Great shared cycle path network in Edinburgh, shame about the cyclists.

by Maximo   August 28, 2014  

We are very lucky in Edinburgh to have cycle paths that effectively circumnavigate the city - keeping us away from notoriously bad Edinburgh drivers (reflected in the number of per capita cyclist accidents). However, these cycle paths are shared paths, with pedestrians. They are used by school children and adults as convenient, pleasant short cuts and dog walkers enjoying a sniff of nature within the city centre. I am increasingly of the opinion that cyclists consider these paths to be their personal highways around the city, not as shared paths. What we now have is a dangerous mix of (fast, Strava medal-pursuing) cyclists, pedestrians and dogs.

I cycle a total of 20km or so, mostly on the path, every day to and from work (with my Strava on). I also use the path to walk my daughter to school (with my Strava off): the entrance to the school is immediately off steps climbing from a bend in the path (with restricted view, I would argue) and is well used by pupils and parents at peak commuter time in the morning.

In the last few days I have witnessed one bicycle turning off at a blind junction close to the school (again well used by children) at a hurtling speed without use of a bell to warn of his arrival: nearly running over a 5/6 year old girl, her sister and mother and another ridden by a self-styled 'pro cyclist' overtaking around the aforementioned bend at speed (if you were on a road there would be double white lines on it). I'm sorry, but I do tend to comment when I see this: 'Slow down.', 'Ring your bell.'. Maybe I shouldn't, and it doesn't achieve much: the normal reaction is 'f$%£ off, you ponce' or 'you are a c*&k' (??). Though, my personal favourite is 'I don't have a bell!' (...well get one!). However, I have seen too many cyclists nearly hit pedestrians, children especially, so forgive me for being verbal.

We are going to start campaigning with the schools whose pupils use the shared path to lobby the council for signage and perhaps separation of cycles and pedestrians on certain parts of the path. I would hope to gain a lot of support for this from the parents who frequently share their 'near miss' or 'foul mouthed' incident reports. Maybe we also need to involve the police and other institutions on the cycle path (leisure centres, shopping centres).

I would, in the meantime, appeal to those Edinburgh cyclists who use the paths, who ride fast or slow, to use their bell (or get one to use!) when passing pedestrians and overtaking other cyclists and ahead of passing or turning at blind junctions. Also don't take unnecessary risks or ride too fast. Also, be a little more courteous - stop swearing in front of kids!

Apologies if I sound a 'nimby' or a 'c*&k' (??!), but shared cycle paths aren't the autostrada on the Milano-San Remo.

20 user comments

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You don't sound like a cock (at least to me), but inconsiderate cocks like that give all cyclists a bad name. Overtaking on a blind corner is as dumb as rocks (I was almost taken out the other day by a cyclist overtaking while approaching a blind corner from the opposite direction).

posted by truffy [525 posts]
28th August 2014 - 11:14

4 Likes

Which 'cock' has a Strava segment on a cycle path? Can't they be classed as too dangerous?

posted by efail [41 posts]
28th August 2014 - 11:44

2 Likes

General advice is that if you need to travel faster than 15 mph, then you shouldn't be on the shared use path... most surfaces are too lumpy/rough for me to travel faster than this in Gloucester anyway...

I do believe you can check Strava and flag sections which shouldn't be part of any section... but that apparently requires you creating an account in the first place...

posted by Paul_C [257 posts]
28th August 2014 - 12:28

3 Likes

and this is the crux of the problem in my opinion. Shared use paths are a bad idea. Bikes and cars don't mix brilliantly but bikes and pedestrians is IMO an even worse mix, and if you throw in dogs and kids!!!!!

If you are creating leisure routes fine, but as soon as you have people trying to get to work/home doing the shopping etc, people will want to get around reasonably quickly. If the path creates conflict it is a bad path.

We all accept speed bumps exist because car drivers can not be trusted to slow down, people are people, do we really think that without real design there won't be conflict and excessive speeds on smooth wide shared use paths???

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1357 posts]
28th August 2014 - 12:50

5 Likes

It might also be worth having a word the the Police. If these are regular commuters, using the same route every day, it's an easy win for them to plonk a copper somewhere around that blind corner one morning to welcome them for a word of advice.

Unfortunately, cyclists are exactly the same as any group of road users, there's a proportion that do stupid things when there's zero risk of being caught. See if you can make it less than zero risk.

posted by bikebot [787 posts]
28th August 2014 - 12:54

1 Like

mrmo wrote:
and this is the crux of the problem in my opinion. Shared use paths are a bad idea. Bikes and cars don't mix brilliantly but bikes and pedestrians is IMO an even worse mix, and if you throw in dogs and kids!!!!!

As someone who lives next to a shared use path/cycle track that passes a primary school, I have to contradict that. Mine works absolutely fine, in fact great. It's actually nice to see a school in London where some children still arrive by bike.

