|The map is here thanks to Chris Hill for the direct link.|
But I've defended Edinburgh's dual network approach because it was based around linking up our existing, yet fragmented off-road network - mostly based on old railway paths, parks, and the canal. While it would have been nice to start off by redesigning the big arterial roads that feed commuters into the city, the pragmatist in me valued the decision to prioritize linking up the existing well-used off road segments.
The first major bit of this work has been the Meadows-Innocent path - which is roundabout, indirect, and somewhat too narrow, especially if you ride a tandem. But my kids love using it, and if I tell them we're going that way, I get a big cheer. So last week, when cycling the two miles to the Commie Pool with both kids several times, it made sense to go that way. The first quarter of the journey is pretty nerve-wracking, but once we get to the meadows we're on segregated paths and very quiet back streets (the sort we almost never meet a car on). Except that the pool is a few hundred metres past the entrance to the railway path. And that means that we need to make a right hand turn uphill across 4 lanes of fast-moving traffic - to get to one of the city's biggest sports venues. It's also right next to the main halls of residence for the University of Edinburgh. Getting back is just as bad. Traffic flows steadily out of Holyrood Park, and turning across it at rush hour is fraught with stress. There is a two stage pelican crossing, but it is almost exactly in between our exit and entrance from this short stretch of road - marked by the two red x's on the picture to the right.
Of course, we could get off and walk, although manoeuvring kids and bikes along pavements and through a narrow central island with railings and pedestrians is not one of my favourite things to do. But it's frustrating to get so close and then encounter the deeply unpleasant, car dominated void that is Holyrood Park Rd.
Maybe the network will be extended. But to my mind, this example shows up the very real limitations of the 'fill in the gaps' method of cycle planning. Once the Canal-to-Meadows section is built, we'll have a protected route pretty much from our front door to 200 metres from the pool, but the last few yards will continue to be unpleasant and dangerous. I've blogged before about how 'car-friendly' the pool is, but this really rubs it in.
The crazy thing is, despite the new infra being roundabout, narrow and indirect, it is a huge improvement on the route we used to use daily taking a toddler to nursery in a bike-seat. But it makes the continued gaps all the more obvious.