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“A dab of paint isn’t the solution”: New road markings directing cyclists “towards oncoming traffic” on one-way street “an accident waiting to happen”, say locals

“To be expected to ride into oncoming traffic on a blind bend suggests the council are simply paying lip service to a much wider problem,” one cyclist said

The City of Edinburgh Council has insisted that new road symbols instructing cyclists to ride in both directions on a one-way cobbled street will remain in place for at least 18 months, as part of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood trial scheme in Leith, despite some locals describing the markings as an “accident waiting to happen”.

The new painted bicycle symbols, which first appeared last week on Water Street in Leith, a tight, cobbled street which is one-way for motorists, allow people on bikes to ride on both sides of the road.

The markings, which will be introduced on several roads throughout Edinburgh, the council says, form part of the Leith Connections scheme, a project designed to change the district’s streets with “new community spaces and make it more comfortable for anyone walking, wheeling, or cycling” by providing better and safer active travel connections and introducing a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN).

However, several locals have complained over the past week that the decision to direct people on bikes “towards oncoming traffic” on a blind cobbled bend is “an accident waiting to happen”, while cyclists have argued that simply adding a fresh lick of paint on the road isn’t enough guarantee the safety of riders in the city.

“As a cyclist, the idea of cycling on cobbles isn’t ideal,” Leith-based cyclist Bruce Kinnaird Scott, told Edinburgh Live.

“To be expected to ride into oncoming traffic on a blind bend suggests the council are simply paying lip service to a much wider problem. There are simply too many people and not enough space to adequately manage traffic safely. A dab of paint isn’t the solution.”

Meanwhile, Leith resident Marsha King described the “cycle lane” as “ridiculous” and said it “perfectly sums up the shambolic changes to many of Edinburgh’s roads”.

> Cyclists and motorists equally baffled by new cycle road markings in Gloucester

Another local, Colin Avinou, told the Edinburgh Evening News that the markings were “dangerous” and “could easily cause a serious accident”.

“It’s a bit of a rabbit warren here, as you are coming down the street it’s very narrow,” he said. “The arrows are encouraging cyclists to go the wrong way in a one-way street. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

“There is new signage there, but I still think the last thing drivers coming down that street are expecting is a bike coming up that street. I drive a van and obviously vans are a bit wider than a car, so I know how tight that street is already. If a bike is travelling up that street there is no space for a safe distance to pass if a van is coming down.”

He continued: “Speaking as a cyclist also I can’t believe these new markings. There is no way I would cycle up that road. There is a bit of a tight bend on that street and you can’t see a cyclist coming up towards the bend at the same time, and there is no space to escape a crash.

“I just can’t get my head around it. This could cause a serious injury or even a death.”

> Bike lane meltdown: New road markings prompt Mail to ask, “is there any room left for cars?”

Responding to the concerns, the council’s transport and environment convenor Scott Arthur confirmed that the new markings will remain in place for 18 months as part of the trial scheme.

“These measures allow cyclists to ride in both directions on a street that is one-way for cars. We’re introducing it on a number of roads throughout the city and this particular street is part of the Leith Connections project,” Arthur said.

“It’s a trial, and we’re keen to gather views from cyclists and road users to see how they find it. The painted lines complement other changes we’ve made nearby to reduce traffic flow – which incidentally makes improvements like this possible – and the hope is that it will lead to a better, safer, and more connected cycling experience overall.”

The backlash to the council’s decision to paint a few bicycle symbols in Leith isn’t the first time this year that Edinburgh’s local authority has come in for criticism concerning its new cycling infrastructure.

Leith Walk's new narrow advisory cycle lane (credit - Alan Brown)

> “Is that the unicycle lane?” Cyclists blast new painted cycle lane that’s “narrower than a pair of handlebars”

In February, a new advisory cycle lane on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk – the home of the now-infamous zig-zag bike lane, roundly condemned itself as a “disaster waiting to happen” – became the latest piece of bike infrastructure in the city to be on the receiving end of widespread social media mockery.

The council’s decision to paint the astonishingly slender advisory cycle lane, right beside tram tracks at the foot of Leith Walk, was taken as part of its Trams to Newhaven project, but was variously condemned by local cyclists as a “death trap”, “narrower than a pair of handlebars”, and as a “unicycle lane”.

Leith Walk cycle lane (Allasan Seòras Buc, Twitter)

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

Most notably, the Trams to Newhaven project also featured the creation last year of a controversial northbound protected bike path on Leith Walk, again the subject of months of criticism and ridicule for its non-linear “zig zag” layout, potential for conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, and the installation of large planters on the pavement.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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qwerty360 | 10 months ago

ahh yes.

The narrow cobbled street that is wide enough to have parking bays...

The issue isn't that the street is narrow; It is that the council refuses to lose even one parking space (or plausibly here just move it) for safe cycling infra...


In that top photo, simply removing the parking on the corner would be enough (stop it being blind past larger vehicles) assuming the road is relatively slow and quiet.

