CityCyclingEdinburgh Forum » Infrastructure

Princes Street/Central Edinburgh redesign options

(119 posts)

  1. PS

    I originally posted this in the Spokes Autumn Public Meeting discussion but, as Chris pointed out, it's worth starting a thread spefically on this topic while we wait for CEC/Marshall Poulton to confirm consultation details in the Spring.

    Is Princes St like a Talisman?

    I think that's the key question here. In an ideal world it could be great to have a pedestrianised Princes Street and George Street, for that matter, but I don't see Princes Street as something to die in a ditch for, so long as a dedicated E-W cycleway can be secured.

    Realistically, the geography of central Edinburgh means that there needs to be through routes for:
    1) buses
    2) cycles
    3) cars etc
    And that's not to mention delivery lorries, bin lorries etc.

    Cars etc. are on Queen Street, and that seems to work. Buses wouldn't be great here as it's not near the shops and it appears that the average pedestrian is not prepared to walk two blocks to get to a shop. And that's without considering those who are unable to walk that far. The down side of all the cars is it's not the nicest street to cycle along, but that should not be a problem if we have better cycling provision on either George or Princes Street, and we've always got Heriot Row as a quieter alternative down the hill.

    That leaves Princes Street or George Street for buses. Personally, I think the width of George Street and its buildings and junctions mean that it is not a good street for buses. It's not been a geat experience walking in George Street these past few months while the bus diversion has been in effect. Also, interchange of bus passengers with the tram will be greatly facilitated by having them on the same street (ie Princes Street). So that looks like Princes Street for buses.

    Which leaves cycles on George Street. Ideally, this should be a pedestrianised public space, with all the quality of life benefits that come with that, with demarcated cycle lane. However, I can see that the issue with that is parking spaces. Perhaps this could be overcome by pushing Park & Ride and the tram, or provision elsewhere of more parking spaces (the New St James Centre perhaps?). Or perhaps a compromise could be reached in pedestrianising some, but not all of the blocks of George Street, with the option of extended the ped zone either temporarily or permanently as required.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  2. chdot


    Too sensible...

    This is Edinburgh - culturally cautious.

    The upside is we don't have to live with the urban ring road proposals that were around in the sixties and seventies.

    These included a road on stilts through The Meadows, another road ON Rocheid Path and a tunnel through Calton Hill.

    The downside is continuous 'skirmishes' between those who want Edinburgh to be more like various European cities (maybe including London) and those who still plan as though there is a separate 'class' of people called motorists who must be regarded as more important than others.

    Sometimes 'cyclists' may appear too pushy and narrow-minded - in the sense that they are arguing on behalf of a minority - regarded by some as arrogant/stupid/lawless/etc.

    But the reality is a bit different. Even 'motorists' tend to be pedestrians, sometimes cyclists and occasionally bus users - if not they will have parents/children/friends who walk/cycle/travel by bus.

    Surveys have found that there is a, minority, hard core of car drivers who won't be tempted to try anything different - probably not even a tram.

    But most people want more, realistic, choices. These usually include roads where they feel 'safe'.

    This can be done by reducing traffic speeds, reducing traffic volumes, creating 'sensible' cycle lanes - ones which don't just stop, or get parked on.

    Of course much of this is what the council in Edinburgh has been trying to do for the last 20 years or so. With mixed degrees of success, and a real lack of 'ability' to maintain what they do provide.

    (check Marchmont Road on YouTube)

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    The problem is that there are always officials who (seem to) understand the needs of car users, but less so other people.

    In addition officials and politicians have to second guess the editorial line of the Evening News which likes taking an anti-council view. That's it's job(?) Opposition politicians are also often against things on party-line principle.

    What is really needed is more people who just want the city to be a nicer place to live/walk/cycle/shop/be/etc.

    There needs to be a bit more noise from civic groups, pedestrian organisations, community councils, schools, concerned citizens' etc. These should not just hide behind the cyclists - particularly the immensely tenacious Spokes.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  3. chdot

    Princes Street didn't re-open as promised at 5.00 last night. The pre-Christmas Art Parade was eventually allowed through half an hour late. It contained a tricycle train and an interesting quadbike (see video below).

