Quality Bike Corridor: more parking on the way

Proposals are being made to ‘invest’ the council’s cycling budget in allowing more parking on the Edinburgh Quality Bike Corridor…

Traffic orders will be consulted on… maybe

Thanks to Kim Harding for passing on details of proposed modifications to Edinburgh’s “Quality” Bike Corridor, the notoriously expensive on-and-off painted lanes that “run” (when not completely blocked by parked cars) for a couple of miles to the south of the city centre.

Although there are other serious problems with the route, anyone who’s attempted to cycle on the QBC more than once will be familiar with a few ‘hot spots’ where cycling on the painted lanes is prevented almost 24/7 by parked vehicles, leaving the most vulnerable of road users, well… especially vulnerable.

It now looks like the council are going to invest some extra time and money in the QBC to attempt to tackle two of these locations.

Ratcliffe Terrace:

The “paint-out” around parked vehicles at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace promised to help address safety at a critical point, and in fairness the current layout is much better than the pre-QBC configuration. Unfortunately at either end of the block of shops, the same old vehicles completely block safe use of the road.

Amusingly, even Google Streetview has caught Hua Xing red handed on the double yellows:

ratcliffe_streetview

Both ends of the parking will be extended to legalise two extra vehicles under the proposals. That is, parking will not be permitted on top of the cycle lane, but reflecting the council’s inability to keep businesses from ignoring the double yellows, the cycle lane will be moved out to protect cyclists forced into the road.

See the rollover for details:

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Hover overlay: [Existing layout] [New layout]

Informal surveys have shown that there are often several times as many vehicles parked on the QBC (legally or otherwise) compared with the number of citizens brave enough to cycle along it. On the face of it, in the absence of camera enforcement, building around some of this parking activity can only be seen as a positive step.

Mayfield Road

The second location to be modified is on Mayfield Road, where there’s another paint-out around parking spaces in front of a row of shops (just before the road splits into two lanes for the junction with West Saville Terrace):

mayfield

Unfortunately the plans for this location don’t involve any improvement for cyclists. Instead, the council are merely going to legalise parking on top of the QBC, making it even more useless than it already is.

See the rollover for details:

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Hover overlay: [Existing layout] [New layout]

This is particularly galling since money is being taken from the council’s very limited cycling budget to realise these changes, so money ring-fenced for improving cycle provision is literally being used to create parking on top of a main cycle route. Only in Edinburgh…

Next steps

According to the attached report (see below), there has been no consultation with any cycling body on these alterations. While the changes at Ratcliffe Terrace represent a welcome improvement, allowing vehicles to obstruct the QBC right at the critical few metres before the West Saville Terrace junction is a serious retrograde step.

There does not seem to have been any risk assessment made regarding cyclist safety at this busy junction.

There is not, as yet, any update from Spokes on these proposals (to be updated?). In the meantime it would seem safe to highlight your concerns with your local councillors, and ask them to pass this on.

Ultimately, a statutory consultation on the TROs will be carried out, but it would be nice to think that safety concerns could be addressed beforehand…

Original documents

Signed Del Pow Report – Ratcliffe Terrace
Appendix 1
Appendix 2

A swan-song for the Quality Bike Corridor

Contrasting Edinburgh’s Quality Bike Corridor with genuine cycling infrastructure…

Representative of Edinburgh’s caring motorists: “You’re the problem”

We moved house in the spring and, having our pick of locations and a decade’s experience of riding in Edinburgh, are now out beyond the bypass. The old railway on the Water of Leith (to the canal and NEPN) has supplanted the Quality Bike Corridor as our local bike infrastructure.

qbc-alt2

If I want to, I can get from the Pentland hills over twelve miles to our office by the shore with just a few minutes riding on quiet back streets (and one traffic light!) and cyclist numbers are just exploding, with virtual traffic jams on the canal and North Edinburgh Path Network as large numbers of ordinary looking people take to two wheels in an environment free of the tender mercies of the Edinburgh motorist.

I had to return to our Newington flat this week to do some landlording, and after a few weeks the contrast between segregated paradise and the absolutely terrible “infrastructure” that was provided under the branding of the “Quality” Bike Corridor could not have been more apparent.

qbc-alt1

One of the striking design principals behind the QBC was that it painted gutter lanes wherever the road was wide (and thus cyclists were relatively unlikely to be troubled by vehicular traffic in the first place) but did virtually nothing to address any of the difficult spots that lead to conflict between vulnerable road users and speeding vehicles in practice.

