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‘Moronic’: Edinburgh Council to make changes to bizarre zig-zag cycle lane after social media backlash

SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes says criticism of the path, which features sharp bends and obstacles such as lampposts, is “premature” as construction is still ongoing

The City of Edinburgh Council’s transport convenor has confirmed that changes will be made to a controversial new bike path in the city.

The northbound Leith Walk protected cycle lane, which is currently under construction as part of the council’s Trams to Newhaven project, has been heavily criticised on social media for its non-linear layout, featuring frequent sharp bends as the path winds its way around parking bays and other obstacles. 

Locals have also shared images online of lampposts situated right in the middle of the path, despite the bends, while others have criticised the poorly-placed utility covers and lack of space afforded to pedestrians.

David Hunter, the convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh, criticised the scheme and accused the council of failing to prioritise those on foot.

“Leith Walk is not only one of the busiest pedestrian routes in the city, it's also an important destination in its own right for thousands of people who live locally,” he told the Edinburgh Evening News

“So it is incredibly disappointing to see some of the pavements along the tram route are less than two metres wide, failing to meet even the council's own ‘absolute minimum’ width standards.

“Apart from anything else, this will impact cyclists as inevitably pedestrians will continually walk in the cycle way as there's barely room for two people to pass on the pavement.

“It is only fair to say that some parts of the tram route, like the new London Road junction and parts of Constitution Street, will be hugely improved for people on foot. But what should have been an opportunity to introduce a real quality walking environment has been compromised by failing to put pedestrians first.”

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Teresa Perchard, the Scottish Conservative candidate for Leith at the upcoming local elections, has described the Leith Walk path as “an accident waiting to happen”.

She said: “The council has only had 17 years to get this right and what they have produced is an utter dog's breakfast which pleases no-one and actually makes Leith Walk more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

“Both the transport convenor and the [Lothian cycling campaign] Spokes lobbyists wanted these changes and this is the perfect illustration of what happens when bias, arrogance and self-interest drive public projects.

“If you'd asked the transport department to come up with the worst possible scheme for Leith Walk, they couldn't have done a better job. Once again, the tram project has made Edinburgh a national laughing stock.”

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The council’s transport convenor Lesley Macinnes has defended the project and confirmed that changes will be made to the path’s layout before it is completed. The SNP councillor also stressed that the path is not yet open to cyclists and claimed that some of the critical online commentary “has been premature”.

“No-one is happy with the current situation but this is a far from finished part of the overall project,” she said. “There are clear issues in how the design has been applied during construction and these have been raised as defects.”

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In a series of tweets outlining the agreed alterations, Macinnes said that the ‘taper’ forming the current cycle path line will be changed to meet the council’s street design guidance, flattening out the existing zig-zag route, which she hopes will “remove some of the concerns about safe cycling”. 

A new coloured surface will be laid, both as marked improvement on the current surface and to help visually delineate the cycle and footpaths, while a team is also investigating the possibility of installing different levels for pedestrians and cyclists.

Macinnes also confirmed that the poorly positioned lampposts “provide lighting for the area during construction” and “will be removed as soon as it is possible to attach the lighting to the overhead position as planned”.

The councillor said that she expects these issues to be resolved “wherever possible” by the time the cycle lane is opened, which is currently scheduled for July.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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