    One of the first new things to be seen is the Cyclists Dismount sign at the foot of The Mound. Not really something you expect to see in a city signed up for having 15% of journeys by bike by 2020.

    Seems the reason is that as turning left into Princes Street is no longer allowed, the sign is intended to stop people cycling on the pavement - though it could be interpreted as meaning you have to push your bike across Princes Street!

    (Government guidance on cycle infrastructure design (LTN 2/08) discourages the use of the CYCLISTS DISMOUNT sign, stating: "If it looks like the sign might be needed, practitioners should first check to see whether the scheme design could not first be modified to make its use unnecessary.")

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    Posted 14 years ago #
  4. gembo

    The Princes St for bus/tram, Queen St for cars and George St for pedestrians/cyclists is a good idea (with some give and take e.g. for the short stay parking etc). Probably too obvious for the politicians. I heard somewhere that the citizens of Edinburgh are more attached to their cars than any other race of homo sapiens (see also the evidence (?) of the congestion charge referendum). I guess the trick is to make the alternatives to car use more attractive but it depends what percentage of people will never give up driving their car regardless of how sweet the tram is or how pleasurable it is to cycle. Of course as less cars use the city it becomes more pleasurable to drive again. Sorry for going round in circles here. Just wanted to endorse the Princes St Bus/Tram George St Ped+Bike Queen St Car solution

    Posted 14 years ago #
  5. Kim

    Cyclists Dismount! Oh dear we are going backwards again...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  6. I completely forgot to ride along Princes Street this morning - must make amends going home in the evening...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  7. blmweb

    me too anth - not quite on my route, but a wee detour just for the novelty I think :)

    Posted 14 years ago #
  8. Yay! Princes Street has been re-opened. But caveated by a big 'hmmmmm' with regard to cycling provision.

    I was never a fan of the old cycle lane, which kept you at the left, having buses pulling in front of you to disgorge at the bus stops also located there. I could never really understand why they didn't put a lane against the central dividing reservation.

    Of course that's not really possible now because the tram lines are there. And that might explain why the re-opened street has NO cycle lanes. Yep, the main straight wide busy commuter route road in the city has no cycling provision. Actually, I tell a lie, there are a few ASLs with cycle reservoirs. So it doesn't appear that they ran out of time to put in the lanes. Equally strangely one (just one) of the reservoirs is tarmacced in red (which I was under the impression they'd decided to stop doing, the red being a threat to World Heritage status in a way that the new giant pillars in the centre of the street for the tram power lines aren't...).

    Another very odd bit of street furniture is found at the bottom of the Mound as you're heading to cross Princes Street. You're no longer allowed to turn left onto the street, which isn't really the odd thing. Rather it's the 'Cyclists Dismount' sign, just before you get to another ASL/cycle reservoir. The implication is that you're not allowed to ride you bike on Princes Street at all, even to go across it, and must walk. But then why the reservoir? It's just... Out of place...

    And then there's the short section of Princes Street west of the National Gallery on which the inside lane in both directions has been cobbled. Deliberately so given they weren't there before. It's something of a 'feature'. So in overtaking stationary buses (of which there are many, as anyone who has travelled on Princes Street in rush hour will know) not only do you have to make sure that your wheels don't get trapped in the lines themselves (the gap is easily wide enough for a road bike tyre) but you'll find yourself on some rather uneven looking cobbles. It should make for some excitement, especially in the wet.

    As before I tihnk I'll just keep avoiding riding on Princes Street, whcih may be the intention (as with Sir Harry Lauder Road the interchanges were deliberately engineered to discourage cycling (got that from the horse's mouth) rather than going down the more difficult route of a traffic order such as exists for the bypass).

    I realise this will all sound like cycling whingeing, but if you take into account the council promising on numerous occasions to turn Edinburgh into a 'model cycling city' and signing up to remarkably high aspirations for cycle use by 2020, those nice words never seem to match up on the ground. And this is just one more example.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  9. chdot

    A@W -

    "And then there's the short section of Princes Street west of the National Gallery on which the inside lane in both directions has been cobbled."

    I think you'll find that's THE tram stop.

