May 2013

Princes Street: visionary shock

Spokes strongly welcomes the City Council’s intention to make the City Centre a more European-style people-friendly place.  While our first preference was a totally traffic-free Princes Street, we welcome the trial of the Council’s ‘Vision,’ which reduces traffic on Princes and George Streets – except in one vital respect.   We are shocked that cycling will not be allowed in Princes Street [other than westbound, mixing it with buses and taxis, suitable only for the most confident].  We urge councillors to amend this aspect of the trial at their meeting on 4 June, without which the overall plan makes many potential cycling trips less feasible.

The Council’s Building a Vision for the City Centre consultation [pdf 499k] found strong support for ‘permeable’ cycling, so that people can easily get to shops, the Gardens, Waverley etc by bike; and Princes Street was found to be even more important than George Street.  Cycling is not just about commuting from A to B, but about getting to all sorts of places, to shops and to other local destinations, and getting there whether you are young or old, single or a family.  It is about the Council’s own target that 10% of all trips are by bike by 2020.

Despite this, the Council proposes not to include a cycleroute on the north side of Princes Street, where the pavement will be widened right out to the tramlines, gaining huge width from removal of the bus shelters and the existing roadway.

The Council’s overall proposal is a 12-month trial of one-way motor traffic in Princes Street (westbound) and in George Street (eastbound) with traffic-free cycling only in George Street.  In Princes Street cycling eastbound will be prohibited completely, whilst westbound will be suitable only for confident cyclists continuing to mix it with taxis and buses next to the tramlines.

A decision will be taken on Tuesday 4 June at the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee.   Spokes is urging councillors to amend the trial to include a cycleroute on the north side of Princes Street.  Without the amendment, few Spokes members are likely to support the overall proposal.   In order to allay any fears, we also suggest that if after 3 months there are found to be insuperable problems, the council could consider reverting to its original plan.

Click here for the full Spokes briefing to councillors including our proposed amendment and fuller explanation of why cycle use in Princes Street is so vital [pdf 94k].

We urge all concerned readers to email their own councillors urgently.  Ask them to speak to colleagues on the Transport Committee and suggest this amendment.  Find your councillors at the Edinburgh Council website or at



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