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Zig-zag corners on “moronic” Edinburgh cycleway to be replaced to improve cycle safety

Design of Leith Walk route built as part of Trams to Newhaven project have attracted widespread criticism and ridicule

“Zig-zag” corners on a cycleway in Edinburgh that has been branded as “moronic” and “an accident waiting to happen” are to be ripped out and replaced to make it safer for cyclists after a council official accepted that it did not meet the city’s own design standards.

Running along Leith Walk in the north of the Scottish capital, the cycleway was installed as part of public realm enhancements accompanying the extension of the Edinburgh Trams route to Newhaven.

However, from the moment it opened last year the cycleway attracted ridicule and criticism due to the sharp zig-zags at various points along the route, making it difficult and hazardous to ride along.

Hannah Ross, who headed up the £207 million Trams to Newhaven project at City of Edinburgh Council, has now confirmed to its transport committee that changes will be made to the cycleway as part of snagging works associated with the scheme, reports STV News.

She said that the proposed works, which will be carried out over the next five weeks, will see some but not all of the zig-zag corners removed.

“Some of the commentary around the cycle lane is people would like to see it made completely straight,” she told the committee.

“That’s not part of the contractual position because they’ve had to design around loading and parking and bus stops.

“Some of the turns on the cycle path are too acute and they fall outside the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance so those are a defect and will be rectified,” she added.

Other works that will be carried out along the route, which saw its first trams run to Newhaven last week, include additional cycle parking, planters and benches being installed.

“I want to reassure people that the project team remains in place until the contract has been fully delivered,” Ms Ross insisted.

“I know that some elements of the public realm are hugely important to local businesses and local communities we have worked with and within from the beginning of the project and I can understand that people will be worried that the big glamorous bit has been delivered and we all lose interest and disappear off – but we remain a funded project and our job is to make sure it’s delivered in the way we said it would be,” she added.

Last year, the design of the cycleway was widely ridiculed after pictures were posted to social media showing the zig-zag design, with SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes, at the time the city’s transport convenor, insisting that criticism was “premature” while construction of the route was ongoing.

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

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

At the time, the city was administered by an SNP and Labour minority coalition which came to an end following local elections the following month, since when Labour has formed the administration with the support of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

It is unclear whether the issues that Ms Macinnes said had been flagged as defects were ever rectified, or whether these are the subject of the forthcoming improvements that feature on the snagging list.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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23 comments

Avatar
A V Lowe | 2 months ago
0 likes

I've worked in Engineering & Transport for 60 years, starting in local logistics with my bike in 1964, but working with almost every mode of transport and many fields of engineering

It really beggars belief when one sees the incompetence, and lack of communication over the most basic details

Cycles are vehicles (or in law 'carriages' since 1888 (case law since 1878) - cars were carriages in 1903, but since 1835 the law has been clear - carriages must not be driven or ridden on a footway!) Vehicles have wheels and move at higher speeds then pedestrians

Pedestrians are amazingly versatile as they can stop on the spot & spin through 180°, with the fastest acceleration from 0-3 mph on the street. Because of this those planning transport infrastructure can pretty much ignore any requiremnent to actually DESIGN for pedestrians

This often transfers to designing (or lack of it) for cycle infrastucture. A cyclist moving at 6-12 mph (a typical urban speed for TRANsport rather then sport) needs a smooth radius on corners, which recognises the developed kinetic envelope (DKE) for a moving vehicle, to reduce the risk of crashes

However in building cycleroutes for Sustrans (1985-1995) I worked to make sure that we built in the geometry appropriate for the speeds, including horizontal deflections which deter excess speeds  

I'd also highlight the bus stop detail on the 1987 demonstration cycle route project in Bedford, which included taking the cycle route through a bus stop, with some interesting lessons learned

Plenty more detail but I'm no longer working for Sustrans or Cycling UK as a specialist on these issues whilst still monitoring things - notably the appalling stuff in Kingston Surrey, which has already seen some crashes

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sullyvsn | 9 months ago
0 likes

I hope that construction company isn't getting paid a 2nd time to fix the stupid mistakes.  They should eat the extra costs...

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EK Spinner replied to sullyvsn | 9 months ago
2 likes

Chances of it being a construction error are pretty unlikely, this will crap will have been on design drawings, these will have been approved by someone senior, and probably presented to the client prior to construction, so all the costs of removal and refitting will end up back with the council and the construction end of things will simply get more work at previously agreed rates

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marmotte27 replied to EK Spinner | 9 months ago
3 likes

Privatise profits, socialise losses.

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Simon E replied to marmotte27 | 9 months ago
1 like

marmotte27 wrote:

Privatise profits, socialise losses.

Yep. smiley

It has worked a treat for 40+ years (and ramped up in the last 13), why change a winning formula? It's what people voted for, apparently. Bastards.

The same thing has happened at a local cycling facility. The repairs done by a surfacing contractor (at significant cost to taxpayers) were so shoddy it was actually worse than before! Further work done and it's still not fit for purpose. To describe the attitude at Serco as apathy would be waaay too kind.

