In a novel move, Edinburgh Council recently conducted a (cheap) 6 weeks trial for changing the layout of a residential road, notorious for rat running.
The nursery got built and traffic using the road has continued to have it’s ‘moments’ . It’s not uncommon to have conflicts due to neither wanting to reverse when they come head to head on the corner with parked cars making 2 way traffic impossible.
The 6 week trial saw parking removed from a section and the road made 1 way with a cycle contraflow lane installed (It is Edinburgh Council policy that all new 1 way road should have a cycle contraflow lane)
Instantly the traffic flow was much reduced, there were no arguments and pedestrians felt safer, whilst people on bikes could continue to travel both ways.
But there’s a catch…
Some people weren’t happy about the loss of parking outside their houses and I have some sympathy with their position. People come to expect that they can park their private property on the street outside their house… Except that isn’t really the case when we already have too many cars on out city streets and someone is already parking there and you have to park further away. One of the reasons houses with driveways command a premium, is that there is no right to park outside your home.
The more reliance we have on motor cars for urban journeys the more space we have to find to store them for the 95%+ of the time they don’t move. We can change this reliance (and reap the benefits of a less polluted environment and healthier population) by having viable alternatives that the *next* person would take to travel more sustainably and this is where it gets interesting…
There is a common suggestion that all could be solved by simply making the road 1-way and reinstating the parking on one side of the road only, but this misses out the crucial cycle contraflow lane. People on bikes could just go another route couldn’t they….
Well actually no. And here’s why…
It is by far the best North-South connected route across the A8 for people on bikes for a mile in each direction and with Corstorphine Hill blocking all Eastbound routes between St John’s and Queensferry Roads anyone North of the St John’s Road has to cross it or head over to Davidson’s Mains if they want to find a safe route to the City Centre.
Featherhall Ave isn’t an official route and it with the exception of an exception for cyclists to the prohibited right turn off St John’s Road into Featherhall Avenue it has no specific cycle infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean it should be given up easily.
Lets look at the alternatives in turn (and apologies for the rough annotations)
The red line is the A8 St John’s Road a busy 4 lane road with heavy traffic – Not the place for anyone but experienced cyclists.
The green line is the Quiet Route 9 – a round-the-houses route that links up old railway lines, paths through parks and quiet residential streets to give an East-West route.
The blue arrows are one way streets with Featherhall Avenue being the further west with the big red circle on it.
Looking at the options further West, we have Drumbrae Roundabout (marked No1 above). 3 Lanes of traffic from 4 different directions all heading for roundabout. Not anybody’s idea of a safe place for cycling.
I’ll come back to no2 Featherhall Ave & jump to Clermiston Road (marked 3 above)
It is possible to come down the hill and do a right and a left into Kirk Loan if you are heading South.
But as Kirk Loan is a 1 way street, heading North you need to use Station Road and do a big dog leg, which sees you waiting unprotected in the middle of the road awaiting the lights to turn up Clermiston. That’s not for the faint-hearted though and once on Clermiston it is a narrow busy road so you inevitably have a car directly behind you as you puff and pant up the hill.
Further East still and you have the Kaimes Road / Traquair Alley option (marked 4 on the diagram). Again a dog leg on the A8 is required with nothing to slow the traffic down or protect you waiting to turn right. The entrance to Traquair Alley (on left of picture below) is down 3 steps, so not ideal for most people on bikes.
Coming back to Featherhall Avenue and Option 2 on the plan.
To cross the A8, you need to do a Left-Right but this time there is a 2 stage pedestrian crossing which gives a large hatched area in the middle of the road to wait, or for the very timid to get off and use the lights. It is also within the 20mph section which is slows traffic speeds down.
North of the A8, Templeland Road is a quiet street, so you can slowly climb the hill with only the occasional car to bother you. The incline is less step than Kaimes or Clermiston Roads and it connects to well to streets further North via Costorphine Bank Drive & Caroline Terrace and West via Craigs Road.
South of the A8, it links up with Ladywell Avenue and Quiet Route 9 on Dovecot Road as well as the 2 local High Schools and further South towards Saughton via Broomhall Avenue.
It also has the above mentioned Nursery, the local primary school and Scout & Brownies’ huts nearby. It is in the heart of our community and for many it is best option for local journeys that could easily be taken by bike, so it is easy to see why it has been included in the Council’s Active Travel Action Plan 2016 refresh as in their Proposed Quiet Routes Network.
If we want more people to cycle (and we desperately do given St John’s Road being the 2nd most polluted street in Scotland) then we cannot allow this important route to be sacrificed or cycling will be solely the domain of the brave.
I will be feeding into the consultation (closing on 2nd November) on that basis and can only hope that the council consider all views and implications of their decision.