Tag Archives: Leith Walk

Edinburgh’s highways department: stuck in the 1990s?

What the hell’s going on up there? I’m talking to you, Edinburgh!

With all the hoo-hah, pressure from the local cycling campaign and Pedal on Parliament, I was expecting Edinburgh council to get the message and produce some really great designs for Leith Walk. Instead, the “enhanced” design is full of ASLs, door-zone cycle paths and give way markings.

Next year Scotland will be voting on independence, yet the Scottish capital’s highway engineers remain staunchly loyal to the old-fashioned designs of the Department for Transport here in London.

A photograph of Leith Walk in Edinburgh, showing the wide road and unused space in the middle.

Leith Walk in 2012. Now, shall we use that dead space in the middle of the road or shall we keep it? (Photo: Google Maps)

Now, I don’t live in Edinburgh – I haven’t even visited in a year – so maybe I should keep my big nose out. But I think any road scheme which expects people on bikes to overtake stopped buses or ride in a painted door-zone cycle lane will not attract people to use the bike. Modal shift will not occur when scary manoeuvres are designed in.

Myself and my partner – let’s call her Pavlov’s Dog – are good barometers for cycling. We really want to cycle more, as we really enjoy cycling! It really doesn’t take much to get us on our bikes. So when we look at a road and say “ugh, I wouldn’t ride there” then you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s not going to tempt anybody from their car.

Edinburgh council’s plans for Leith Walk are a good example of this. It fails our test.

A section of the new Leith Walk design which doesn't even have a cycle lane for north-bound bike riders

The 1990s called, they want their road design back.

I did have some hope for this design, as there’s a cycle-path for travelling southbound (uphill). But it only exists for a section of the road, and don’t be expecting to get any momentum as you’ll have to give way at the junction with the minor road of Albert Street! It looks like the cycle path is right up against parked cars too, without any buffer space. So it’s in the door zone, and will be blocked every time someone wants to get in or out of their car.

So who is it for? Confident cyclists who make up the vast majority of bike users in the UK will just stick to the road anyway. Why would they use the cycle path if they have to give way constantly, as opposed to the road where they have priority at minor junctions? So it’s not for existing cyclists – they’re cycling anyway.

But it’s not for people like me, either. Even if I did use the short section of cycle path to go one way, my return journey would mean riding in the bus-and-taxi lane, or the advisory (not even solid-line) cycle lane. At some points on the route there isn’t even a cycle lane!

Another section of Edinburgh council's Leith Walk redesign which doesn't even have a cycle lane

Yeah, this is going to get little Timmy riding to school. “Just take the lane, kiddo!”

There’s a pointless two-way cycle path at the southern end of Leith Walk which seems to fizzle out at both ends. I’m not sure what a bike user is meant to do if using this – cross the road and join the buses and taxis? If I was happy to do that, wouldn’t I be on the road already anyway?

And why have they kept the pointless central median strip? That’s valuable road-space! Why do vehicles have priority over pedestrians at minor junctions? It’s legal, apparently, for the pavement to continue across the junction. This should be the new standard which we demand.

A section of Edinburgh council's Leith Walk redesign where the road is extremely wide, yet the cycling provision is poor.

This junction is so wide! Why is there only a puny advisory cycle lane heading north? And why all those give way markings on the cycle path?

So this design is a fudge which pleases nobody. It’s crap.

Looking at this plan, I suspect Edinburgh council is trying to do things on the cheap.

It should be rejected by anybody connected to cycling and walking groups.


Edinburgh council may have some dreadful planners, but they have some top-notch PR people. Somehow they’ve managed to spin this design as giving priority to cyclists and pedestrians. Ha! Are we looking at the same plans here?

Greener Leith mysteriously “welcome” these second-rate plans, and Sustrans “strongly backs” them too. Oh, for fucks sake!

There is a public session to view the designs on Tuesday July the 23rd, from 2pm to 8pm, at McDonald Road Library. I suggest that anybody in Edinburgh who doesn’t feel that walking and cycling are the priority in this design (and they clearly aren’t) should go voice their concerns clearly.


Mini-update: I’ve just been reading the “City Cycling Edinburgh” forum discussion about Leith Walk, and I found this insightful comment from ‘CalumCookable’:

“Leith Walk has got to be the widest street in Edinburgh – if we can’t achieve a piece of high-quality infrastructure here, then where can we achieve it? Edinburgh pretends to want to quintuple the rate of cycling in the city in less than 7 years – if it’s not possible to achieve a piece of high-quality infrastructure now, then when will it be?”

He’s quite right. This design proves that Edinburgh council’s plans to increase the cycling rate five-fold in seven years are a complete and utter lie.

I can’t understand why others on the forum are defending this design. It might be better than the previous version, but it’s still crap. Are people just too tired to argue any more? Will Edinburgh accept crumbs from the council’s table yet once more? If so, it looks like people in Edinburgh will still be going round in circles in another 35 years time.


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