‘Shameful’ state of Edinburgh’s roads admitted by council transport convener Scott Arthur should accelerate action – Alastair Dalton

Councillor told that the condition of the capital’s streets is “lethal” for cyclists but he says there are tentative signs of improvement

There’s a main road near my home in Glasgow that has become progressively more difficult to cycle on over the winter as the potholes have become deeper, wider and more numerous.

It’s bad enough by day, but in the dark or when it’s wet, streets like that become even more treacherous. I have learned to never ride through a puddle if you can avoid it because that risks disaster.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the potential dangers were really brought home today when I drove down that street, wrongly thinking the holes didn’t present any threat to wider car tyres, but one loud jolt later and I realised how wrong I had been.

A pothole in London Road in Edinburgh in 2020. (Photo by Lisa Ferguson/The Scotsman)A pothole in London Road in Edinburgh in 2020. (Photo by Lisa Ferguson/The Scotsman)
A pothole in London Road in Edinburgh in 2020. (Photo by Lisa Ferguson/The Scotsman)

While things are now atrocious in Glasgow, I remember being equally misguided to think they would be any different in Edinburgh. But from my bike trips there over the past few months, I’ve found the capital’s streets to be in an equally parlous state.

The response from the two city councils has often in the past been defensive. But it was surprising – and refreshing – to hear the City of Edinburgh Council’s transport convener frankly admitting last week the state of its roads was “shameful”.

Addressing a meeting held by Lothian cycle campaign Spokes, Scott Arthur said that in using that description, he had pledged when he took up the role two years ago to always be honest about road maintenance conditions.

He was responding to a question from a man in the audience who described Edinburgh’s streets as “truly lethal for cyclists – and it’s been deteriorating”.

Mr Arthur said: “We are taking it seriously because it is causing real issues. There’s a mum in my ward who hit a pothole on her bike and broke her jaw.” However, he added the latest data showed they had improved “very slightly”, although this was almost too small to be measurable.

Mr Arthur told me later: “It's not a statistic I trust yet. If it is repeated again this year, I think we can say we have started to halt the decline.”

However, he stressed that residents’ perception of the situation – rather than statistics – was what mattered.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Labour councillor acknowledged at the meeting that significant change would take a long time, especially as he had inherited underfunding of road maintenance from the council’s previous SNP-Labour coalition.

But he said the road maintenance budget had doubled this year with an extra £11 million of spending, and it would increase again in the year from April. This has nearly doubled the area of road surfaces covered and increased by almost six times the amount of pavements being repaired compared to the pre-Covid average.

Mr Arthur said in January that whole streets would be fixed, as people wanted, rather than piecemeal improvements

There is a very urgent need for such tangible progress because we all use the roads, and it’s the most vulnerable who are likely to suffer when they hit a hole.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.