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Spokes Autumn Public Meeting

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  1. chdot

    Thursday 19 November

    Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

    Meeting begins 7.30pm (Doors open 6.45 for coffee, stalls, chat)


    Chaired by BBC presenter Lesley Riddoch


    Peter Hawkins - the Spokes perspective
    Graham Bell, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
    Ian Craig, Managing Director, Lothian Buses
    City of Edinburgh Council, speaker to be confirmed

    followed by questions to the speakers

    Signed copies of Lesley Riddoch's cycling book will be on sale - Riddoch on the Outer Hebrides.

    More information:

    jackie.howlett3[AT] 0131 664 0526

    Posted 14 years ago #
  2. wish I could go..would love t meet ms. riddoch...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  3. Arellcat

    I can't go either! :-(

    Yes are playing the Usher Hall the same evening. :-D

    But the whole Princes St thing is important, because Queen St is just too full of car drivers trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible, and George St is too full of buses going from A to B to C to D, two-abreast. I wouldn't mind so much if there was an easier way to get from Haymarket to Charlotte Square that didn't involve all the mucking around along Shandwick Place.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  4. chdot


    there's a dilemma

    Posted 14 years ago #
  5. LaidBack

    I'm going.

    Should be good turnout. D

    PS - Arellcat

    'Yes are playing the Usher Hall the same evening.'

    According to former member Bill Bruford's excellent book he had to leave Yes as he got fed up waiting for Chris Squire who was always late...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  6. LaidBack

    Was a good fairly packed meeting. Lesley Riddoch did her best to hack through to the real meaning of what is likely (not?) to happen on Princes St.

    From what I understand it wil be very much 'business as usual' when the street re-opens on 29th Nov. Cyclists will return to their strip at pavement side. When overtaking buses cyclists may/will go on the tram tracks. Buses wil do likewise as they 'leapfrog' as before. There will be fewer stops. Trams will be every 5 mins with plenty of buses between.
    This could be one of the more 'technical' streets to cycle in Europe.
    Of course I suspect the agenda is to wean or frighten cyclists off the street. If by some quirk of fate we had Kobenhavn levels of cycling then none of the existing provision could work...

    • Peter Hawkins did excellent presentation of what we should have on Princes St. At the Spokes meeting on 2005 a two way cycle way on south side was suggested (by me). This would have been isolated from most traffic lights and the inevitable chaos of whether it would be just trams, or trams and buses or trams buses and taxis.

    • Marshall Poulton spoke for CEC and is committed to increasing cycle levels to 15% of journeys (but not just yet?). He said he was looking at five options for street - none of these will impact on the physical structure of pavements, road and tracks that is being finished at moment.

    • Graham Bell pointed out that there is no 'them' only 'us'. Some retailers were on our side and a fair amount of business owners cycle too. Common view from retailers was that buses bring business. For some reason their presence hadn't increased sales on George St - even though it was said the street was thriving with luxury brands much in evidence. He spoke of cafes coming to pavements of Princes St but admitted that wall to wall buses and trams was unlikely to attract this.

    • Ian Craig from Lothian Buses made a stout case for 'buses with everything'. "We have no God given right to be on Prices St but..." He did get good hearing though as buses will remain as 85% of transport even after trams come.

    There are five options of bus (+bike?) management being looked at. eg buses going east on George St and West only on Princes St. Lots of these would make interchange complex on public transport. Many Spokes members are sympathetic to this, so no easy answers.
    The idea of making George St a cycle corridor got some support.

    Loads of people asked questions and meeting over ran!


    Posted 14 years ago #
  7. chdot

    I was only there for the last half hour. So it's good to read your report (LaidBack).

    I only went to meet someone 'afterwards' - but as you say, it overran.

    The realities are that it's all too late.

    Too many bad decisions have been taken over many years.

    The tramline currently being 'delivered' is not the route that should have been a priority in public transport terms. This is one of the reasons the previous boss of Lothian Bosses took early retirement.

    Whether or not the the tram will be 'good' remains to be seen - assess that in a couple of years after it starts running. When that is is still unknown - as, apparently, is the exact location of the final stop 'near' the airport!