    Not designed with bikes in mind....

    Posted 14 years ago #
  10. Yebbut, the cobbles are under the tram, so it's not where people are going to be standing - just indicating where the stop is. It'll still be possible (and in many cases when buses are stopped on the outside (heading east there is a bus stop actually at this section) completely necessary) to have to ride over the cobbles.

    And just the one stop? For the whole of Princes Street? Seriously?

    Someone has suggested to me making an FoI request for the risk assessment carried out to place cobbles where cyclists might be riding. >:)

    Posted 14 years ago #
  11. chdot

    "And just the one stop? For the whole of Princes Street? Seriously?"

    er yes.....

    Posted 14 years ago #
  12. DdF


    Spokes is lobbying for a cycle exemption to the left-turn ban at the foot of the Mound - and at the end of Lothian Road and of Dalry Road. These are being looked at by the relevant council officials.

    These and many many other rules covering the road system around the tram throughout its entire onroad route will be governed by the traffic regulation orders [TROs] which are now available online [see 'Other Local News' on page 5 of Spokes Bulletin 105. As explained there, although the TROs are now available online, the exhibitions and official period for comments/objections are currently expected to be in February.

    We hope lots of people will be commenting at the time - there are officials in the council who understand cycling issues, others who are less keen or just uninterested (e.g. see next para), and the greater the weight of helpful comments the more things are likely to go our way. It is incredibly important that there are lots of comments on things like this - one submission from an organisation such as Spokes is far less effective than if lots of individuals are also raising the issue.

    It's no surprise that the Princes St cycle lanes have gone - this has been known for a good couple of years. We have also fought (unsucessfully) against having the central island - occupying a huge amount of the precious road width, and almost unheard of in other tram systems, where the trams usually run adjacent to each other. A big part of the blame goes to the 'Streetscape' enthusiasts within the council - see for example the Spokes comments on the recent Public Realm Strategy Consultation.

    Please remember that the current Princes St layout may change drastically in the future, once the trams are running. A council consultation is expected in early 2010. We understand that the Spokes proposal of a European-style cycleroute on one side of the trams (and with no buses/taxis) - as in the page 1 article of Spokes 104 - is one of the options likely to be in the consultation.

    Spokes strongly prefers this over the George St cycleroute option, particularly as a through route. George St may seem better at the moment, but we are thinking about a potentially completely redesigned Princes Street. George St has inbuilt cycling problems of right/left/right/left etc to get in and out of it at each end, plus several roads crossing it, whereas a decent Princes St cycleroute would be more or less straight through.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  13. DdF

    Just to clarify my final para above, in view of an email received... When I said Spokes is thinking about a 'completely redesigned' Princes St, I was meaning to refer only to the outcome of the forthcoming consultation (currently expected early 2010) which we are told will include some fairly drastic options - including moving all buses out, or having buses only on one side (one-way), both these options giving much more potential for pedestrian and cyclist improvements. The full set of currently-expected options was outlined by the Council speaker, Marshall Poulton, at the recent Spokes public meeting, a report of which will be in the next issue of Spokesworker on our website fairly soon. Also, note that any decisions following the consultation would probably only take effect once the trams are running - currently thought to be 2012.

    And to avoid any other possible confusion! - this consultation on the future of Princes Street is quite separate to the consultation and legal process for the TROs (road orders) mentioned above, some or all of which could take effect before the trams are running. And it looks like both consultations may happen at the same sort of time!!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  14. cb

    I cycled west down Princes St last night from Waverly Bridge to Lothian Road. Although it was about 18:45 the road was very quite so perhaps I didn't get a very realistic experience of what it could be like, however it did feel to me like there was a fair bit of space between stopped buses on the left and the tram track on the right.
    Of course I don't know how much a tram will overhand the tram lines but certainly if there is no tram in the way then it did feel like overtaking a stopped bus would not result in a cyclist having to go anywhere near the tram tracks. Overtaking a bus that was sitting in the middle of the lane might take things a bit closer though.
    When stopped at a light I tested my tyre in the tram track; it looks like a 26 x 1.5 is in no danger of getting trapped, but I still wouldn't like to cross the tracks at a shallow angle.

