Cycle campaigners and local traders give backing to scheme aimed at improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians

A proposed road layout in Edinburgh dubbed ‘the cyclist blender’ has been scrapped in favour a new draft plan that has been welcomed by cycle campaigners as more friendly to those on two wheels.

The plans, aimed at making Leith Walk friendlier for both pedestrians and cyclists, were unveiled by City of Edinburgh Council’s Leith Programme team at a public meeting at the McDonald Road Library on Friday evening.

As we reported last November, urban planning lecturer Dr Caroline Brown said that colleagues had bestowed the nickname on the junction with London Road at the lower end of Leith Walk that would have meant cyclists having to move out of kerbed cycle lanes and into traffic to negotiate roundabouts at either end of a 200 metre stretch of road.

It is anticipated that £5.5 million will come from City of Edinburgh Council and approximately £3 million from the Scottish Government.

Features of the scheme, according to City of Edinburgh Council, include:

• Clear pedestrian priority over 1.8km, including safer crossing points

• Significant sections of uninterrupted cycle space (both dedicated on and off road sections)

• Redesigned, simplified junctions

• Largely segregated cycle provision from Pilrig Street uphill for around 1km to Picardy Place

• Two-way segregated cycle provision from Annandale Street to the Omni centre

• Replacement of London Road roundabout with a signalled junction to significantly enhance conditions for both pedestrians and cyclists

• 1.75m wide cycle lane provision on the road in both directions between Foot of the Walk and Dalmeny Street (into town) Pilrig Street (out of town)

• Narrower road environment with frequent zebra crossings, with a design that supports slower vehicle speeds

• A simplified streetscape more conducive to community activity, trading and business and

• Better connectivity for sustainable forms of travel between the waterfront and the city centre.

Plans are at an early stage, and a Traffic Regulation Order would need to be secured for the scheme to move forward, but it is hoped that work can start next January.

Local cycling campaigners Spokes told The Scotsman that the redesigned scheme included a number features for which it had been lobbying.

The group’s spokesman, Ian Maxwell, commented: “At present it’s a disgrace, with a poor road surface and tricky crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We will give strong support to the council to make this happen.”

Sustrans Scotland also welcomed the new scheme, with director John Lauder saying: “Sustrans Scotland wants to see Leith Walk reach its full potential as a busy, vibrant shopping and residential street.

“Sustrans strongly backs the features of this ‘enhanced design’ for Leith Walk, including the addition of new crossing points, wider pavements and better cycle lane provision. We call on the Scottish Government to consider the council’s ‘enhanced design’ proposal and fully back its implementation.”

The redesign has also met with the approval of local traders, who have had to endure years of disruption due to works for the city’s controversial tram system – originally, that was meant to continue up Leith Walk, but the eastern terminus will now be at Picardy Place.

Keith Hales, vice chairman of the Leith Business Association, aid: "This is a massive improvement on what we thought the designs were going to be and we will be commending the designs to the membership."

Charlotte Encombe, chair of Greener Leith, said the draft plans “will give pedestrians and cyclists a vastly improved public realm and help to revitalise the economy of the area.

“We are also delighted that officers and councillors have included local people's priorities for the street and have made real changes to the design," she said.

"We look forward to collaborating on the detail of the designs as the project moves forwards."

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.