Wednesday 18 June 2014

Segregation and Shared Use Paths

I'm a big fan of segregated paths for bikes. I think the Dutch and the Danes have it right, with roads for cars, paths for bikes, and pavements for pedestrians.

For the most part, Edinburgh Council don't seem to agree, and they tend to build shared-use paths for pedestrians and bikes, or they assume that bikes can mix OK with cars and lorries on the road.

In the Meadows, though, segregation is the norm, and I think it works very well.

But most of the NC10 from Porty to Leith is shared use. For some parts, it's either very wide (like parts of the Prom) or not used much by pedestrians (around Seafield) so it sort of works.

But a small part of it is now segregated. This section is next to St Mary's School on Leith Links, and it was done to reduce conflict with pedestrians.

Normally, I'd really approve of measures like this. But in this case I don't.

Why not?

Well, because the Council have added in chicane barriers that completely prevent you from staying in your segregated lane.

This clearly puts cyclists and pedestrians into conflict as they all try and squeeze through the narrow gap. And when kids are going into or coming out of school, lots of parents gather round the barriers, and lean on them while they chat. 

To make it worse, they've also put down tactile paving for the visually impaired, to advise them which lane to stay in. That's a great idea normally. But, as the image here shows, the tactile paving advises pedestrians to stay left, even though there's a barrier right in front of them, *preventing* them from staying left.

Tactile paving is not pleasant on a bike, but is much worse if you need to turn on it. Normally it is used to advise you which lane to stay in, and that's fine if you're going straight ahead. But on this section of path, you are prevented from staying in the right lane by the barriers, and you have to turn on the tactile paving. In wet weather, this means that your wheels slip out under you into the tactile tracks. 

So, as a result of this new bit of infrastructure, paid for out of the cycling budget, most cyclists just veer out on to the grass and cycle round the whole lot. 

Thanks, Edinburgh Council...


  1. " But, as the image here shows, the tactile paving advises people to stay left, even though there's a barrier right in front of them, *preventing* them from staying left."

    of course, by 'people' here you mean "pedestrians" and partially sighted ones at that..... Madness.

  2. I got this tweet: (I came off my bike at the tactile paving / chicanes last week in the heavy rain; really slow but nothing I could do)— TalkPorty~Portobello (@talkporty) June 18, 2014

  3. I commute often along this route and usually give the chicanes a wide berth unless the path is deserted. Have come off on grass but to no harm. Otherwise, this route has much going for it. Likewise the widening of the pavement along Seafield Road makes for a much better experience and can accomodate dog walkers, pootling cyclists and faster cyclists who might not wish to ride on the main road.

    1. Yup, the rest of the route from there to Porty is great.

  4. Off topic.. But why is it considered so essential that cycle routes are always bounded by chicanes?
    They do that out here in East Lothian on the Pencaitland Railway path meaning if I'm going anywhere on that route with my kiddy trailer I'm forced to use the road.

    1. I think the idea is to a) slow down cyclists and b) stop motorbikes using the paths. But it has the ridiculous side effect of making the paths unusable for families...