Princes St to be rebuilt… without cycle provision

The Council is proposing a broad-ranging and ambitious revamp of Princes St and George St, to include segregated cycling on George St… but nothing on Princes St.

City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport and Environment Committee is about to agree “in principle” with a broad-ranging and ambitious plan to help regenerate the city centre.

The key proposal is to turn Princes St and George St into a gyratory, re-allocating the space created by the removal of running traffic in one direction on each of those streets to pedestrians and cyclists.

In general I applaud the proposal which goes far further than I think many people would have expected from this Council (which has distinguished itself, fairly or otherwise, by what seems to be an unhealthy fear of the Evening News).


However, while segregated cycle provision both ways along George St will be epic, the plan fails to offer the same on Princes St. Instead, cyclists who wish to use this direct route (avoiding the many junctions along George St as well as additional junctions at either end) are to be effectively banned eastbound and left to struggle amongst the fleet of buses and taxis jostling to travel westbound.

Princes St (like Leith Walk) is enormous, and there really is no plausible reason why two-way segregated cycling cannot be provisioned.

I’ve written to my councillors ahead of Tuesday’s meeting to ask them to support Spokes’ call that the proposals which go out for consultation include two-way segregated cycling along both streets.

In case you need inspiration:

Dear Councillors,

I am writing regarding “Building a Vision for the City Centre”, ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of the Transport & Environment Committee.

On the whole, I find these proposals very encouraging, but I have one major concern – I think it’s vital that the council also supports two-way segregated cycling on Princes St.

It’s particularly pleasing that the council continues to recognise the vital importance of separated cycle provision to get people into the city centre to work, shop and play. It’s obvious that the hoped-for high quality segregated route up Leith Walk would become doubly valuable with onward high quality segregated connections through the city centre – and vice versa.

This is the only way the council will get even close to its commitment on changing modal share.

However, a fundamental prerequisite of successful active travel provision is that it must be both direct and reliable. For a large proportion of cyclists this means Princes St – it is never shut for events for any significant period (unlike George St), and it involves a minimum of junctions (key hazards).

There are so many extra junctions to negotiate with a detour along George Street, not to mention extra crossings of the tramlines, that I think the Council will find significant numbers of cyclists continuing to struggle along Princes St (and potentially cycling “illicitly” eastbound and/or westbound using whatever space is created from the current eastbound lanes anyway). A recipe for conflict and lost potential.

I note that at this stage the Committee is only being asked to agree “in principle” with the proposals and to agree a consultation plan. In my opinion the Committee should offer vital guidance at this early stage that it expects to see an option including two-way segregated cycling on Princes St put out for consultation.

I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing these concerns and would appreciate it if you felt able to support this (or at least to pass this on to the relevant people).

Kind regards,


CEC: Quality Bike Corridor #1

Correspondence Nov 2012: Southside Councillors, re: Quality Bike Corridor

In relation to:

Southside/Newington Cllrs: Steve Burgess, Jim Orr, Ian Perry, Cameron Rose


Dear Councillors,

After a couple of delays it seems that the official launch of the QBC has suddenly arrived!

As you might expect since we live just off the route, I have plenty to say about it – but agreed it was only fair to wait until it was ‘finished’ before weighing in.

As someone who “plays well” with traffic I’ve personally found the QBC to be a minor improvement, mainly because of the build-outs around parking (especially the one heading north at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace) make it easier to force your way into the traffic stream, while removing a lane from Summerhall has also made it quite a lot easier to speed past queues. However, I honestly couldn’t recommend the QBC as a route for novice riders or those with kids, especially as the parking situation (which is laughable at peak times) just gets silly outside them. Consequently it’s hard to defend as good value.

I’ve put together a short video of my experience using the QBC which I hope you will find interesting (‘enjoy’ would be a bit perverse), on youtube:

I hope it’s obvious that this ties in directly with the general concern that Leith Walk is going to be rebuilt without segregated facilities for cyclists – despite all the support for them (and the fact that we haven’t had the “consultation” yet). At least two people in my team at the office have told me there’s no way they’d consider riding to work in Leith from the south side unless they were separated from traffic, and we can see how “well” these painted facilities work here, despite considerable cost.

Instead they sit in their cars stuck on Leith St and I wave on the way past.. but am seen as either heroic or just mad.

I understand that it might be difficult or discouraging for some councillors to see people reject these high-profile (and expensive) painted lane schemes, but I think it’s the perfect illustration that we need to aim for European-class facilities and not a poor imitation – buy cheap, buy twice.

Welcome your thoughts,


Dave McCraw

Unusual silence on this one. So far only one response- from Cllr Perry, saying that he agrees segregation is ideal but “difficult to achieve unless we give priority to cyclists”… say no more 🙂

06/12/12 update

A well thought-out and interesting reply from Cllr Burgess (a member of the transport committee at the time the QBC was approved) came through today:

… I routinely cycle and have cycled the new QBC and completely agree with you – how can this be a quality bike corridor when the bike lane ends in a parked car every so often.

What the committee did agree is that the scheme would be put in and monitored and could be improved on in future.

I replied directly as follows (digression on Leith Walk removed):

Dear Steve,

Thanks for your reply.

I think on balance that the QBC is a small improvement overall – the red paint around the parking at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace and the removal of one car lane at Summerhall being the highlights. It’s just a shame that it was billed as a “Quality Corridor” as that underlines how much better it could have been (and how much it cost anyway!).

As you say, it’s relatively encouraging that the council are willing to spend this kind of money and at least pay lip-service to connecting destinations rather than provisioning isolated stretches (although with no cycle facilities at all for southbound cyclists for the middle section of the QBC I daresay lip service is still a bit too generous).

Perhaps we will have more success having the design corrected now that £650k has been spent providing a nicer surface for people to park on than could ever have been achieved at the design phase?

Your (and the other Green cllrs’) continuing support in pressing for improvements to these schemes is much appreciated.

Best wishes,


As a general observation, having made and publicised a ‘Quality Bike Corridor’ at considerable expense, there seems to be a strange reticence among some of those responsible to defend (or even discuss) it.