August 2016

George Street : cycling in the Festival

The Fringe started early for cyclists this year, with an obstacle course for those using George Street.

The traffic orders covering Festival street works in George Street are clear that a cycle through-route should be maintained.  Yet from Monday 1st August cycling along George Street became a confusion of tents, platforms and even giant deck chairs on three sections of the street, for cafes and entertainment – but with no clear cycleroute and the street blocked by barriers in places.

By Thursday 4th August, after complaints, the Council had started to sort things out, but the section from Frederick to Hanover Street was still virtually impassable on Friday morning, with signs saying cyclists could use the street but, for people cycling West, only a very narrow contraflow corridor on the north side, marked by cones. Additionally, the signage intended to show cyclists where to go uses the “no-cycling” symbol!

We trust that better two-way lanes and improved signage will be installed rapidly, as should have happened from the start – and we have also urged that movable items like deck chairs should not be laid out until after the morning rush hour.

Clearly cyclists will have to be extra careful using the cycle facilities provided this August, as the whole street will be very busy with pedestrians who may not have any idea where the cycle lanes are or even which direction the traffic flows.  If you are cycling in George Street, watch out even more than usual for people crossing your path – and don’t go too fast.

This August experience adds further to the case for George Street to have proper segregated cycle lanes along its entire length (the Council does intend cycle routes separated from motor traffic – but with no clear timescale and detailed design awaited) and for on street car-parking to be removed entirely (the Council intends only to reduce it gradually).  Complete removal of onstreet parking would also mean that on-street catering and entertainments could feature throughout the year, transforming George Street into a people-friendly traffic-free island in the heart of Edinburgh New Town.

Spokes will continue to campaign for improvements to other main routes in Edinburgh city centre such as Princes Street, Lothian Road, Leith Street and the Bridges – but we also support the Council’s plans for a permanent high quality George Street cycle corridor as part of the Roseburn-Leith east-west route [decisions on which are expected at the end of August].

If you are unhappy with what has been happening – please contact your councillors and ask for the new George Street layout to be in place before the 2017 Festival – including segregated cycle lanes – to help avoid this year’s problems.

George Street traffic orders

The traffic orders for George Street this August are as follows although they may now have to be modified in places:

  • Block 1 (Charlotte to Castle) – Cyclists westbound will cycle with traffic in the morning through the loading/emergency lane. After 10am this section will be closed except for cyclists. Cyclists eastbound will be allowed to use the cycle lane on the north side as normal.
  • Block 2 (Castle to Frederick) – Cyclists eastbound will cycle with traffic in the morning through the loading/emergency lane. After 10am this section will be closed except for cyclists. Cyclist westbound will cycle on a contraflow on the north side of the street, segregated from loading traffic up to 10am, after which they will share this space with cyclist heading in the opposite direction.
  • Block 3 (Frederick to Hanover) –  Eastbound cyclist are unaffected as the north carriageway remains open. Westbound cyclists will be channelled through a barriered cycle lane through the suspended central parking bay.

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