What Next for the Lanark Road Spaces for People Scheme?

Today a mini-engagement activity gets underway which will help define the future of the Lanark Road Spaces for people scheme. This is happening because a recent consultation indicated that there was widespread opposition to the scheme, and that the main issue was safety.

To date, the public debate has been dominated by those who either strongly oppose or strongly support the scheme, and many people have been stuck in the middle. The polarisation of the debate in this way is partly due to the Council’s unwillingness to work with the local community to define the aims of the scheme, and co-design the response. The binary nature of the debate means often it can appear that we have to choose between the safety of cyclists and that of vulnerable pedestrians. The reality is that we should be focused on a scheme that treats everyone’s safety as equally important.

We should be aiming for zero accidents, rather than transferring the risk from one group to another (e.g. via floating bus stops!). For this to happen, however, those who either strongly oppose or strongly support the existing setup will have to compromise.

Having looked at the options the Council is using as a starting point (which were approved by Labour, Green, SNP, Independent, Lib Dem and Tory Councillors), the key one impacting on my Ward is just east of Gillespie Crossroads – a short section on the north side of the road between number 432 and Spylaw Park. The concern here is that there is a conflict between parents children accessing Cranley Nursery and passing cyclists. The Council is suggesting the existing lane is retained and floating parking spaces are removed (or vice versa). The existing setup is shown below.

Removing a short section of cycle lane here to reduce the conflict between children and cyclists has been described by one opponent as “ripping out protected cycle space in SW Edinburgh for extra on-street parking“. This is not correct as this is not a protected cycle lane (there are no bollards etc) and there will be no increase in parking. The Council’s argument for removing this short section of cycle lane is “anyone cycling on this section is likely to have cycled in from Lanark Road West and will thus likely be capable of cycling around the parking area”. There is some logic in this argument, but it clearly needs to be explored and challenged as part of the consultation.

A second issue which the mini-engagement activity will consider is the ‘floating parking’ on downhill sections of the route. This is were the kerb and parking spaces are separated by a cycle lane (see image below). The issue here is that on the downhill sections of Lanark Road there is a risk that somebody alighting from a vehicle may be struck by a cyclist. I rode this section today, and was able to reach 24.4 mph with no real effort. The combination of my momentum and the poor running surface is potentially deadly – and there has already been an accident involving a toddler and an adult cyclist. I have spoken to the wife of the cyclist, and I understand he is strongly opposed to floating parking after his experience. It therefore appears correct, if the lanes are to stay, to consult on moving the parking to the uphill side of the road.

I spent 2 hours (and cycled 30km) looking at the Lanark Road and Water of Leith Walkway today from Inglis Green to Balerno. There’s lots of debate about the future of both, but I hope everyone can agree the running surface on the Lanark Rd cycle lanes is abysmal! Even if the Lanark Road scheme was perfect, however, its success will always be limited.

At its west end the Lanark Road SfP scheme terminates just short of Gillespie Crossroads. The westward Lanark Road is too narrow to include any sort of protected feeder cycle lane (but the footpaths do need widened in places), and is not a comfortable cycling experience (see video – speeded up & normal speed). Those that proposed the scheme believed that cyclists would switch from the Water of Leith Path to the Lanark Road SfP scheme at Colinton. This probably looks great on Google Earth in some distance consultant’s office, but the hill makes it an unlikely proposition in the real world.

At the east end of the scheme, cyclists are dumped into the Inglis Green Road/Lanark Road/Slateford Road/Craig Lockhart Avenue interchange. This is not fun – CrashMap reports 125 accidents involving personal injuries over the past 22 years (see below).

These connectivity problems to the east and west are perhaps why the strongest supporters of the Lanark Road SfP refuse to say what level of usage would mean it could be called a ‘success’. Of course, there are other ways of measuring success (e.g. accident reduction) – this is something the local community should consider as part of the consultation. Indeed, a longer term plan and timeline from the Council on how Lanark Road SfP can be part of a larger cycle network would also be useful.

Opponents of the Lanark Road SfP will point to the Union Canal Towpath and the Water of Leith Walkway as alternatives for cyclists. My view is that the Union Canal Towpath east of Meggetland should be avoided as it is at capacity. When not busy, however, it is a great route. The Water of Leith Walkway between the Union Canal and Balerno (NCR75) is good but a bell is needed (see video – speeded up & normal speed), and will get better if the plans to improve the surface are realised. Its main drawback is the lack of lighting (not easy to fix), so it does not work as a commuting route over the winter. Indeed, lone cyclists/walkers may not feel safe at any time of day/year.

So if there are limitations on cycling on the broad Lanark Road corridor, how do we cut congestion and reduce emissions along the route? The answer here, as for most of suburban Edinburgh, is public transport. I’d love it if people in Balerno & Currie had a safe cycling route into the city and other places of employment etc, but the reality is that if we are to tackle the climate emergency we have to look to making public transport more attractive. Once the future of Lanark Road SfP is settled, we need to give the same energy to improving public transport.

