Not Seeing Red

Posted by chdot on April 29, 2009


GOOD NEWS. City of Edinburgh Council is due to spend £19m on road repairs in the current financial year. (Evening News story).

According to the News “road chiefs have agreed to focus their efforts on residential streets due to the already “exceptional” level of roadworks in the city centre as a result of tram project.”

This is understandable – there’s rather a lot of digging between Leith and Haymarket at present. Unfortunately it also increases the danger that suburban side streets, that aren’t in a particularly bad way, will get priority over longstanding, outstanding, needs closer to the centre where cycle use is high and provision is (literally) patchy.

The Council still can’t make its mind up over whether or not to use red surfacing in the ‘sensitive’ World Heritage area. (A year ago it seemed that this had been resolved when a brand new red Advance Stop Line appeared in Heriot Row – but it was some sort of ‘mistake’.)

Meanwhile in areas where there is no problem of principle, there seems to be no mechanism for doing regular, basic, maintenance of cycle lanes and ASLs – both the red surfacing and white bicycle logo and lane markings.

Some Council officials claim it’s a matter of ‘resources’ – but it’s clear that’s it’s more to do with priorities. In spite of Council policies that aim to encourage walking and cycling, it seems that the basics of marking on-road cycle lanes are too difficult to deal with.

Well maintained cycle lanes (e.g. painting the markings before they fade to invisibility) would indicate that the Council takes the encouraging of cycling (and the safety of cyclists) seriously.

The photo shows a newly surfaced section of Marchmont Road designed to increase the safety of pedestrians using the Zebra Crossing. The vibrant red section of cycle lane is most welcome – but it serves to show how shabby the rest of the lanes are (see video).

At a recent Cycle Forum (where representatives of local cycling organisations meet council officials) it was pointed out that the Clarence hotline (Freephone 0800 23 23 23 was the place to report problems. Small ones, such as missing white markings, are apparently likely to get fixed quite quickly. Seeing red may take longer…

11 Responses to “Not Seeing Red”

  1. jacquiephelan said

    It’s like doing a quickie tour of the road surfaces of Edenburrow. Fun.
    I was half-hoping the three pedestrians would merit a little note (“forgot to ride their bicycles”)..
    and those profusely pink cherrry trees everywhere. Nice little film, great content. Shows the height, er…depth of the problem..

  2. Becky said

    Interesting to see from camera shake just how rough the majority of the road is, compared with the resurfaced section. Were the cycle lanes ever that bright originally? One would quite expect them to have always been that washed-out, reddish brown, shoulder-shrugging ‘I don’t care if you cycle or not’ colour.

    I don’t suppose they’ll resurface the bit between Greenbank crossroads and Morningside Primary School any time soon?

  3. Kirsten said

    I regularly phone Environmental to report broken glass on the Innocent cycle path. The number is 529 3030. My regular phonecalls, emails and on one occasion photos of glass resulted in a phone call and email from the nice Andy Hunter in Environmental who has promised that the Innocent path will be patrolled, inspected and swept more regularly. It really is worth making a nuisance of yourself.

  4. Ian said

    Why not cycle in the road? Its not too radical an idea y’know ;>D

    You’ll get far fewer punctures to start with – most glass etc., ends up in the gutter (or cyclelane if you prefer) thrown there by car tyres.

    Get a copy of Cyclecraft ( ), your local library probably has it on the shelves. Get educated on how to cycle, then let your local council save some money instead of wasting paint. Okay not all cycle road markings are such a bad idea – advanced stop lines for example when drivers don’t stop in them, but little lanes at the side of the road barely the width of your handlebars?

    • chdot said

      Yes but no.

      Obviously it’s better if people have the confidence to ride in ‘normal’ traffic.

      Red or not red is another conversation.

      As is the business of on-road markings, off road routes away from traffic (Sustrans ‘controversy’) and/or segregated cycle lines on roads.

      As you say ASLs are a good thing “when drivers don’t stop in them”. That’s the point here. The bike lanes on Marchmont Road may or may not be a good idea – with or without red surfacing – BUT the Council thought it was a good idea (not aware of any cyclists who want them removed altogether).

      The Council seems to have no adequate mechanism for maintaining bike lane and ASL markings, which sends out very mixed signals – especially to motorists. Certainly the white bicycle logos in ASL boxes should probably be a higher priority than red surfacing.

      IF it is thought that bike lanes are a bad idea (in individual locations) they should be removed. This WAS done on the roundabout at the bottom of Broughton Street. That is not a particularly safe roundabout but being ‘told’ to go round the outside didn’t help.

      If CEC believes in encouraging cycling and believes that bike lanes/ASLs help (plenty of evidence) it should allocate the necessary resources to maintain them.