(by 'winning' I mean for shareholders, fat cats, CEOs, private equity etc. Everyone else is paying through the nose)

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chrisonabike replied to Simon E | 9 months ago
1 like

I think you may be out of date by several hundred years!  Shurely it comes down to "who benefits" and the primary duty of most modern companies is to their shareholders.

The company gets money but its priorities now include serving its shareholders.  The shareholders avoid direct responsibility (e.g. getting sued) in most corporate set-ups if the company does a poor job / rips off others or indeed does something illegal.

Risk has been diffused - but not removed of course.  Excellent if it works.  However someone has to pay / lose out if it all goes wrong...

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Owd Big 'Ead | 10 months ago
4 likes

"Doesn't meet the city's own design standard"

Ffs, why haven't we got a national standard in place yet for such schemes, so that everyone knows the expectations placed upon them.

Even when it's just a useless white line.

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IanGlasgow replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 10 months ago
7 likes

We do.
The problem seems to be that very few of the people who design cycling infra have read them.

England & NI:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycle-infrastructure-design-l...

Scotland:
https://www.transport.gov.scot/publication/cycling-by-design/

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chrisonabike replied to IanGlasgow | 10 months ago
1 like

It's almost always an afterthought. Even now, even though the Cycling by Design overview says:

Key recommendations ... highlighted the need for *consistent, high quality infrastructure* ... Cycling by Design ... should be applied on all schemes delivering:
Cycling infrastructure, New and improved roads, New developments, Any other built environment feature where cycling should be considered.

Those are the right words, but they're no more meaningful than my comments here without ongoing cross-party political support and being mandatory (on pain of not getting money / losing future funding if you deliver cargo-cult rubbish).

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OldRidgeback | 10 months ago
6 likes

Why the cycle lanes were designed that way in the first place escapes me. 

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muhasib replied to OldRidgeback | 10 months ago
6 likes

Perhaps it was designed with an etch-a-sketch?

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ktache replied to muhasib | 10 months ago
2 likes

The diagonals would be more squiggly.

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giff77 replied to OldRidgeback | 10 months ago
15 likes

Probably because the designers were working round drivers rather than fitting the parking round the cycling infra. 

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mattw replied to OldRidgeback | 10 months ago
3 likes

"Shared space" ideas I think, and clueless road engineers wanting to be artistic.

The changes will be meaningless without kerbs on the cycletrack high enough to be detected by guide dogs.

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Mungecrundle | 10 months ago
2 likes

They should install one of these on each corner.

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chrisonabike | 10 months ago
6 likes

Well maybe they'll round off some of them...

Some of this will definitely be due to what the council agreed due to balancing "competing demands" - most notably screams from the bus company, drivers and local businesses.  All have been inconvenienced by works so far.  Local businesses in particular by the various delays and "unforeseen events".  Which do look rather like serial incompetence in project management.  Not to say deficiencies at the design and (civil) engineering levels also.

Trying to see the positives - the good things about this mess are a) they actually added cycle provision and b) have made some corrections (very slowly) to the worst mistakes.  For the UK sadly both those things are remarkable.

That's about it though.  Achieving that took a LOT of pressure over many years from campaign groups and others.

It seems "arms-length tram body" (Edinburgh Trams Limited) in particular has been exactly the wrong length of arm away.   Too close to whichever folks wanted the tram at literally any cost and too far away to hear any guidance or (constructive) criticism.

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eburtthebike | 10 months ago
10 likes

“I want to reassure people that the project team remains in place until the contract has been fully delivered,” Ms Ross insisted.

After the reported multiple design failures of this project team, I'm sure I'm not the only one not to feel reassured.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
9 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

“I want to reassure people that the project team remains in place until the contract has been fully delivered,” Ms Ross insisted.

After the reported multiple design failure of this project, I'm sure I'm not the only one not to feel reassured.

They've threatened to remove all their crayons until they do the job properly

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
9 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

eburtthebike wrote:

“I want to reassure people that the project team remains in place until the contract has been fully delivered,” Ms Ross insisted.

After the reported multiple design failure of this project, I'm sure I'm not the only one not to feel reassured.

They've threatened to remove all their crayons until they do the job properly

Uh oh. What will they have for lunch now?!

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hawkinspeter replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 10 months ago
10 likes

ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Uh oh. What will they have for lunch now?!

They've still got some lodged up their noses

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hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
13 likes

So the earlier criticism was "premature" but now the time's right for the exact same criticism?

How do these people remain employed when they're obviously incompetent?

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ShutTheFrontDawes | 10 months ago
12 likes

“I want to reassure people that the project team remains in place until the contract has been fully delivered,” Ms Ross insisted.

How reassuring that the morons that brought it in are sticking around. What a wonderful way to spend a ton of "active travel" funding on paper but provide no benefit.

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brooksby | 10 months ago
3 likes

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