15 thoughts on “What Next for the Lanark Road Spaces for People Scheme?

  1. That truly is an impressive piece of work Scott . IU am circulating it to fellow com cllr and will show you their responses Thanks John

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Besides trying to reduce congestion by getting model shift away from private cars, which seems like a catch 22 if we decided to rule out doing that with cycle space, is there any example of how you might improve public transport through Gillespie crossroads in a way that makes a serious difference?

    We could perhaps compulsory purchase some of the front gardens to add bus lanes down from Juniper Green?

    The Dutch would not have much trouble fitting dedicated cycle space between Juniper Green and the crossroads. It’s just a question of political will. Edinburgh has in the past demolished rows of houses to widen roads, there was an example shared on Balerno Cares today from the 50s. Perhaps it’s just that doing so in an affluent area to add space for buses and active travel would be too politically courageous?

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    • If you watch my video (linked below) you will see that in many sections of Lanark Road between Balerno and Gillespie Crossroads there is not room for a protected bike lane and two way bus flow…. & bits of footpath need widened.

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      • I very much agree that a protected bike lane from Balerno down the A70 is not a good investment. All we need to worry about are the two short gaps in the 20mph back streets either side of Juniper Green. That is not a large engineering challenge compared to projects like the trams, St James redevelopment, the west Edinburgh link, the list goes on 🙂

        What is needed is the political will to make a solution, given it will certainly reduce convenience for private cars. Clearly needs to come after next May’s elections when the Labour / SNP / Green groups will either have a renewed mandate or not!

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  3. It seems a little disingenuous to say that there would be no loss of protection simply because there are no bollards inside the parked cars. Whether our kids are protected seems more like a function of whether people drive on the inside of the parked cars (clearly not) and after the removal of the lane, whether they would be right in front of cars, buses & HGVs once we leave the full width of the driver’s doors to prevent dooring (they would).

    Why not turn the question of usage upside down? What’s the low threshold of people using a bike lane, specifically, that would justify removing it? It’s presumably a function of how many private car spaces we’re talking about and fact that drivers can easily use the ample free parking on the opposite side street combined with the green man at the crossroads. Why does this argument not apply to people’s discomfort with cyclists on the canal, water of leith, the meadows cycle paths, etc.

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    • I’m not being “disingenuous”. It’s a fact that no bollards (or similar) means it is not a protected cycle lane. If paint alone was protection, that would be great… but that’s not the world we live in.

      At this point the painted lane is on a bend, so without the parked cars to protect the lane some vehicles will clip the corner.

      Removing the painted lane here is only one issue that’s being considered. Why not speak to the parents and staff at the nursery and get their views?

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      • Certainly I would encourage any interested parents to get in touch with SW20 (e.g. hellosw20@gmail.com) which does already represent a small number of mums (edit: and dads!) covering both nurseries, and partly came about because said parents were not happy with SWEM. I am not SW20 though, if I ever represent the group it will be quite clear.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether it is “protected”. I’d let my pre-school kids walk in it (carefully!) and consider it to be protected from cars.

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  4. In response to idea of removing parking eg opposite Dovecote Park and telling people to park opposite side of the road.i live in the flats what about when someone moves are the removal men to cross the road with your furniture.nit safe or if supermarket delivery same drivers carrying crates . basically before covid Lanark road didn’t have many accidents and was deemed a safe road but now in the months had spaces for people we have had accidents so makes you think it needs removed .

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    • Wendy, are these the flats with the massive private off-street parking to the rear? Or different flats? In any case, there are mechanisms in place for something like removals access (the company will know how it works). There are more and more of these lanes all over the UK, and people can still move house.

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  5. Dear Scott Arthur,

    LANARK ROAD CYCLING

    I have used the Lanark road almost every day for the last twenty years plus.

    It is dangerous for cyclists in many ways. There is an excellent safe alternative: the old railway track from Balerno to the centre of Edinburgh. If the canal part is a problem during rush hour the main road can easily be used in parts closer to town . I wonder if the computer road people even know about this……it isn’t a road and not be on their maps?

    DELL ROAD COLINTON

    This leads to a wonderful walk through the dell which has been blocked for no sensible reason. I gather the steps are considered dangerous. This is a matter for debate. Many use this as a short cut from Redford to Colinton local shops At the least it is a very important walk used by hundreds in the past and now dangerously used by dozens who risk life and limb by climbing over the fence that is blocking the pathway, often with a bycycle!

    I know that there is some talk of at some stage doing some work on the steps……but when?

    I do hope you can help with this matter.

    I am very grateful for your tireless work for the community.

    My regards,

    John Johnson

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  6. The lack of parking spaces in Morningside resulted in me trying to squeeze into a space that was to small and I ended up reversing into a Spaces for People bollard which has caused a scratch to my rear bumper and I drove into a van upon trying to exit the space which thankfully did not cause any damage. If you do not advocate a full removal of all Spaces for People measures I will order 3 fish suppers to your address under your name and make you pay cash on delivery. How do you fancy that, Mr Arthur?

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