Cycle lane bollards will be partly reinstated on an Edinburgh road just weeks after they were taken away, after councillors criticised the ‘depressing lawlessness’ of motorists who capitalised on the bollards’ removal by continuously driving in the now unprotected cycle lane.
In September, the City of Edinburgh Council agreed to remove the bollards on Drum Brae North due to safety concerns for cyclists “at risk when coming downhill on the steepest section of the hill”.
Councillors claimed that people using the segregated cycle lane, installed during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of the city’s Spaces for People scheme, were in danger of colliding with the bollards if forced to take “evasive action such as if someone was reversing from a driveway”.
However, since the bollards were removed in January, images and videos have been posted on social media of drivers treating the cycle lane like another lane of motor traffic, with one motorist even filmed driving along the bike lane before mounting the pavement, almost hitting a child.
Drumbrae N again. Many reports of this behaviour happening especially with couriers, managed to capture an SUV narrowly avoiding a parent and child (headcam a bit low, missed the rest of the traffic ahead) @EuanHyslop @harts_cyclery @david_mccraw @CllrScottArthur pic.twitter.com/cUm0qvdRAu
— Cripes (@Chrixoffer) February 7, 2023
According to the Edinburgh Evening News, locals have warned the council that, despite the authority’s apparent aim to reduce the threat posed to people on bikes on Drum Brae North, the road has become even more dangerous in recent weeks thanks to the lack of protection for cyclists.
Labour councillor Scott Arthur, the city council’s transport convenor, said action had to be taken to improve safety on the road, and that the “lawlessness” displayed by drivers in the area was “depressing to see”.
A report by the council’s transport committee found that residents had witnessed “multiple vehicles regularly encroaching into the cycleway”, while the removal of the bollards had “made parents feel unable to safely cycle with their children”.
On Drum Brae I think we've shown that "painted on" cycle lanes don't work. pic.twitter.com/D8zTE2k7cD
— Cllr Scott Arthur 🌍🌈 (@CllrScottArthur) January 17, 2023
Following the report, the committee voted on Thursday to reinstall the bollards – but only along half of the cycleway, in the section where, the council says, “issues have been reported and observed”.
The council’s transport manager, Dave Sinclair, admitted taking the bollards out was the wrong decision, and that officers would continue to monitor the road to determine whether they should be reinstated along the entire length of the cycleway.
“I think we’re clearly revisiting that to manage the risk – we have a duty of care and we have seen the videos,” Sinclair said.
“I think it’s reasonable that we reinstate the area where we know that driver behaviour is so poor that physical reinstatement is reasonable.”
However, Liberal Democrat council leader Kevin Lang questioned the “piecemeal and premature” reinstallation of the bollards, which he claimed represents the “hokey-cokey approach that appears to have been taken with this road”.
“I’m worried we’ll be back here again, probably pretty soon with something else, and the hokey-cokey will continue,” he said, before pointing out that “incredibly disruptive” roadworks elsewhere had “probably doubled” the volume of traffic on Drum Brae North in recent weeks.
Conservative councillor Christopher Cowdy echoed Lang’s analysis by suggesting that the closure of Clermiston Road was behind the increase in incidents reported to the council, a claim which prompted head of placemaking Daisy Narayanan to point out that the problem owed more to poor driver behaviour than the volume of traffic on the road.
“We’re just accepting there’s an issue here that needs to be addressed. I think most people accept that something has to be done here,” added Arthur.
“What this is about doing is reinforcing that message to drivers that they shouldn’t be driving in the bike lane and they shouldn’t be driving on the footpath.”
The desire to blame external factors on poor driving isn’t new in Edinburgh. Last year, residents on the city’s Lanark Road – a road notorious for cycling-related casualties – blamed the increase in the number of collisions involving motorists in the area on the recently installed cycle lane.
The Lanark Road cycle lanes continued to fuel the anger of motorists throughout 2022, with members of a nearby golf club starting a petition last February to have the bike lane removed – so they could park their cars on it.
Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative MSP Sue Webber came in for criticism in June after she claimed that a school bike bus on the Lanark Road was set up simply to score political points, as a public consultation over Edinburgh’s much-debated Spaces for People scheme drew to a close.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.