by Contour.

If you don’t like seeing footage of cycle lanes full of stationary vehicles, look away now:

As ever, click on the cog for HD video quality.

I particularly like the near-dooring at 00:45 and the Bonaly Dairies Dangerous Deliveries section around 02:10 (the driver has never forgiven me for interrupting him screaming threats at a hapless traffic warden).

But let’s not discriminate – from King’s Buildings in the south to Potterrow in the north, everyone’s at it:

  • Outside the Hotel Missoni, Lothian buses race with trucks and angry commuters to cut across the cycle lane
  • Forrest Road: vehicles double parked all over the cycle lane, not a street for the faint-hearted.
  • outside the mosque, cyclists are pinched between traffic islands and vehicles parked all over the cycle lane…
  • just north of Summerhall at Gifford Park, a horrendous pinch point where it is frankly miraculous that no-one has lost their life. For northbound cyclists, a token cycle lane has been built to service the parking needs of vans diving in and out to the snack bar..
  • the dodgy approach to Melville drive from the south has been improved with the loss of one vehicle lane northbound (this gives a bit more space to the few aggressive cyclists who haven’t already been intimidated onto the pavement).
  • Someone missed out Causewayside southbound from the plans altogether, meaning no cyclist-friendly intervention whatsoever has been made on the critical middle mile of the route.
  • Northbound, a generous cycle lane has been built to service parking needs for the chemist, locksmith, snack bars, Bonaly Dairy’s dangerous delivery driver, the paint shop, more snack bars, and the supermarket. One very short section of permanent parking has been circumvented by a built-out cycle lane. Yes, it’s a real winner… until you get to the huge lorries outside Tesco.
  • The very wide Mayfield Rd has been painted with cycle lanes that are only lightly used for parking outside the interminable B&Bs.
  • Further south by the strange junction with West Saville Terrace (the 40mph street in the 20mph zone), there is another built-out lane around parking, which is a small improvement.
  • let this not suggest that vehicles aren’t left littered all over the lanes between these hot-spots, because they are in plentiful supply!

On top of this dis-a-a-a-ster, the word is now out that Leith Walk (soon to be the subject of a multi-million pound redesign) will have no segregated cycle facilities despite widespread public support.

The extremely wide boulevard to the north-east of the city centre, for which multiple segregated designs were produced by expert Dutch architects, is currently a virtual no-go for cyclists due to highly dangerous multi-lane roundabouts and aggressive lane switching.

So much for a model cycling city!


Since someone is bound to ask how I would have made a real Quality Bike Corridor, the answer is simple: close the whole corridor to southbound traffic, making it one way northbound with the use of a small number of bollards at each junction. Simple, immediate, easily reversable, and extremely cheap.

As we’ve seen with closures of the Mound, Princes St, Queen St, Leith Walk, and so many other (much bigger) boulevards, traffic would cope quite happily after a short period of adjustment.

The only real casualty would be the lonesome bus service that would then have to divert 30 seconds east onto Minto Street. But that’s the problem with trying to make an omelette – you’ve just got to break some eggs.

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16 thoughts on ““Quality” Bike Corridor: council fails utterly”

  1. Add to that the completely useless tiny signs alerting road users to the 20 mph section. Most cars pay no attention to these although to be fair they probably haven’t noticed them.

  2. The whole route is littered with missed opportunities, but in some places it beggars belief what they have done.

    Wherever there was a difficult decision to make, they erred on the side of the motorist.

    At night, the cycle “lanes” are invisible to motorists, and in some places have already vanished. The slightly-red tarmac is useless, and will soon be dug up by utility companies anyway. The white lines rely on being maintained by the council, which we know won’t happen. There are plenty of death traps, such as turning right from Buccleuch St onto Marshall St…… the list goes on. Any minor improvement to the route relies 100% on the goodwill of drivers to not simply disregard entirely the white lines.

    By calling it a “quality” bike corridor, they are raising people’s expectations – that very word implies a smooth, seamless route for cyclists – not these half measures and badly thought out designs. They have chosen this route because of the all the students, yet it isnt even in operation when most students use it, given that “peak hours” when the parking restrictions are in force don’t match when students come and go.

    And where is our local cycle campaign group? Any cycle organisation worth their membership should be holding demonstrations about this awfulness – instead SPOKES are too busy congratulating the council (it’s why I’ve stopped giving Spokes money). Read this post about great they think this new route is, even though the increase in cycle numbers here pre-dates the “improvements” (see last year’s Bike Station survey)


  3. You do have to look at the QBC against other items that have failed to happen transport wise.

    No single sector of transport in Edinburgh has been advantaged or privileged.

    • Buses diverted with road works and still poor service on a Sunday
    • Cars diverted and whilst parking has been reduced and made free this actually means that motorists are fighting each other.
    • Pedestrians have to go long way round at many of these works.

