Alastair Dalton: Clear pavement congestion with “no stopping zones”

Busy pavements are a familar sight in Edinburgh in August. Picture: Neil Hanna
Busy pavements are a familar sight in Edinburgh in August. Picture: Neil Hanna
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There’s a pecking order on the roads, however much you hate to admit it.

The relationship between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians reminds me of the classic 1966 TV sketch on the class system, featuring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.

"Fast green man" crossings for those in a hurry could be introduced. Picture: Neil Hanna

"Fast green man" crossings for those in a hurry could be introduced. Picture: Neil Hanna

Upper class Cleese looks down - both physically and metaphorically - on middle class Barker, who in turn looks up to Cleese but down on lower class Corbett, who “knows his place”.

On the roads, many drivers still think it’s their highway, with cyclists and pedestrians an irritating hindrance who should keep out of the way.

Likewise, some cyclists can be as guilty as those drivers, seeking to clear pedestrians from their path, even riding in their space on pavements.

Meanwhile, pedestrians, apart from the jaywalkers, are often to be seen scurrying away from both cars and bikes, while many simply put up with cyclists on pavements without complaint.

But just as drivers and cyclists jockey for space on the roads, there’s also a battle for room among pedestrians on pavements, none more so than in Edinburgh, now the Festival is upon us.

The narrow streets of the Old Town were chock-a-block with tourists last week, who have since been joined by a growing influx of Festival-goers and performers.

If it’s hard for them to move around, what are the chances for those trying to work in the city in such conditions?

Common obstacles include the large group of slow moving tourists, who are even more tricky to negotiate if they are coming towards you.

Then there are the sauntering types with their random progress, which can be difficult to predict so you can overtake them safely.

But most hazardous of all are those who come complete with large protrusions like giant backpacks or long-lense cameras sticking out at various angles. Even worse if they were to stop abruptly, or suddenly swing round.

In the past, there have been calls for Greenways-style lanes for faster walkers, a bit like those in swimming pools to separate different speeds of swimmer.

However, there wouldn’t be room for them in many of the most congested spots, such as the busiest parts of the Royal Mile.

Even painted a special colour, such lanes could become invisible under many feet, and even if noticed, would be likely to confuse or be ignored.

Far better to introduce “no stopping zones” where the bottlenecks are worst.

Well-positioned signs with sufficiently scary wording should do the trick - because those who spot them will jolly along the rest.

Seeing passengers running for a train is highly infectious and it is quite difficult to stop yourself following suit. It should be the same with no-stopping zones - if everyone else is moving, it’s easier to go with the flow and hard to stop.

Of course, there’ll be a need to be stop-off zones too, like laybys on roads, such as where there’s a photograph to be snapped.

If that doesn’t work, those in a hurry may just have to take circuitous routes via quieter streets, perhaps with some priority “fast green man (and woman)” lights at crossings?

If all else fails, help may be at hand when the Edinburgh cycle hire scheme launches next month - and even more so when they are bolstered by electric bikes next year. Just mind you don’t try riding on the pavement.