Monday, June 22, 2015

Side Road Priority on Leith Walk

This is a short blog about priority of cycle lanes over side roads on Leith walk. I wrote earlier about the junction with Pilrig Street, and will blog later on the scheme as a whole. For a summary, there is much to like in the plans but they are hugely let down by a number of fixable issues, but if these aren't fixed the bike lanes won't come close to achieving what they're capable of. Spokes has a great response to the scheme as a whole here.

In particular, a really major defect with the current plans is that they do not give priority to the bike lane over minor side roads. As such, cycling down the segregated lanes will be much slower than cycling on the road, even for people like myself who like to bimble along at 8-10mph. This significantly reduces the attractiveness of the cycle lanes and will lead to a lot of more confident cyclists ignoring them.

The side roads are very minor, and I'm sure the council doesn't want to give them priority over the cycle lane. Rather, the council officials that I spoke to at the consultation on Thursday were concerned that giving priority to the cycle lane could be dangerous if cars didn't understand, and would be incompatible with UK traffic laws. There are masses of examples from the UK and elsewhere which contradict these assertions.

Here are some examples of priority being given to cycle lanes over side roads. Many of these examples have issues, but I just wanted to make the point that it's quite possible to give priority for segregated bike lanes over side roads in the UK. The first is from Glasgow, I took it from Cycle Streets.

The second pair are in London, and I read about them on (and borrowed the google map images from) the excellent Alternative DFT blog about visual priority.

A different junction on Cable Street, this time the cycleway is unbroken by kerbs or painted lines, and priority is clear.
A junction on the Cable Street cycleway in London. The cycleway has priority, but everything suggests otherwise: the kerb and yellow lines cut across the cycleway, creating confusion.

Finally there is an example from our very own Buccleuch Street!

The colouring of the cycle lane could be much better, but segregated cycle lanes with priority over side roads already exist in Edinburgh.

The point is that giving priority to the cycle lane over side roads is certainly possible with UK traffic regulations. Indeed, a much better and more detailed discussion of this by a UK road traffic engineer can be found here.

There is of course a question about how these lanes can be best designed. And for that we turn again to the Alternative Department for Transport. In short, raised tables (which the LW plans already have), tight corners (which the LW plans already have), no kerbs across the cycle lane and extremely visible continuous colouring of the cycle lane.

Giving priority to cycle lanes is quite doable and is absolutely fundamental to securing the success of the Leith Walk scheme. I really hope the council officers will amend their plans to give cyclists this priority.

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand the argument about UK road law. I appreciate the highwaycode says very little about segregated cycle paths, but there are a few rules that suggest that bicycles have priority. This turns the argument on its head: Not giving priority to the cycle path will be confusing to drivers and cyclists who interpret the highwaycode in this sense.

    Relevant rules are:
    182: "Do not overtake just before you turn left and watch out for traffic coming up on your left before you make the turn... Cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users in particular may be hidden from your view."
    183: "When turning, give way to any vehicles using a bus lane, cycle lane or tramway from either direction."

    Now, it is not very clear if these rules strictly speaking refer to bicycles on the carriageway and on-road cycle lanes only, but it seems fair to assume that they apply in the same way to a cycle lane/path that's running just next to the carriageway.

    Then of course there are the rules about pedestrians having priority once they are crossing (unfortunately not, like on the continent, absolute priority so that cars actually have to stop when peds are approaching) - Now you get the absurd situation that a pedestrian has priority, but the cyclist travelling beside her/him hasn't.

    Of course these highwaycode rules are habitually ignored by many drivers. But for the legality of road designs the question should not be if most drivers break the rules, but what the rules actually are.

    So it seems to me that the design should reflect the spirit of rules 182 and 183 and give priority to cyclists (and pedestrians) on side roads, and everything else would be confusing.