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Bus/cycle lanes -> car/lorry lanes … unless you object

[Update June 3: 150 objections rejected – bus lane cutbacks trial to go ahead]

Edinburgh Council is planning to convert all bus lanes into peak-hour only, also scrapping Saturday bus lanes entirely.  A total of 22km of all-day bus lanes will be affected – and it appears that little or no thought has been given to the impact on pedestrians and cyclists.

The Council is succeeding in the excellent policies of its Local Transport Strategy [LTS] – to increase walking, cycling and public transport use, whilst reducing car use.  The recent census provided clear evidence of this success.  Indeed Edinburgh is about to overtake Glasgow for the proportion of work trips made by public transport and, unique in Scotland, it has achieved a declining proportion of people who drive to work. Thanks in part to the City Car Club Edinburgh is also the only Scottish Council to see a rising proportion of households not owning a car.

It is astonishing that the Council now plans to retreat on one of the policies which led to these hard-won achievements – priority for its bus/cycle lane network.  In the current LTS, Policy PubTrans1 [see below] says the Council wishes to give buses priority over other motorised traffic.  Policy PubTrans7 says the Councl will where possible enhance the bus lane network.

Furthermore Glasgow is currently consulting on strengthening its bus network by converting peak hour bus lanes to all-day or even to 24/7.  Edinburgh already faces competition from Glasgow in cycling policy, with a major bike-share scheme and lengthy segregated cycleroute in place; and now our Edinburgh bus/cycle lanes too are at risk.

Edinburgh plans at the same time to allow motorbikes into the remaining peak-hour bus lanes.

The Committee report authorising the proposal justifies the reduction of bus lane hours on the grounds [3.7] that all-day bus lanes offer “little” benefit to buses “under normal traffic conditions” and that [4.2] motorists would find life easier if they knew that every bus lane (with a few exceptions) would be peak-hour only.  Shockingly, the report completely fails to discuss or even to mention the impact of the cutback in bus lane hours on pedestrians or cyclists. The impact on cyclists of allowing motorbikes into bus lanes is briefly discussed [3.21 onwards].

The plan is an 18-month experiment, although a timetable is already in place to make it permanent unless the experiment shows up clear problems.   We see no reason to go ahead with a costly experiment which will bring multiple disadvantages, in exchange for few benefits.

WHY THE EXPERIMENT SHOULD BE CANCELLED NOW

  • The proposal directly contradicts the Council’s own Local Transport Strategy [LTS] which promises to prioritise buses and enhance bus lanes.

Policy PubTrans1: The Council will presume in favour of giving buses and Trams priority over other motorised traffic.
Policy PubTrans7: The Council will continue to maintain the bus lane network, review it regularly and extend it or enhance it where opportunities arise.

  • The LTS begins its Cycling section [9.2] by saying, “The attractiveness of cycling is dependent on the degree to which the road network is dominated by moving or parked motor vehicles.

Until we have segregated cycle facilities on arterial roads, bus lanes provide a wide area of roadspace in which this “domination by moving or parked vehicles” is significantly reduced.  Off-peak lanes are really important when using a bike for shopping, school travel, and a multitude of other offpeak journey types. Many of these trips are by the less confident cyclist, who is understandably deterred by the constant presence of cars and lorries but can just about cope with the occasional well-trained Lothian Buses driver.

A council with a target of 10% of all trips by bike in 2020 (not just commuting trips) should not be removing this facility – or, at least, not until segregated cycling provision is made.

  • The LTS begins its walking section with policy Walk1, “The Council will seek opportunities to improve pedestrian facilities…

Nowhere is there a policy to downgrade pedestrian facilities, yet that is exactly what this proposal will do for 22 kilometres of footway along Edinburgh arterial roads.  Instead of being separated from the footway by the bus lane, lorries and cars will be right next to it throughout the off-peak day and all day Saturday.  This means increased pollution [see next para], noise, splashing, scariness and, on occasions, danger.

Interestingly, the first response received by the Council after the installation of its first ever cycle lane was not from a cyclist but from a pedestrian who said how nice it was pushing her pram along with no more splashing from lorries (and of course a bus lane gives even more protection).

Finally, the council’s plan to abolish off-peak bus lanes will particularly hit school children walking home as well as families out walking to the shops or the park on Saturdays.

  • Edinburgh City Council faces increasing problems over toxic traffic pollution, with several roads now exceeding EU safe limits and estimates by Health Protection Scotland of 200 premature deaths a year as a result.

Toxic pollution (like noise pollution) declines rapidly with distance, so bus lanes are likely to reduce the pollutants breathed in by walkers and, to a lesser extent, cyclists using the bus lanes. Allowing lorries and cars into bus lanes just when children are most likely to be using the footway is a very retrograde decision.

  • The Council is implementing these proposals without prior public consultation.  Of course, people can object to the Traffic Regulation Orders [see below for how to do this] but few people know about them.  In contrast, the Council did consult in advance in affected parts of the city over the 20mph plans, Leith Walk plans, the Quality Bike Corridor, the City Centre, School Streets, and so on.
  • The Council also proposes to allow motorcycles in bus lanes (at all times). This is likely to reduce the attractiveness of bus lanes for cycling, thus cutting use, contrary to the council’s policies and targets.

Reports of a London trial show no clear impact on pedestrian or cyclist casualties, but a significant rise in motorcyclist injuries, in motorcyclist speeds, and in motorcycles exceeding the speed limit.  After a period of enforcement, another survey found some improvement, but 40%-60% still exceeded speed limits.

These concerns over speeding are heightened by the responses to Edinburgh’s 20mph consultation in which every identified group, including car users, supported the plan, apart from motorcyclists, who opposed it by three to one.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ?

The experiment is authorised through 2 Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders [ETROs] which are now out for objection.

ETRO/14/38B … Bus Lanes – Operational Hours Experimental Order
ETRO/14/38A … Bus Lanes – Permitted Vehicles Experimental Order

Spokes is preparing a formal objection to the Traffic Regulation Orders which allow the experiment to go ahead.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you agree with us, please…

  • Object to the order(s) by Weds 18 February.   Email… trafficorders@edinburgh.gov.uk, stating that this is an objection to ETRO/14/38B and/or ETRO/14/38A.   Then give your reasons.  If you are short of time, it is not essential to look up the Orders, but obviously do so if you have time.  There is also a postal address – click on the above links and see the file called ‘advert.’  Note: your objection should include your own postal address.
  • Contact your councillors.   Tell them what you think; ask them to support you and speak to their party’s Transport Spokesperson.  Find your councillors at www.writetothem.com.  Interestingly, one member who has already contacted his 4 councillors found that 2 didn’t even know about this!
  • Are you in a group that is concerned?  For example a local cycling, community or parents’ group.   Please urge them to object.  Alternatively, would they like to sign the Spokes objection?  If so please email  spokesATspokes.org.uk a.s.a.p.

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