    And just to clarify earlier posts, it's the *outside* lane that is cobbled, that is, the lane nearest the central reservation. Unless the inside lane is the outside lane when discussing street design, etc!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  15. LaidBack

    I'm certain that almost everyone on the forum will 'cope' with Princes St as it will be for next couple of years.

    The point though is whether 'easy' cycling is encouraged in the same way as 'easy' driving (Good road access from city bypass to QMU campus for example).

    DdF and many Spokes members want to see facilities that inspire and encourage more bike use. So cycling isn't confined to people that 'enjoy' cycling despite the conditions.

    Clearing a lane of Princes St is a good way to demonstrate that cycling isn't some marginal activity. This would put Edinburgh's cycling policy right into the heart of the city and not hidden away. With correct management it would be the way to get from west to east across the city. It is level after all!

    In the longer term we may want a Velib bike hire scheme - this will work better if it is evident that the city has a few streets worth cycling on. Dublin has just started one - sure that city has many of the same congestion problems that Edinburgh has (Off topic I know but maybe someone can let us know how/if that is working) .Dublinbikes Site

    Posted 14 years ago #
  16. Indeed cb, I was always under the impression that the 'inside' lanes were those closest to the centre line of the road. I may have got that completely wrong of course... Anyone clarify?

    Rode down it last night at rush hour, and this morning at 10am. I agree that when it's quiet then there's not much problem (and the surface is a lot nicer than it used to be) and you don't actually have to get that near the tracks. At the pinch point at the gallery, and at the west end if you're going straight on to Shandwick then it 'seems' like you're squeezing against the track.

    Going home last night there was a bus stopped at the bus stop beside the cobbled area, so I had to ride onto it. Much as you would expect, it's bumpy. The angled design of it to get onto the cobbles could be interesting in the wet.

    I did wonder if the gap between the left hand rail and the centre line, seeming quite wide, could be turned into a cycle lane. Immediately places cyclists out of the bus stop lottery, and visible as regards the buses. Okay, so when there's a tram in the way, as cb says, it wouldn't be much use, but it looked a good solution to me.

    Mind you, I'll still probably take alternative routes. Opportunity missed if you ask me.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  17. chdot

    Velib - good idea for new topic.

    I expect CEC will go off the idea if they read -

    Posted 14 years ago #
  18. PS

    Anth: "I agree that when it's quiet then there's not much problem (and the surface is a lot nicer than it used to be) and you don't actually have to get that near the tracks. At the pinch point at the gallery, and at the west end if you're going straight on to Shandwick then it 'seems' like you're squeezing against the track."

    I'd agree, although I've only seen the East End of the street (I had a look when I was at the German market on Sunday). The tram lines look to be a metre or so into the right-hand (I'd call it "outside") lane while you go along past the Scott Monument, so there would be room to pass buses without having to cross the tramlines.

    However, at the Galleries you get that bit where the pavement moves out, which squeezes the two lanes of traffic together. At that point, if you were cycling in right-hand lane I think you'd be forced to cross the tram lines. I may have to practise my bunnyhops...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  19. Yep, had a quick google and looks like I was wrong about 'inside lane'. D'oh!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  20. LaidBack

    Did a quick recce of this - the bike I used had chunky Marathons so didn't seem to be interact with tracks. Noticed some rough edges around cobbles.
    Is more space than I expected - except in front of RSA where it is a squeeze.

    One other strange sign noted

    The right turn from South St David St onto Princes St is signed for buses only.
    (beside Jenners looking at Scott Monument)

    Not taxis.
    Not Bikes.

    Not sure how bikes are meant to get onto Princes St from New Town then. Maybe they're not.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  21. Dave

    I managed to prang myself within moments of reaching Princes St - the two 'ahead lanes' move back to the left at the Waverly Bridge, and the tram line just appears from under the car in front right where you're riding...

    No harm done, but the irony was truly immense (I only took the detour to Princes St to check the tram lines were ok!)

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    Aside from that, thought the road could have been much worse - at least there is space to pass stationary buses without having to cross the nearside rail. I don't fancy it much on the narrow roads down Leith way!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  22. Arellcat

    So if DdF is right, we'll have a Princes St that's just as tricky for cyclists for at least another year or two?