    The original design concept was that cycling wouldn't be allowed on Princes Street. Apart from being a bad idea in a city where a reasonable number (by UK standards) of people already cycled, there would be no chance that the police would be willing to enforce it.

    Another original notion was that there would be no buses on Princes Street. The idea was that most buses would terminate at Haymarket and the East End (somewhere).

    People would be expected to transfer to the tram - which at one time wasn't even meant to have a stop in Princes Street!

    There's a lot wrong with the ideas behind the tram and the delivery process is a shambles. It may well be (as people repeated last night) that current hostility will turn to a call for more routes as has happened in some other cities. Perhaps, but it would have better not to have so comprehensively alienated so many people in the first place - residents, traders, shoppers, drivers and cyclists.

    The latter are of course something of a minority - but a vocal one and (in Edinburgh) fairly well organised. But in spite of the best efforts of Spokes, its members and others, messages haven't got through.

    The Council now has a policy of 15% of journeys by 2020. But this clearly doesn't include Princes Street. Perhaps it shouldn't, but it COULD have done - but not with prevailing systems and mindsets.

    Lesley Riddoch's frustration as Chair was constantly audible. Her final words were a plea for some vision, pointing out that without David Begg stubbornly insisting on innovation like Greenways things would be even worse!

    There can be little doubt that (for cyclists) Princes Street with trams will be perceived to be more dangerous than (pre tramline) Princes Street with buses.

    One measure of the scale of the 'business as usual' (plus trams) reality is that the Lothian Bus fleet is expected to go down from 519 to about 500 - with 80% still going along Princes Street.

    From the end of this month it will (if the work is finished...) be possible to experience cycling along Princes Street again - with added tram tracks.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  8. chdot

  9. LaidBack

    Sorry Chris - missed catching up. Too busy trying to get Lesley to buy a copy of Velo Vision!

    I ended up buying her Riddoch on the Hebrides book which is very good.

    Was a shame that Marshall couldn't stay. As he was reliant on the Scottish version of public transport he had to leave early to get train.

    So much easier with your own private transport - although Cumbernauld is a long way to cycle.

    Lesley challenged Marshall to have a wee cycle around the city. Of course he can walk to work but it would be worth his while doing a check of the central zone on two wheels to find out more. The council does have two 'fleet' Pashleys in the car park.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  10. PS

    Strikes me that the full Princes Street pedestrianisation bird has flown.

    That said, it was always a long shot as for the bus network to work as it does, it needs a central East-West thoroughfare - which realistically means either Princes Street or George Street. Edinburgh does not have the large grid system of Glasgow that allows for mass pedestrianisation of all the major shopping streets and continued road use in the same area.

    Sticking all the buses through Gerorge Street may have “worked” as a temporary measure, but it doesn’t look like a long-term fix. I work in George Street and the past few months have seen a real deterioration in the quality of what should be a real urban set piece. It cannot handle the sheer volume of buses, parked cars and bus passengers queuing. Princes Street seems physically better suited to that role, especially with the opportunity for interchange with the tram.

    By the end of last night’s session, I felt that the discussion had become pretty blinkered. Lesley Riddoch’s questioning (admittedly sticking closely to the title of the evening – “The future of Princes Street” – and driven by Ian Craig’s tram mock-up photo of the tram on Princes Street and the resulting lack of cycle space) kept us from discussing the bigger picture – the city centre is more than just Princes Street. We need a holistic solution. Marshall Poulton might have made that point had he still been present as that is what he is tasked with.

    For my money, a pedestrianised George Street, centred around the Assembly Rooms, would be an impressive public space. It would make the centre of the original New Town pedestrianised, so you could walk from the shops on both sides of George Street (or even from the new St James Centre and Harvey Nichols) to the shops on the north side of Prices Street, without fear of traffic. It would also offer that East-West bike corridor.

    The one sticking point I see on that from the retailer’s point of view is the loss of parking space. But now is the time, with the introduction of the tram, park and ride etc, to push for that.