I think a large part of the problem is that cycling hasn't been normalised enough, it's still dominated by men, mostly in the 20-40 age range. And as a self confessed MAMIL, I'm happy to also pootle at times, I have more than one mode. There's a certain type of rider that needs to learn that sometimes riding is just about going from place A to place B on a bike.

posted by bikebot [787 posts]
28th August 2014 - 13:05

4 Likes

mrmo wrote:
and this is the crux of the problem in my opinion. Shared use paths are a bad idea. Bikes and cars don't mix brilliantly but bikes and pedestrians is IMO an even worse mix, and if you throw in dogs and kids!!!!!

If you are creating leisure routes fine, but as soon as you have people trying to get to work/home doing the shopping etc, people will want to get around reasonably quickly. If the path creates conflict it is a bad path.

We all accept speed bumps exist because car drivers can not be trusted to slow down, people are people, do we really think that without real design there won't be conflict and excessive speeds on smooth wide shared use paths???

Not sure I entirely agree. I think mixed use paths are fine at quite low speeds. The reason why maybe people like us see them differently is because we maybe cycle a bit too quickly. The leisure v useful distinction is not valid then. I don't find cycle paths useful generally because being a 53 year old experienced club cyclist ex racer as well as an advanced motorist I prefer to go along at a decent clip and I'm not scared of traffic.

If I were someone like my wife with very limited cycling experience, a nervous tentative cyclist that may want to use the bike to get around and go to the shops then actually a busy road is pretty useless to her because she just won't cycle on it and actually that's probably a good thing too because she's not up to it. For her and others like her a cycle path even a mixed use one is fine. She'd be quite happy to stop all the time if she felt that was safer.

So, the argument about whether we make the roads safer for roadies like me, or whether we provide dedicated cycle paths for the faster commuters that want to avoid busy roads at rush hour, or whether we have shared use paths for pootlers and kids going to school or the shops, is a rather moot one.

There are lots of differing needs and different standards in cycling and we a dollop of common sense we can use all three. We don't have to pick. And we can all use them. If a roadie wants to take a shortcut down a mixed use path then fine. Just slow the hell down. Like if you took a shortcut from an A road down a residential road in a car.

People doing Strava sections on shared use cycle paths are idiots. I am quite happy to see them done for it and prosecuted if they cause any injuries.

And why the Hell Strava allows it is beyond me.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
28th August 2014 - 13:10

7 Likes

Flag the segment in strava as a shared used path and hey presto it disappears shortly thereafter. Segment hunting on shared use paths is very poor form.

posted by arfa [542 posts]
28th August 2014 - 13:20

3 Likes

^^^ Very well said Oozaveared.

Just as cyclists want motorists to adapt their behaviour to "share the road" then we also need to adapt our behaviour to "share the path" with pedestrians.

Shared use paths often run through parkland areas or have extensive grass verges. It is often easier, safer and quicker to veer off the path and on to the grass to avoid groups of pedestrians completely. Ok, it helps if you're running 28mm+ tyres but then, if you're not racing, why wouldn't you be?

posted by Joeinpoole [308 posts]
28th August 2014 - 13:26

4 Likes

Out of curiosity, does Strava have official guidelines on what should/should not qualify as a segment?

I don't use it, but I have friends who do (as well as reports from numerous people here), and 'Stupid Strava Hunters' seems to be a recurring topic.

I can't see how segments of shared paths, or segments bargaining on traffic lights are doing much for the greater good. Aside from being potentially dangerous, they'd just be downright frustrating, and altogether stupid.

posted by Quince [204 posts]
28th August 2014 - 14:16

0 Likes

Edinburgh cyclist here. Which path in particular are you talking about?

There's one in particular from Hermiston Gait through to Stenhouse that I avoid like the plague - it's segregated use (with a huge white line and painted bikes every 20 feet) but try telling that to all of the pedestrians who happily veer across without looking. Even at low speeds you can come to grief if you're clipped in.

Happy to flag up on Strava, I don't bother hunting when there are pedestrians using the same route. Just not cricket IMO.

Edit: Just found one here.The KOM has an average speed of 50kmph. On a shared path that's lunacy.

Poptart242's picture

posted by Poptart242 [49 posts]
28th August 2014 - 14:55

3 Likes

Thanks Poptart242, Roseburn Craigleith

posted by Maximo [6 posts]
28th August 2014 - 15:33

1 Like

Could be the one here? Right beside a school and plenty of walkers, sounds about right from how I know the area. Never cycled it though.

http://www.strava.com/segments/5175360

Poptart242's picture

posted by Poptart242 [49 posts]
28th August 2014 - 15:43

0 Likes

Another Edinburgh cyclist, and a regular user of that path. I've not seen that kind of dangerous riding - if I did, I would certainly comment, and probably rather more forcefully than you. I do ride pretty quickly on that path - but I always slow down in the presence of pedestrians, leave loads of room and will happily slow down to walking pace to await a suitable overtaking moment rather than squeeze through. I do tend to ride on it outside its 'core' pedestrian hours (westbound at around 0630, eastbound between 1900 and 2100).