    You have to admire the project management approach though: hammer through your single overriding objective at the expense of everything else. You can ignore all complaints because it's your overriding objective. Once it's in place, listen to everyone's complaints under the guise of a formal exercise. This gives you the excuse that while you're very happy to hear from stakeholders and experts, the project's now complete and it would cost too much to change it.

    Remember that this brought us a cycle lane that parallels Bankhead Drive, rather than the former guided busway, so that cyclists have to wait at all the road crossings. And cleverly designing the crossings to prevent access by anything longer than a conventional bike to ensure that pedestrians aren't endangered. Don't road vehicles tend to derail themselves more often than railway rolling stock?

    I'm off to Princes St to have a good look.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  23. PS

    Dave - I suspect you may be the first of many.

    Was your fall due to slipping on a wet rail or your tyre getting caught in the tracks?

    Posted 14 years ago #
  24. ht

    Well, after happily going E and W on the new Princes Street several times, I came a cropper this morning crossing from Hanover St. to head up the Mound. The natural line takes you nicely perpendicular to the N. set of tracks, but as you swing right in front of the RSA, your line is far from perpendicular to the S. set of tracks which are curving at that point, and sure enough as I crossed them my rear wheel was grabbed and thrown to the right and I went down hard on my left hip: away from traffic, fortunately.

    No damage done, but be warned and adjust your line to take the S. tracks at a right angle!

    Posted 14 years ago #
  25. chdot

    The above two incidents have been reported to the Council and forwarded on to the tram team.

    Seems unlikely that the only two people who have had problems are posters here...

    Is it a case of experienced cyclists being over-confident?

    Posted 14 years ago #
  26. I think the second incident referred to above is the more worrying.

    In the first, it clearly shows on the video how easy it is at a shallow angle to get taken down, but I tihnk the surprise of the tracks appearing from under the car is caused by the rails not being complete - obviously this will remain a problem until they're complete though! If the rails up Leith Street etc were in place then they would already have been visible and avoided.

    The second incident, however... I've ridden along the street a few times now, and have always at some point had to hop between the rails. Sharp turn to get at a steep angle with the front wheel - I hadn't really been thinking about my rear wheel...

    Posted 14 years ago #
  27. And as chdot says, it would be a remarkable coincidence if the only two people to fall happened to be posters here.

    Posted 14 years ago #
  28. LaidBack

    I suspect too that there may be more.

    Both in different situations and not exactly encouraging for less experienced riders.

    Dave's one seems to be right at start by Waverley Bridge where track ends ... tracks must suddenly appear in middle of road(?!) Very bad situation and would take anyone down as they can't see it till there on it! He was in the correct lane too.

    Crossing Prince St at the Mound really needs to be done using whole road space which is not always easy.

    Drivers will not be chuffed to find that bikes need more space to cross this junction now. Maybe even a good case to paint in the right line for bikes to follow. (yes - streetscapers won't like it but how else do we help the less experienced?

    Posted 14 years ago #
  29. Dave

    For what it's worth - I think it was my back wheel that caught, but it could have been either. The problem is that after the left-filter lane disappears, both ahead lanes slowly move back to the left and this takes the natural line for cyclists across the rails at an extremely acute angle. I literally didn't realise I was onto the tracks until I bit the dirt.

    Of course I now know better - but how many people following a vehicle (especially a bus!) are going to find themselves on the deck first time?

    Obviously once the lines are complete, it would be much more obvious, but for the next few years, some guidelines in paint would be a great safety aid here.

    I didn't have time to try crossing at the Mound - it was dark and wet and I'd already come off once! - but I agree that's of higher concern.

    Interestingly I found the right turn from Princes St (westbound) onto Waverley bridge to be quite difficult - the filter lane is largely taken up by the rails and the large radius of the corner means you will cross the lines at a rather fine angle.

    I went from a red light with one foot down, but at speed, it would be very difficult I think. I had to stop just inside the filter lane, and then move across at 45 degrees, before straightening up on the central reservation, then jinking again.

    Posted 14 years ago #

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