March 2024

CCWEL opens! – and what comes next?

After a 10-year gestation, the City Centre West East Link, Edinburgh’s first substantial main road protected cycleroute, was officially opened on 20 March 2024 by Active Travel Minister Patrick Harvie MSP and Edinburgh Council Transport & Environment Convener Cllr Scott Arthur. There are many lessons, but let’s celebrate: then extend to Gogar, as in the Council’s new Future Streets transport plan!

CCWEL opening with Roseburn Primary kids, Cllr Scott Arthur, Patrick Harvie MSP, past Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds, and a few of the many many others involved in the project’s tortured 10-year history [CEC photo]

Once the central George Street section is complete (see below) the route will connect through the city centre from Roseburn in the west to Picardy Place in the east, where it joins the segregated (though problematic) cycleroute to Foot of the Walk, itself due to be extended to Ocean Terminal in the Leith Connections project (phase 1, to Dock Street hopefully in 2024, and phase 3 continuing to Ocean Terminal). Incidentally, Leith Connections phase 3 will also connect to the Hawthornvale path on the North Edinburgh Network, thus enabling a full circle ending back at Roseburn!

Famed for its delays, CCWEL’s agonies resulted from the Scottish Government’s labyrinthine Traffic Order rules, doubts by some politicians, a highly-seasoned local objector, and a long period of Council staff cuts. More than once councillors nearly scrapped CCWEL, and in 2016 it was only saved by the political nous of the then Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds. Now, 10 years later, many people will not even be aware of the blood, sweat, tears and mental anguish expended in the pre-construction years! For a detailed history of the project’s trials and tribulations, with some fascinating pictures (like the government’s 2-years-later letter) see here.

Big thanks are also due to the subsequent Convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, long-suffering Council officers, and campaigners – notably Richard Grant and Ewan Jeffrey of Spokes and Henry Whaley of the superb local Roseburn Support Group.

Funded largely by Scottish Government cash, via Sustrans, project costs rose substantially due to the above delays, as a result of which various elements (such as connection to Rutland Square) were cut back in a so-called ‘value engineering’ exercise (para 2106 here). Nonetheless, the result is brilliant to have, and a great base from which to build towards the Future Streets promised main roads ‘primary cycle network’ and city centre free of through traffic.

School commuting time at Roseburn [photo, Rosie Bell]

What will / should happen next ?

  • George Street Originally, CCWEL was to include segregated lanes in George Street, but some years ago the George Street and First New Town project took over responsibility for a high quality cycle connection between the western and eastern sections of CCWEL. After its own 10+ years delay (timeline in this article) the George Street project seems unlikely to begin construction at the least for a couple more years. The project decided to replace the planned segregated lanes by a European-style ‘Cycle Street’ in which some strictly controlled motor access would be allowed. Whilst this could work, there is continuing pressure from taxis and others to water down the proposed restrictions. There are many past documents on cycling aspects of the George Street project here.
  • Charlotte and St Andrew Squares The two squares are also being handled separately. In Charlotte Square, as we understand it, the current temporary arrangements are to test the impact of removing one lane of motor traffic, with cyclists and pedestrians able to use the cleared areas. After a few months experience, defined cycle lanes are then likely to be installed in the cleared areas, together with a new crossing to George Street. However, a final layout in high quality materials is unlikely for at least another couple of years. At St Andrew Square the North St David Street link is in place, but its eventual connection to George Street will come under the above George Street & First New Town project.
  • Princes Street Spokes has always argued that the main east-west cycleroute should be along Princes Street, which has more cycle trips than George Street, and has many destinations. For such trips, using George Street as an alternative entails additional tramline crossings and junction manoeuvres, presenting significant unnecessary risks and delays. Although George Street should become much more pleasant than now, Spokes will continue to argue for first class cycling provision directly along Shandwick Place and Princes Street, as a second branch of CCWEL.
  • West to Gogar We have long pressed for CCWEL to be extended to Corstorphine as soon as possible, but the new Future Streets policy goes further! … continuing A8 segregated cycle provision out to Gogar roundabout as an early Future Streets project – though what early means is unclear! The tightly constrained St Johns ‘town centre’ section is currently not proposed for segregated facilities but would be a pedestrian-friendly shopping street. A design which also allows for through traffic, and shows how safe cycling is ensured, is yet to be produced (and may require a magician) though it is hoped that car numbers could be reduced by Drumbrae signalisation.
How A8 roadspace would be reallocated under the Future Streets plan. These outline sketches are from appendix 2 in part 2 of report 7.2 at the 1.2.24 Transport and Environment Commmittee.

  • North-south Roseburn connections South from Roseburn, the connection to Fountainbridge, and then the canal, is well under construction – a major project, with new bridges and massive earthworks. North from Roseburn, controversy rages over whether the Granton tram extension should use the existing Roseburn path or go onroad via Orchard Brae – the council will consult later in 2024. We have laid out the pros and cons here, and hope to have a public meeting on the subject.


There was some great reporting of the CCWEL opening by the press, which not only celebrated the opening but also looked to the future and discussed some of the gestation problems (a couple of reporters told us they’d found our history blog, below, very useful!)

What you can do

  • Contact your councillors. A word (or more) of praise for CCWEL completion would be doubtless appreciated, then follow it up with what you would like them to do next – and when!
  • Retweet our tweet of this article.

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