However:

Quote:
'I don't have a bell!' (...well get one!).
No. Just no. A bell is strident and impolite. I am equipped with a voice, and a cheery 'Hello' is a much more effective and polite way of warning people of my presence.

adamthekiwi's picture

posted by adamthekiwi [61 posts]
28th August 2014 - 17:32

4 Likes

I use a shared path ,both as a walker and rider. I know i do t hear cyclists approach, so i tend to to call out 'morning' amd so on form a distance, but i also have abell for when people dont hear that....sometimes uis not just volume but the pitch of sound that carries...
And speeding at rush hour time ,around kids is just madness...

Theres always been a starkadder......

posted by robert posts child [32 posts]
28th August 2014 - 18:23

3 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
If a roadie wants to take a shortcut down a mixed use path then fine. Just slow the hell down. Like if you took a shortcut from an A road down a residential road in a car.

People are people, i might slow don you might slow down , but unless the path is designed to prevent speed it will happen. I suppose the only consiliation such that it is, even fit cyclists aren't going to be doing much above 20mph unlike cars,

And yes your point about different needs is valid, but i am of the opinion that mixing cars and bikes and bikes and pedestrians are both mistakes if the intention of the path is to get from a to b*.

*what is the purpose of a residential area? So why is so much effort and land given over to cars at the expense of living???

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1357 posts]
28th August 2014 - 19:21

0 Likes

I use that section from Craiglieth to Roseburn when I'm up in Embra visiting the family. Usually I'm jogging along it rather than cycling, but that's by the by. Shared use paths are fine as long as people are considerate of others. Charging along them is foolish and likely to result in a crash, as is wandering along with no concern and having a dog on an extended leash.

These cycle lanes in Edinburgh are built along the old urban train lines that closed following Dr Beeching's cuts. If it'd have been up to me, that's where the tram network would've been built rather than the hideously expensive strip that was built.

The traffic volumes on those cycle lanes never seems to be particularly high when I use them but then maybe I've grown used to the sort of volumes we see here down in London. One old mate of mine refuses to use the cycle lanes in Edinburgh as he reckons they're too often strewn with broken glass and make users too vulnerable to muggers.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
29th August 2014 - 8:12

3 Likes

Where do the majority of problems on the road network come from? A few selfish idiots. Likewise any problems on these paths.

Some people ride fast and fail to slow down around pedestrians or around blind corners. Some people walk 3 dogs, all off the lead. Some people walk in a group and occupy the full width of the path.

The North Edinburgh network is fantastic and in my experience these problems are relatively few, unless it has got much worse over the 2 years since I moved south. On some stretches (eg Craigleith-5Ways-Leith) the decent surface and gentle downhill gradient can enable 20-25mph+ to be attained at relatively little effort. You can find yourself going much faster than you realise. For the most part the path is wide and sightlines are good and therefore this isn't necessarily a problem as you can see if there is anyone around that might be intimidated by this. It does mean you've got to keep your wits about you and make a conscious effort to slow right down for the corners.

Even going in the opposite, uphill, direction it can be well worth taking a longer route to take in the path as quite aside from the obvious air quality and safety from traffic reasons, journey time is massively better due to avoiding junctions, traffic lights, queues etc.

Don't get me started on the canal path though. Narrow path and high volumes of both cyclist and pedestrian traffic, all those blind bridges, it's not worth trying to do anything other than pootle but unfortunately there are too many self-important types that refuse to do so.

posted by Bhachgen [94 posts]
29th August 2014 - 13:34

3 Likes

Poptart242 wrote:
Edinburgh cyclist here. Which path in particular are you talking about?

There's one in particular from Hermiston Gait through to Stenhouse that I avoid like the plague - it's segregated use (with a huge white line and painted bikes every 20 feet) but try telling that to all of the pedestrians who happily veer across without looking. Even at low speeds you can come to grief if you're clipped in.

Happy to flag up on Strava, I don't bother hunting when there are pedestrians using the same route. Just not cricket IMO.

Edit: Just found one here.The KOM has an average speed of 50kmph. On a shared path that's lunacy.

Agree with that - shared use without segregation usually means that all users are more aware - slap a cycle lane/pedestrian lane boundary and you've got some cyclists going too fast and some pedestrians thinking they don't need to look. That Water of Leith section is quite narrow there especially towards Roseburn. With dog walkers thrown in I don't ride faster than 10 mph. I've got a road bike for going fast elsewhere and don't see the need for speed in town especially not on shared use paths. At least it's safer than it was in the 80s -because if higher usage. Remember getting mugged a few times on these routes. On the way to school.

posted by vanmildert [50 posts]
29th August 2014 - 14:10

4 Likes

If you are on Strava - simply ride all the segments on the shared paths and then flag them as dangerous. If enough do this then they will all get banned - problem solved.

I'm a premium member, and take issue with dumb segs - if they cross a junction, traffic lights, roundabout, go into areas where care is required (schools etc) then they really should not be there. I'm sure that the original authors intend no harm, and may simply be experimenting, but wiser heads need to prevail, and new starts need to be given the chance to fail so they learn the subtle art of a great segment.

posted by Trull [63 posts]
30th August 2014 - 13:34

2 Likes