Oldfatgit | 10 months ago

It's almost as if the against traffic, on a cobbled, narrow, very busy (peds and cars) cycle route along West Terrace in South Queensferry doesn't exist as a potential learning point
It's bad enough that cobbles are an attention drain - especially to those that don't like traversing them - throw in narrow footpath and heavy use by peds... you *really* want to be having to look out for traffic coming against you.
I've had many verbal insults and exchanges with drivers that simply haven't seen the 'Except Cyclists' sign and do not expect oncoming cyclists.
It is not a calming experience, and I'll often choose to hikeabike up the 20ish% footpath instead (which isn't easy with only one leg that works properly and cleats)

OnYerBike replied to Oldfatgit | 10 months ago
1 like

Meh... I've used the contraflow in South Queensferry and it was OK, if not great. More importantly, West Terrace/High Street is a much busier road for both pedestrians and motor vehicles, with lots of shops etc. along it and (depending on how you approach) a key access route to the large car park on Newhalls Road.

Water Street in Leith is much quieter, with basically no reason for vehicles or pedestrians to be there unless they are residents or visiting a resident. 

giff77 replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
1 like

Not sure whether it's changed but when I lived on Bernard Street folk would drive in from Pilton, Muirhouse and the likes and ditch their car in the warren of streets off Shore and then take the bus up to the city. Though that was 25 years ago. 

Daclu Trelub | 10 months ago

Only in Embra.

Joke of a council.

Rua_taniwha replied to Daclu Trelub | 10 months ago

We have this in Adelaide, Australia, including on a main cycle path outside my house. It gets a fair few cyclists each day. It all seems to work ok as locals know it's part of the bike route 

Car Delenda Est | 10 months ago
1 like

The pictures suggest the cyclists will be expected to cycle in the middle of the road at incoming traffic instead of in a marked strip of gutter.
As my only experience of contraflow cycling involved a truck driving in the marked cycle lane in an apparent game of chicken to punish me for cycling the wrong way I remain skeptical.

OnYerBike | 10 months ago

It's not often I says this, but I (largely) agree with the council. The roads around there are very quiet and speeds are slow anyway (due to the setts and the narrowness) so I don't see any problem. And the benefit to cyclists is that they can follow more direct and more intuitive routes, and/or avoid much busier neighbouring streets. 

That said, I also agree that there is a wider problem and plenty more to be done to properly solve it!

HoldingOn | 10 months ago

Visibility would be much improved on that one-way street if you remove those parked cars...

hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
1 like

We need Lynn Faulds Wood now more than ever

chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
1 like

Just maybe not for this bit so much.  The vague overall plan for active travel in Edinburgh (it's the network people), the wiggly Leith Walk paths, the tram line crossing points (lots of injuries and one two fatalities) - in fact the whole tram project could use someone like her looking at "competence and value for public money"...

And - without wishing to diminish the efforts of other places in Scotland - Edinburgh's one of the better centres for active travel support...

Mungecrundle | 10 months ago

If City of Edinburgh Council made mousetraps.

HarrogateSpa | 10 months ago

Whenever any cycle infra of any kind is proposed anywhere, someone will call it "an accident waiting to happen". Let's call that Raleigh's Law.

Contraflow cycling isn't going to make a transformative difference on its own, but as part of a network it can be useful. And we know that contraflow cycling does not increase crash rates.

Capt Sisko replied to HarrogateSpa | 10 months ago
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I agree that contraflow systems can be useful, but in this instance, I do think this scheme falls into the 'Bloody Dangerous' category. Put it this way, would you be happy to ride around that sharp corner, on the wrong side of the road, having to pull out to pass parked cars (which of course you've got to give a wide enough berth to avoid being doored) knowing there's possibilty two tonnes of car driven by myopic pensioner or white van man on a mission likely to smack into head on. No, I wouldn't either.

The main photo is taken from the edge of the pavement. Just imagine what the visibility is like for the driver of a RHD car.

OnYerBike replied to Capt Sisko | 10 months ago

It's really not a "sharp corner". Visibility is fine for the speed anyone is likely to be travelling at, even in the (unlikely) even that you do happen to encounter someone right on the bend. 

bobbinogs | 10 months ago

I suspect that in places like Holland and Denmark they view this kind of stuff like it is from the Daily Mash, so ludicrous it simply couldn't be true.  Humorous for them, so utterly depressing for UK readers.

chrisonabike replied to bobbinogs | 10 months ago
1 like

Most UK stuff would have them snorting out their Oranjeboom I'd agree.  However I think this one actually falls into the "fairly unremarkable in NL" category.

The crucial difference there is this would be part of an area which sees very little traffic.  Where speeds would be signed much lower than the UK and mostly adhered to.  Drivers would expect cyclists and possibly pedestrians to be proceeding in the road in both directions.  The area would be designed so there was little attraction to use it as a cut-through for motor vehicles.

I know this bit of road and I can't truly say I'd relish cycling counter to the flow.  as OnYerBike say it is much quieter than the main streets though...

Rather than the paint here I hope they'd do something about the road surface.  Edinburgh's setts cause your eyes to vibrate at any reasonable speed and are normally accompanied by some macro-lumpiness due to subsidence.

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