Once again the vexed question of whether cycling should be allowed on the nice wide promenade next to the beach at Portobello has been raised. This is as a result of the Council renewing the ‘No Cycling’ signs. So in spite of years of pressure from cyclists, (some) local residents and Safe Routes to School campaigners, the status quo has been reinforced.
There had been an assumption in some quarters that the new Access Legislation would automatically mean that responsible, non-motorised, users would be allowed. However it is classed as a road so restricting cyclists is legal, though it’s still not clear if there is an alternative to banning all cyclists at all times. The Council could promote a Traffic Order (subject to the usual consultation) allowing cycling for an experimental period.
At one point the Police were enforcing the ban – but in recent years they have adopted a fairly pragmatic approach, only intervening when cyclists have been caught behaving dangerously. Individual officers have also been known to recommend the route (at least for children) as being safer than the High Street.
Spokes activist and Portobello resident Ian Maxwell says – “the case for allowing cycling is strong. Towerbank Primary School enjoys what is probably one of the best cycling and walking routes to school in Scotland, and they now have the highest rate of cycling to school in Edinburgh (12%), largely due to the Prom.” (There was in time in Edinburgh when under 12s were allowed to cycle on paths under local bylaws.)
“SPOKES has always supported the opening up of the Prom to cycling, as a recognition of what actually happens. If there is to be enforcement, it should be directed at reckless cyclists – we would be happy with signs saying ‘careful cyclists welcome’, but we object to being lumped together with dog mess and broken glass.”
The photo shows a sign near Margate which recognises that there are times of year and times of day when it might be reasonable to restrict cycling. A ban until 6.00 wouldn’t help pupils coming home from school, though they wouldn’t be in such a hurry as in the morning. In Brighton there is a different approach with a clearly marked cycle path.
As Ian Maxwell points out – “there is still considerably hostility to allowing cycling on the prom, and I think local councillors have been wary of taking sides, especially in an election year.”
The Promenade is currently in two council wards. (The May election will introduce Proportional Representation with multi-member wards.) The current councillors are Maureen Child and Lawrence Marshall. Both are generally regarded as ‘cycle friendly’ but are somewhat caught in the middle!
Maureen Child says – “I get most complaints from people using Esplanade Terrace – or other narrow bits with blind corners – they feel that the Promenade should be a safe place for small children and elderly people (in particular) to wander, potter and toddle about without fear of the danger they might be knocked down by a fast cyclist.”
“Personally, I can’t understand why pedestrians and cyclists don’t mix well in this country as they do in Holland, but they just don’t seem to. Quite how we make that cultural change, and build up mutual trust, I don’t know.”
Lawrence Marshall advocates continued pragmatism – “I’ve let sleeping dogs lie on this for years because, to do otherwise, will mean a big battle that will only result in animosity to no practical end. It’s not perfect re. being nice and clear cut but sometimes life’s the better for being a bit of a muddle! It works just now in a way which most people find OK – so best left alone (even if they renew the signs now and again!)”
So the message seems to be clear, ‘it’s illegal, but be careful, don’t run anyone over, ignore the irate pedestrians who tell you it’s illegal – which is likely to be the case immediately after the Council renews the signs – and generally don’t worry because cyclists are above the law and Scotland isn’t about to introduce zero tolerance’, (except perhaps for litter).
If you live in Portobello, or use the Prom, you might like to ask candidates in the coming election which side they are on – or if they could think of a workable compromise. Perhaps point out that Edinburgh is involved in creating The North Sea Cycle Route which would bring more locals and tourists to the area. The Edinburgh section was called “The Boardwalk” in a report to Council last year – but the name is unlikely to stick!
There is of course the possibility that ‘inconsiderate cyclists’ are trying to get along the Prom as fast as possible because they know they are not supposed to be there…