    The situation is not ideal, and we’re not at an ideal starting point for the ped/cycle friendly vision of the city that a lot of us have, but I think we need to pragmatic here and be prepared to compromise. I got the impression that to some it was “Princes Street or nothing”, but I can’t quite see why. For castle views with peace and quiet? You can get that from Princes Street Gardens. For a East-West segregated cycle corridor? You could get that from a pedestrianised George Street. For a high quality pedestrianised public space? Pedestrianise George Street...

    We need to watch the CEC planning space, keep our voices heard and be constructive. CEC have signed up to some pretty fierce targets – we should try to help them achieve them. Marshall Poulton suggested there may be some sort of consultation on the options in the Spring. Let’s keep in touch with him and keep an eye out for that.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  11. chdot


    It was perhaps unfortunate that the meeting was intended to be 'just' about Princes Street.

    As you say, it clearly should be about the whole city centre.

    To some extend cyclists (including me) are as bad as motorists in the sense of wanting convient through routes and being able to 'park anywhere'.

    That said, bikes - moving or parked - take up much less room.

    From a 'we want more people to cycle, like Copenhagen' point of view, the issue is how to encourage people it's 'safe to cycle'.

    The plans for Princes Street don't help - neither does the state of Lothian Road and The Bridges.

    There's a lot to be said for making George Street really cycle/pedestrian friendly.

    Part of that would be dealing with the idea that seems to survive in some heads that 'shoppers come by car'. Perhaps it's time for city centre shops to have a 'buy from us and we'll deliver free' promotion/service. There are plenty of business that already do home deliveries. Just needs a bit more co-operation.

    Maybe that's what the city centre management could do.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  12. chdot

    This is the 'artist's impression' that was onscreen at the end of the meeting causing a lot of discussion (led by Leslie Riddoch) about how cyclists would be expected to deal with buses - particularly when stopping/stopped at bus stops - and the tram tracks.

    (Photomontage from

    Whether the lack of buses is 'PR spin', 'artistic licence', wishful thinking or an indication that the original intention was a bus-free Princes Street is an open question.

    Spokes has sent detailed comments on the tram 'experience' in Edinburgh to the All Party Light Rail Group Inquiry, including the comments -

    "We shouldn't have had to make a fuss - the council and promoters should have been thinking about cyclist integration from day 1, on all issues, especially onroad integration - designing out potential problems AND using the project to enhance cycling conditions. It is absolutely ridiculous for the politicians and the professionals to leave it up to volunteers to force the issue in order for it to be looked at in real detail. There is no doubt that without our ongoing pressure, tram/cycle interaction would have been significantly less satisfactory."

    Posted 14 years ago #
  13. LaidBack

    I have heard that Lesley's column in the Scotsman tomorrow will be worth reading for those of a cycling persuasion...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  14. chdot

    @ LaidBack

    Let's hope it's not hidden in the 'premium content' section- we'll have to buy a paper copy!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  15. Arellcat

    A Princes Street free of buses and taxis and cars would be quite wonderful. But look at all that empty tarmac, not making any money for the Council!

    When I was in Toronto, I was struck by how efficient the tram system was:

    i) trams stopped in the middle of the road, and you crossed the road to board them. This was simply how it worked, and car drivers knew that and stopped politely. No-one got hot and bothered (though for half the year, no-one in Toronto gets hot), and no-one got run over. The trams were also big enough - single and twin carriage - that not even a truck driver would mess with them.

    ii) there didn't seem to be many buses. Toronto has two underground systems, one with electric trains, and one of corridors and shopping malls for pedestrians. This also worked brilliantly, especially in bad weather.

    iii) cyclists seemed to coexist with trams and cars quite easily - and I was no exception. Trams weren't so frequent that they were all over the place, and you could quite easily ride between the rails. When you crossed them, sure, you took care, but it wasn't the slippy slidey experience I'd expected.

    iv) car drivers knew that if they used the same routes that the trams did, they would get stuck in jams. So there was much more freedom. But Toronto also has a grid system like Glasgow, but much bigger, and is nothing like Edinburgh with narrow winding streets and hills.

    This is why a big tram network such as we had before 1950 is incompatible with modern numbers of private cars. Edinburgh simply doesn't have the space. Add dedicated tram routes, and to avoid horrible congestion cars must inevitably be displaced, with the drivers and passengers moving onto trams or buses or two wheels.