    • DdF said

      Confident and experienced cyclists don’t ‘need’ cycle lanes, and some (such as Ian) don’t like them – although on a personal note I find some of them really useful, especially in rush hours when parking is banned. That’s speaking as a ‘confident and experienced’ cyclist who urban-cycles almost every day and hasn’t had a crash in the last 25 years (tempting fate there). Most of Dalry Road, which I often use, is so much better to cycle than it was (years ago!) before the bike lanes – even despite their current poor condition. Do you want them removed?

      However, if we want lots more people biking in the city, then it’s really important to look from the wider perspective, not just our personal experience – and there’s a lot of evidence that the widespread provision of coloured surfacing on roads throughout Edinburgh has been the main reason why bike use has risen substantially over the last 10 years – at a time when it has been static in most of the UK. The widespread red surfacing is seen every day by every road user, and makes cycling look expected, a normal activity for ordinary people, so people are less worried about colleagues at work seeing them as out of the ordinary, or an ‘enthusiast.’ Also, whether or not bike lanes are safer (there are pluses and minuses) it makes nervous and potential cyclists feel it’s safer – another incentive to use a bike.

      [And, of course, there is pretty convincing evidence that the best way to increase safety per cyclist is to increase the number of cyclists on the road, so anything which does that should be welcome].

      The topic of Edinburgh’s bike lanes and red surfacing comes up in lots of Spokes Bulletins…

      …of which the most interesting, admittedly anecdotal evidence, but quite an amount of it, is page 3 of Spokes Bulletin 93.

      There are also various documents, specifically on the question of coloured surfacing, in the technical section on the spokes website…

      …including a Napier University report strongly suggesting that the presence of the coloured surfacing greatly reduces encroachment by motorists into cycle (and bus) lanes.

      • ian said

        Congratulations on your enviable safety record Ddf!

        Re safety, cars are only part of the hazard for a cyclist. Take pedestrian islands for example – no amount of paint will stop a car swerving towards the curb when passing an island. Why not replace the island with a pedestrian crossing? Surely improving poor road features is better than providing a flawed cycle lane?

        By having a painted strip at the side of the road you’re expected by drivers to ride within it whether you have to or not, amongst all that is swept off the carraigeway & closer to pedestrians who might step out in your path whilst car drivers whizz past your offside without a thought.

        Not forgetting being cut up at sideroads.

        I agree entirely that these lanes have increased the numbers of cyclists commuting, that might be more down to perceived safety though.

      • chdot said

        Clearly good design is an issue – as is driver education. It’s a shame Lothian and Borders Police gave up doing Cycle Training and now do young driver training instead. Road sense training needs to begin with parents and then Kerbcraft training at school plus Cycle Training (which should be at all schools in school time – but that is another story).

        “I agree entirely that these lanes have increased the numbers of cyclists commuting, that might be more down to perceived safety though.”

        EXACTLY: The “perceived safety” is probably based on reality and (as DdF points out) more people cycling DOES improve safety for people cycling. There’s plenty of statistical evidence for the ‘more cyclists = fewer crashes/injuries/deaths’ equation.

  5. DdF said

    Ian – whilst we might disagree about bike lanes, I totally agree re. pinch points, especially central island ones on relatively narrow roads – spokes has done a great deal of lobbying about these over the years – it’s not a question of only lobbying for one thing and forgetting everything else!

    Possible alternatives to central islands include zebras, pelicans and raised tables, depending on the type of road. Unfortunately the officials who take the final decision often decide that the disadvantages to cyclists are outweighed by other factors. Locally, West Lothian is pretty bad on this, East Lothian takes it more seriously, and Edinburgh is probably in the middle (as well as geographically!) Where officials decide that a central island is going ahead, Spokes then argues for a wide coloured bike lane through it, to force the motorist to think bike. There’s an excellent East Lothian example shown on page 5 of Spokes Bulletin 99.

    Another problem is that there is no requirement on councils to consult before installing central islands. Often they are the result of pressure from a local community, school, councillors etc who don’t appreciate the problems for cyclists – but there is no wider consultation, so often the first thing a cyclist knows is when they see it in place, and of course it’s then far harder to get anything changed.

    • ian said

      AaaaarrggghhIslands! Not the best invention from our point of view.

      I think I should leave you good people in peace now, particularly as i’m not from Edinburgh, its just that I followed a link from an Edinburgh cycles email! Thanks for the interesting discussion. Heres a good link for you to give an idea of how my local council thinks of cyclists…
      … just to the left of the photographer & out of sight in the photo is a brand new central island. For those who haven’t yet followed the link, the photo is of a brand new zebra crossing.

      Yep, the mind boggles :>D

      Power to you all & hope that the cash spent by your local council is (u)well(/u) spent to your advantage.

      Take care,


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