'Bike lane' between Edinburgh tram tracks is not a bike lane, says council

New lanes: Princes Street has new road markings.
New lanes: Some cyclists say the new road markings on Princes Street are confusing and potentially dangerous.STV

New road markings on Edinburgh's Princes Street have led to confusion among cyclists.

The thoroughfare is due to reopen to traffic on Saturday after tram tracks had to be relaid.

The right-hand lanes on both side of the street have been painted with white bikes in between the tram tracks. At the west end a 40-metre strip on both sides of the road has also been painted green with white bikes, again between the tracks.

But the City of Edinburgh Council says cyclists should not ride between the tracks and advised them to carry on if a tram is behind them.

Official guidance to cyclists in publicity material advised: "Ensure you cross at an angle which is as close to 90 degrees as possible. Unlike buses, the tram path is fixed by the track - keep out of its way."

A training video on the Edinburgh Trams website also states: "Unless you're turning right, it's better not to ride between the tracks. The tram can't swerve, so if something goes wrong the driver has to make an emergency stop and that can take the length of the tram.

Some cyclists had raised concerns after pictures of the new markings were posted online.

Pedal Nation, a Scottish cycle tour firm, responded to the Twitter pictures saying: "You couldn't make it up. Muppetry of the first degree."

David Brennan, who co-organised the Pedal on Parliament campaign, said: "Wonder how much money has been wasted on that and how much it will cost to put right."

Another cyclist Sally Hinchcliffe also saw the pictures of the lanes and tweeted: "What? Are they trying to kill people? About the only time I ever came off a bike as an adult was on a tram track."

Kim Harding, a qualified cycle trainer, previously volunteered at council-run sessions helping to show cyclists how to cross tracks safely. He said he thought the markings looked like a bike lane:

"I don't understand what they're doing there. You assume it is a bike lane because they've painted bikes on the road, yet the advice previously has been to not ride between the tracks. This contradicts that. I think people will ignore the markings and ride on the left lane, but that just causes problems when buses stop and cyclists have to overtake, which means going over the tracks.

"I came off the bike once while crossing the tracks at a good angle before because it was wet.

"There is plenty of space for a dedicated segregated cycle track, but the new layout has been on the way for a while. It's dangerous and they should've asked people before doing it."

A dedicated cycle lane on Princes Street has been ruled out by the council because of the large footfall on the north pavement. Council figures estimate around 70,000 pedestrians use the pavement on any given Saturday.

A trams information leaflet from 2009 concluded: "At any location in the city centre there simply isn't enough road space to meet everyone's wishes. To allow a cycle lane that complies with UK standards, a significant area of footway space would need to be removed.

"In simple terms, the benefits to cyclists are outweighed by the detriment to pedestrians, particularly given the number of users involved."

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Trams said the lane was not intended as a dedicated cycle lane. They said:

"This is standard signage advising cyclists that they are permitted to continue westbound from Princes Street on to Shandwick Place. While this short section of road is shared use, most of Princes Street has two lanes available for use by trams, buses, taxis and cycles. On completion, clear signage will installed along the length of the on-street section of the route.

"The safety of all road users, including cyclists, has been a major consideration throughout the development and construction of the tram project and we continue to work closely with cycle groups in order to raise awareness of the tram rails and negotiate them correctly and safely.

"We are in discussions with the Bike Station with a view to offering a series of drop-in awareness sessions but, in the mean time, existing guidance and advice, including an educational video, is available from the Edinburgh Trams website."

IN DETAIL

Cycling and trams leaflet

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