    But in a city where the majority of people - and even the newspaper - are pro-car, how do you make sure trams do not get blocked in by those whose Mercedes or BMW is more important? By creating priority measures for trams only, and with no complimentary measures, you also deprioritise cyclists and motorbikes: those who take up the least road space.

    The trams project therefore has to be a success in taking cars off the road.

    (this might equally have been better posted in my Trams thread...which in my enthusiasm I forgot about)

    Posted 14 years ago #
  16. chdot


    Of people over 17?

    Majority of 'people who write to newspapers'? Possibly.

    Even the trams promoters in the "business case" never claimed that a significant proportion of the travelling public would use the tram - because it doesn't go to many places.

    More traveller miles will be by bike.

    The trams will only make a significant difference if cars are actively discouraged from driving into the city centre. Does anyone 'in charge' dare to propose that?

    Posted 14 years ago #
  17. chdot

    Time for straight talking on capital's great traffic tangle

    Published Date: 23 November 2009
    By Lesley Riddoch

    Premium Article !

    To read this article in full you must have registered and have a Premium Content Subscription with the The Scotsman site.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  18. LaidBack

    I just bought the paper - avoids doing the registration stuff...

    Good article.

    I know there are places where trams, buses and bikes share.

    These are places though where cycling is maybe more commonplace (and trams are slower?).

    If you imagine a limited stop bus going along Princes St every five minutes then not attractive to newcomers.
    These are the people we'll need to ge to the 15% of journeys by bike target.

    Yes there is a 20mph limit but I think the trams will be tempted to go on outer edge of that.

    Answer is/was to make two lane seperated bike lane on south side up to Mound at least. This avoids several sets of traffic lights.

    Not sure if there is room now...

    I wonder if we could have a bike corridor on Princes St Gardens to Kings Stables Road? Can go around the hardly used top path that runs beside Mound.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  19. LaidBack

    The street is going to feature a cavalcade of (art) cars to mark it's triumphant re-opening.

    "Created by artists from across the country, the
    vehicles will be pushed, pedalled and driven from the Royal Mile to St Andrew Square. The line-up features an ice palace, a dragon car, a fishmobile and other eccentric creations. The finale will be a stage show in St Andrew Square Gardens."

    Surely should have been tram-related?!

    You can now get an idea of how the street will be - some cobbled sections around tram tracks towards the Mound junction.
    Look carefully for the bike markings at the Frederick St Junction. Nice little cut in with a mini bike painted on it.

    It's back to the future!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  20. LaidBack

    Someone even wrote a letter about it...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  21. chdot

    Someone even wrote a great letter.

    Need some more comments to counteract the nonsense ones.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  22. Oh the nonsense hasn't even begun properly - the great British/Edinburgh public will have their say...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  23. chdot

    Suspect most won't find the 'letters page', but yes there are some predictably narrow minded pro-car anti-bike sentiments out there.

    Anyone posted about cycling on pavements yet??

    Posted 14 years ago #
  24. LaidBack

    Princes St has a very broad pavement...

    There's also one metre of space between the tram tracks. A veritable cycle superhighway!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  25. chdot


    Good to accentuate the positive.

    Think it's even more than a metre.

    The only time I have ever cycled on a tram route was in Sheffield, where they have tram stops and road narrows. Spent most of the time looking over my shoulder...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  26. chdot


    Good to accentuate the positive.

    Think it's even more than a metre.

    The only time I have ever cycled on a tram route was in Sheffield, where they have tram stops and the road narrows. Spent most of the time looking over my shoulder...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  27. Kim

    So far the comments are looking surprisingly positive, so far...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  28. Kirst

    They must all be frothing about something else somewhere else and missed it!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  29. chdot


    "So far the comments are looking surprisingly positive, so far..."

    Well there have only been 9 and 3 of them are from posters here! (As is the letter...)


    "They must all be frothing about something else somewhere else and missed it!"

    Indeed HERE - (170 comments so far).

    Posted 14 years ago #
  30. Kirst

    Oh noes! I tried not to respond, but I couldn't help it. *flagellates self in penance*

    Posted 14 years ago #

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