    You would hardly expect cycling to suddenly be the one area where the council would achieve more although we’re right to ask them to aim higher. The bold approach would have seen CEC improving things for all non-drivers from the city centre outwards. The fact that the historic High St is still choked with traffic in places despite pedestrianisation support from businesses and residents means that it’s unlikely that the cycling ‘tail’ will ‘wag the dog’.

    The Grassmarket area is one of the few where cars have been pushed out to the edge with a big area to walk round. Apparently been quite well received.

  4. They Just Don’t Get It

    As a regular cyclist from King’s Buildings to the Botanic Garden I was very please to hear that we would be getting a ‘Quality ‘ Bike corridor along the route. Well I have to agree with all the comments above. What the Council has produced is utterly derisory. Don’t they understand that simply painting lines on roads and applying a different colour of tarmac affords absolutely no protection to cyclists, and does not produce a route that is free from the hazards posed by motorised vehicles.

    On a recent trip south from King’s Buildings I encountered numerous cars parked all along the ‘Quality’ cycle route. When challenged about their parking, the drivers of these vehicles were offended by a request to remove their cars, despite the fact that they were clearly in breach of the traffic regulations. Here is overwhelming proof that the council has utterly failed to produce a ‘Quality’ cycle route, and the sticking plaster solution that they have adopted is an utter waste of all the money that was spent on it, and makes a mockery of the publicity that they have given to the scheme.

    The only proper solution is to segregate cyclists and motorists and to put in place barriers that will prevent cars and vans parking in cycle lanes. It appears that putting barriers on a road is a step too far for the council who only have the guts for token gestures which lack any serious substance. Cycling has the potential to once again be a form of mass transport within the city, with the enormous health and other benefits that this would bring. However this is not going to happen until the council has the bottle to put something on a road that will physically prevent cars from using a part of it.

  5. Most of the parked vehicles that I can see there are delivery vehicles. What exactly do you want, shops not to get deliveries?

  6. It’s not clear what your point is, unless you think that spending £650,000 to paint lines under delivery vehicles is good value for money? I can think of lots of better uses…

  7. I am the daughter of the man who works for Bonaly that

    you uploaded a picture of on the Edinburgh Cyclist site about 3 months ago. I think that you are someone who does not have much excitement going on in their life, cycling around Edinburgh, taking videos and pictures of people working hard and trying to make a living, and may I add, people who pay road tax which you do not. My dad is up at all hours in the morning and has a hard days work ahead of him and does not need losers like you telling him where he can and can’t park. Utterly ridiculous and unbelievable that a fully grown man like yourself, has so much time on his hands.

    Also, it is ilegeal to upload pictures of a person without their consent, so I suggest you think before uploading pictures and videos in the future.

    Only word I can use to describe this video is PATHETIC. Hope one day someone knocks that stupid camera right off your head.

  8. Hi,

    Happily, recording and uploading footage like this is perfectly legal… but feel free to cite.

    I’ll be careful about what I say as footage not shown here might form the basis of proceedings and I wouldn’t wish to end up in contempt.

    Unfortunately the video clips posted above are only a small proportion of such footage (and I’m far from the only person who has a headcam or dash cam in that part of town). It’s amazing the people you can see abusing traffic wardens, swerving at other road users, u-turns without signalling, threatening behaviour… not clever on camera.

    No doubt to the detriment of society as a whole, getting up early doesn’t give anyone the right to park dangerously in the middle of rush hour.

    Everyone should have video. It’s not like it takes more than a minute or two a day, and with all of this uploading over 3G even grabbing and smashing it won’t help…

    ciao 🙂

    1. Hey Harry,

      Perhaps it’s unfair of me but I’ve always avoided critical mass. I’m not really sure why, but the idea makes me slightly uncomfortable. I can enjoy angry motorists just trying to get about my ordinary business 🙂

  9. Hey Dave,

    Critical Mass is a celebration of cycling; it’s an opportunity to escape the angry drivers and, through the strength of our numbers, create a safe space on the roads. After a recent campaign of advertising we have steadily grown and can now consistently achieve the ‘critical mass’ needed to make our rides around Edinburgh both safe and fun. The presence of a soundsystem on our rides adds to the party atmosphere and pedestrians and motorists alike tend to give us a smile and a thumbs up. I probably can’t persuade you of this in such a short post, but I do recommend coming along and seeing for yourself (if you’ve always avoided it then you don’t know what you’re missing).

    One of the reasons we’ve grown so much in recent months is because people come along to try it out and have so much fun that they attend regularly, often bringing friends and even kids along. Anyway, it’s your call. All the best

  10. What is going on in glasgow, regarding roads around the east of city. I saw some cycle bridges in the making there?

    On a broader note I work in transport planning, and I cringe at the stance I see taken. Councils request that 100,000’s of punds be spent on upgrading traffic signals to provide 1% extra capacity, when there is scope to spend that on a new simple cycle route linked 250 homes to an existing school.

    But guess what nobody drew the line. Cars is the only thing they are worried about.

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