Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Leith Walk Redevelopment

This post is a comment on the Leith Walk proposals

The Leith Walk redevelopment could and should be superb. Widened pavements, easier crossings for pedestrians and safe segregated cycle routes would transform the area, creating a much nicer environment for pedestrians away from motor vehicles while making journeys faster and safer both for cyclists and for other road users. Even a short sections such as are being done at the moment could bring outdoor seating to cafes and dramatically increase the number of children walking and cycling to school. 

The current design plans fall well short of this vision. There are very welcome improvements for pedestrians, and with a few simple changes as proposed by Spokes the southbound cycle lane could be great, but the proposals for the northbound cycle lane are a shambles that will give segregated cycle infrastructure a bad name. What is most frustrating is that fixing these issues doesn't involve spending more money or slowing down cars*, it just requires better design.

To name just three problems, the proposed lane starts too late leaving cyclists to fend for themselves across McDonald road, it forces cyclists to give way to every single side road that crosses the lane, and it asks cyclists to cross a lane of left turning traffic at the Pilrig St junction in designs that are reminiscent of the unpopular and underused right turning cycle lane on Bristo Place.

We suggested changes to priority at junctions here, and a redesign of the Pilrig St Junction here.

With these changes and those proposed by Spokes** something really amazing could be done to Leith Walk. I hope the planning team will make these vital improvements, I hope my councillors will put pressure on them to do so, and I really hope that in a year's time we'll all be celebrating a vibrant and rejuvenated streetscape on Leith Walk. 

(*) Although given that motor traffic on Leith Walk has fallen by 35% in the last decade I don't think that taking time away from cars to boost priority for pedestrians and bikes at junctions would be inappropriate.

(**) I'm particularly fond of Spokes suggestion that Brunswick Street should be closed at Leith Walk, ending the rat run for HGVs through to London Road and creating a much nicer atmosphere for the street and for the outdoor cafes nearby. It could even be the site of Edinburgh's next parklet! 

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