Quality Bike Corridor : still not quality

After a winter to bed in, how does the Edinburgh Quality Bike Corridor fare? Is it just a long strip of cycle lane painted underneath de-facto parking bays?

It’s been several months since the Edinburgh’s £650,000 Quality Bike Corridor was launched to great fanfare.

I wrote in November that I considered City of Edinburgh Council to have “failed utterly” to have delivered any meaningful interpretation of the phrase “quality”, or indeed “corridor”, and this winter’s daily use has given me small reason to revise that harsh assessment.

It would be untrue to say that the Quality Bike Corridor is by any means a step backward for transport provision in Edinburgh; quite the reverse. It doesn’t make conditions appreciably worse for cycling than they were before, and in one or two respects has made a positive contribution.

However, that cannot excuse the sorry shambles that is the experience of trying to navigate the QBC. This video was shot today at 7pm, just as the evening rush is tailing off. It covers ~650m of the Quality Bike Corridor, and there are 55 (largely legally) parked vehicles: one obstruction forcing cyclists into traffic for every 12m. There are a large number of moving vehicles in the video – how many cyclists do you see?

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

I will try to be fair: it’s nice that the surface is (generally) improved and I think the sections of cycle lane which have been built around parking are a significant improvement, especially heading north at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace (just before the illegally parked Bonaly Dairies delivery lorry I keep encountering on video). The short section of 20mph limit, hamstrung as it is, is punching well above its weight. I’d even go as far as to say that Summerhall, which saw a superfluous traffic lane removed northbound, feels dramatically safer.

However, the bottom line is that the Quality Bike Corridor has largely ended up as a very expensive resurfacing which benefits two groups of people: cyclists who were using the route anyway (I raise my hand here) and motorists who park (legally or otherwise) at cyclists’ expense, now without fear for their alloy rims.

Not that it needs reinforcing, but check out this video, shot during the hours of daylight:

Can you even spot the cycle provision here? What space has been set aside (in practice) for two-way cycle traffic on this section of the “Quality” Bike Corridor?

A true “Quality Corridor” would be very well used – this one has mainly seen growth on the “Quiet Route avoiding Quality Bike Corridor” (that is not a joke) which was created simply by sign-posting quiet neighbourhood roads a quarter mile to the west.

I wouldn’t suggest children cycle along it, I wouldn’t encourage the elderly or unfit try to cycle along it, and I certainly wouldn’t advise the inexperienced try to cycle along it – surely three things which are fundamental to sorting out the city’s transport (and “liveability”) issues.

The Quality Bike Corridor does not provide cyclists with any dedicated space to allow them to travel across town in confidence and safety. So long as it’s necessary to deal with speeding taxis, delivery lorries cutting in and out of illegal parking and private vehicles blocking up both sides of the road, cycling on this route will remain the province of the brave and the few.

We could be doing so much better.

Anyone on the Council who doesn’t understand why this is so frustrating is welcome to a free guided tour (I’ll even suppy a bike). I know there are people in the traffic department absolutely screaming out for this type of service…

Are you affected by the Quality Bike Corridor? Do you agree or disagree with me? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts…

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