Sunday, February 15, 2015

Please Don't Roll Back Our Bus Lanes

Just a quick post to join in with those arguing that Edinburgh's plans to convert all day bus lanes into peak time only bus lanes would be a regrettable step backwards. I'm focusing on Leith Walk as that's the stretch that I know best, but the council are planning to replace 25 miles of all day buslane with lanes that operate during peak hours only. So, the issues in brief:

Would this speed up car traffic?

Perhaps, slightly, but I'm really not convinced. Chiefly because there aren't significant traffic problems at these places. You can look at the excellent traffic tab on google maps to get an idea of what typical traffic speeds are like at different times of the day. There are four different levels and nearly all of Leith Walk is at the second best of these levels on weekday afternoons and evenings, just like Clerk street or Bruntsfield Place, traffic flowing normally. I'd guess that means it's going at about twenty miles per hour, which is what the speed limit will be soon anyway.

What about reducing confusion about bus lanes?

Sometimes drivers don't like to use bus lanes even when they're allowed to. I'm not sure why, but my guess is that either they're in a place that they don't drive very often and don't want to keep checking the signs for the hours of operation, or they just think it's less hassle to avoid the bus lanes in the same way that some people just sit in the middle lane of motorways. The new policy won't have any effect on the second group. Of the first group, only those who live in Edinburgh (and so learn about the standardisation of bus lanes) but are driving on main roads that are unfamiliar to them will start using the bus lanes out of peak hours. Surely that's a pretty small group of people that you're affecting.

Why Not?

This policy would go against the positive steps that the council are making to encourage active travel and be another hurdle that we put in the way of people walking, cycling or taking the bus. It would mean that people walking or cycling on Leith Walk would be right next to huge lorries. It would mean that crossing the road is almost impossible without using the traffic lights. It would make it that little bit more difficult for me to check out that interesting cheese shop on the other side of the road, businesses would surely suffer as passing through areas like Leith Walk is prioritised over walking around these areas.

I don't know quite what Edinburgh's active transport action plan means in practice. I don't know how one turns a list of priorities into a decision as to whether some particular policy is okay. But Edinburgh has made a commitment to prioritise walking, cycling and getting the bus over driving a car. At the very least, I think this means that a policy that has a significant negative effect on cyclists and pedestrians, and a minor negative effect on bus users, must have an absolutely transformative effect on car traffic to get anywhere near the discussion table. I just don't believe that it would, google maps says there aren't any traffic problems to fix, and the council hasn't presented any evidence in support of the policy.

I like our council, and I like what they're doing for active travel. More importantly, it's having an effect, there are more pedestrians, more cyclists, many more bus users and fewer people driving to work in our city. Please don't undo this progress with an ill thought through policy on bus lanes.

What Can You Do?
 Object! And quickly, you've got until Wednesday to register an objection, see the Spokes page for details.

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