Google Mail Dave du Feu <>

All Party Light Rail Group Inquiry - Spokes submission

Dave du Feu <> 21 November 2009 17:01
Matt - I understand that the above Inquiry is taking place, and am
sending some brief written comments from Spokes the Lothian Cycle
Campaign Group (Lothian includes Edinburgh).

As you know, a tram system is under construction in Edinburgh.  We
cannot comment on the practical outcomes, as the tram is not
operational, and indeed there are still no locations where road users
encounter tram tracks (although that will happen in Princes Street as
from end November).   However, I wish to comment on the political and
procedural background in the planning of a tram system, based on our
experience in the 3-4 years since our tram became a political reality.
 I should add that our organisation strongly supports the principle
of the tram - our concern is that cycling should be fully integrated
into all relevant aspects, both to minimise problems and to take
advantage of new opportunities.

a. It is essential that a tram is seen and planned as part of the
overall local transport system from the start, not just as a
standalone project.  This hasn't really happened in Edinburgh.   There
are always big problems implementing a new tram, as a result of which
there's intense pressure to steamroller other things just to make sure
the tram actually gets built.  If integration has not been taken
seriously from the outset then problems get built in and opportunities
get lost.   This is far from being a small matter - in terms of public
health, energy security etc it makes a big difference whether cycling
is suppressed or boosted (and trams cover major areas of cities).
Even from the pure road safety perspective bad initial planning
decisions can enhance the risk of very serious injuries such as
through bikes getting trapped in tramlines - we know that has led to
deaths in other systems.  From Edinburgh's experience we can give one
positive and one negative example of  how very early decisions of
principle on the tram design - taken with little or no thought of
cycling - will impact very heavily on cycling in the city.

b.  On the positive side, the tramlines will run down the centre of
the street nearly everywhere.   This is a major boon for cyclists in
terms of minimising interaction with tram rails, although that is not
why the decision was taken.  This is the type of major decision taken
very early on which then has huge impacts later on.   Such decisions
are also likely to be decided prior to the stage at which there is
serious engagement with local cycling interests, as consultation
usually heats up once the process is further down the road, when there
are details on which to consult.

c.  On the negative side, in Edinburgh the Council Streetscape
officials, and councillors with a strong personal interest in
Streetscape,  happened to be very influential in the early days of
tram planning (less so now) and they had a big input from the start.
The Edinburgh Streetscapists have never shown much understanding of
cycling, and there is little evidence they thought about it at all
when they were influencing the principles which would guide the tram
design.   Presumably cycling integration crossed their minds at all it
was seen as a minor issue that could be 'added in' later.   Thus there
was an early decision to have a central island between the 2 tram
tracks for the whole length of Leith Walk and Princes Street - very
unusual in other tram systems.   Various reasons for this have been
given, but subjective visual opinions seem to have been the top
reason.  This means that over 1m of extremely precious road width has
been lost.   Cycle lanes are being removed on these streets, and the
remaining width between pavement and tram track will deter some
cyclists from overtaking buses at bus stops, for fear of getting
wheels stuck in the track - or some may get their wheels stuck.   This
really is disgraceful.  We fought hard against the central island as
soon as we realised what was happening 2 or so years ago - but by then
it was already pretty far ingrained into the plans.   I have attached
an artist's impression of Princes Street as it will be - bear in mind
that large numbers of buses (and taxis) will use the kerbside traffic
lane (although they are not shown in the picture!)    How much safer
and more encouraging it would have been for getting about by bike if
the space wasted by the central island had been used to widen the
traffic lanes or make provision for cycling.

[For completeness I should add that there is to be a consultation on
the eventual future of Princes Street once trams are running, but the
situation shown in the picture will certainly be the case for the next
2 years until the tram is operational, and we are told that one option
in the consultation will be to  continue like that indefinitely].

d.  Overall we've had a good relationship with the tram promoters
(TIE), but this has partly come about because we have made a lot of
continuing fuss over the years since the tram idea became a real
funded prospect.  i.e. not just spokes as an organisation, but many of
our members have been very concerned and have written individually  to
councillors (and not just once!) and we have kept this pressure up.
As a result, first we got agreement to cycle carriage (after a huge
effort) and then a year or so ago the council appointed TPi to look at
onroad issues.  TPi have done a very useful and detailed report, which
is being taken seriously - but it is all late in the day, and not
everything TPi recommend can now be done.    BUT - We shouldn't have
had to make a fuss - the council and promoters should have been
thinking about cyclist integration from day 1, on all issues,
especially onroad integration - designing out potential problems AND
using the project to enhance cycling  conditions.   It is absolutely
ridiculous for the politicians and the professionals to leave it up to
volunteers to force the issue in order for it to be looked at in real
detail.   There is no doubt that without our ongoing pressure,
tram/cycle interaction would have been significantly less
satisfactory.   Our impact has not been so much in terms of offering
technical solutions as in forcing the issue politically, and thus
ensuring that appropriate technical expertise is brought to bear -
though of course we have also engaged as far as we are able in the
technical side, remembering that we are not traffic experts and that
we are volunteers using our own personal time.

Dave du Feu
for Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign

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0911 TIE 25551493d352a58c49.jpg