One of these is the junction with Gifford Park on Buccleuch Street, pictured above/below, where there is a pinch point in the building facades and barely enough room for two vehicles to pass, never mind bikes. As you can see, SFA has been done to accommodate southbound cyclists here. The cycle lane disappears heading into the constriction, effectively throwing riders under the tender mercies (or wheels) of the traffic stream.

The build-out for Gifford Park doesn’t exactly make things easier:

qbc3

The other day I must admit I wasn’t paying as much attention as usual, since I was going at a fair pace and there was nothing coming the other way – you can see I’m shaving the give way lines rather than sitting in the middle of the lane as the Government’s Bikeability scheme would suggest is the correct way for ordinary citizens to manage rush hour traffic.

Fortunately an Edinburgh motorist was on hand to punish my audacity with a horrendous overtake (at least they had the courtesy to blast their horn to warn me they were going to shave my elbow).

qbc1

Obviously the driver, a University of Edinburgh employee judging by his neck pass, got stuck in traffic just a few yards further on, so I was able to ask him for his views on this section of the QBC. I believe “animated” and “colourful” would be fair descriptors.

There was absolutely no question in the mind of Mr Corbett (if I caught his name correctly) that scraping past cyclists when he might otherwise be required to use the empty oncoming lane was fair game.

(This episode of driving was recorded in full HD, but I’ve decided to withhold the footage in case it might be relevant to a future prosecution).

qbc2

Ultimately, I don’t hold civic bodies responsible for the behaviour of every motorist who drives inside the bypass (it would be nice if the police made it easy for cyclists to report dangerous driving and acted on said reports, but that’s another story).

However, if I wasn’t already a committed cyclist this driving episode, on the “Quality” Bike Corridor no less, would certainly have converted me back into a regular motorist. It is much more difficult to forgive the creation (or lack of creation) of quality infrastructure.

Here’s the same pinch point heading north earlier in the year, for instance. It’s like this all the time: where are the wardens ticketing everyone who stops in the bus stop and cycle lane, throwing families who might otherwise want to use this so-called “Quality” corridor out into the most horrendous meat-grinder?

qbc-alt3

Obviously, said families are conspicuous in their absence, and who can blame them!

Apparently enforcing restrictions would be unrealistic or unfair to local business. This gives the Council the basis of a cunning plan – publish a design which nominally shows areas where cyclists are protected from traffic, but then never enforce it, both avoiding any risk of an objection to the design by pesky cyclists or offending anyone who wants to park over the top of it.

What could be more depressing than that the only modification made to the Quality Bike Corridor since it was installed was to ease loading restrictions on an already inadequate cycle lane?

Leith Walk does give us some hope, but the effort required to engage with the Council on it (and certainly to suggest small but key improvements to the latest designs) is just beyond me.

We voted with our wallets on this one…

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…

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

22/11/12

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,

Sincerely,

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,

Dave

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.

“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).

Continue reading ““Quality” Bike Corridor: council fails utterly”

Quality Bike Corridor videolog

There are an incredible sixty three obstructing vehicles on the 1.7 mile route at the tail end of rush hour.

It’s a cycle lane Jim, but not as we know it

Back in 2010 Edinburgh city council consulted on plans to spend almost half a million pounds on an exemplary “Quality Bike Corridor” linking the city centre and Kings Buildings campus in the south.

Edinburgh Quality Bike Corridor

We live near the Kings Buildings and so most of our journeys involve at least some riding on the route; you may well imagine that we had high hopes of the outcome of almost £1/2m of dedicated cycle redesign.

I’ll revisit specific aspects of the route in later posts, but wanted to share a quick video showing a recent commute during peak time (new headcam, huzzah!)

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

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

(In case it isn’t obvious, the clip is playing at double speed to make it more watchable.)

There are an incredible sixty three obstructing vehicles on the 1.7 mile route at the tail end of rush hour… you’ll see I spend more time forced to ignore the “Quality Bike Corridor” features than using them.

Related:

See this CityCyclingEdinburgh discussion on the same footage.