Cycling and pedestrian groups voice dismay at Edinburgh road closure U-turn

A controversial road closure is set to be removed - to the disappointment of pro-pedestrian and cycling groups.

Cyclists and pedestrians on traffic-free Braid Road
Cyclists and pedestrians on traffic-free Braid Road

Braid Road, in Morningside, has been closed since the early days of the coronavirus as part of Edinburgh City Council’s Spaces for People scheme, which installed temporary road closures and traffic measures to allow people to socially distance when walking or cycling.

Now, councillors are being asked to approve reopening the southbound section of the road at a meeting of the council’s transport committee on Thursday.

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A briefing note, sent to councillors ahead of the meeting, reads: “The country is now in a stricter lockdown period and traffic levels across the city have again fallen.

“Lothian Buses has advised journey times on the A702 routes have returned to normal.

“However, when the current lockdown eases we may see delays return as traffic levels increase.

“Finally, the recommendation offered to the Transport and Environment Committee is to reopen this route in a southbound direction to mitigate the negative impact of traffic and public transport delays and reduce the level of intrusive traffic using residential streets including Cluny Drive and Braid Crescent etc.

“It is known that re-opening Braid Road would reintroduce additional traffic into the area.

“The volume of traffic returning to Braid Road would likely be greater than the corresponding decrease in traffic on Comiston Road.

“However, there is also a risk that as traffic across the city returns to normal, the level of traffic on Comiston Road will continue to grow in 2021, with likely negative outcomes for public transport journey times and air quality.”

Stella Thomson, a member of pro-cycling group Spokes South Edinburgh and a local councillor for Fairmilehead community council, said: “This is such disappointing news and I hope councillors will keep Braid Road open to people walking, wheeling and cycling, and closed to traffic.

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“Many people say they would like to cycle for everyday trips but the number one reason they give for not doing so is their fear of cycling in traffic.

“While Braid Road has been closed, and with protected cycle lanes on the A702 (Comiston Road), I have seen so many more people cycling.

“It’s been great to see far more women, teenagers, families, and older people all cycling.

“We were so looking forward to promoting the proposed quiet route connecting the Greenbank roundabout to the Meadows.

“It would give Fairmilehead a desperately needed safe cycle route into town and also to several High schools in South Edinburgh.

“If the council is serious about addressing public health and air quality both during the pandemic and afterwards, it must provide traffic free routes to enable people to cycle in safety and comfort.

“We have seen too many people killed and injured on bikes in the city. Leadership is now required to ensure everyone who wants to cycle can do so in safety.”

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Two further members of Spokes, David Greaves and Anne Campbell, of Redford Road, said in a written statement: "We are extremely disappointed to learn that proposals for safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians are at risk of being thrown-out.

“The proposed quiet route between Greenbank and the Meadows is absolutely essential particularly for children going to school, students and others wanting to travel safely.

“This would be a real blow for those of us living in the south of the city who do not have access to a car or prefer to travel by bike and help reduce congestion.

“It is far too soon to be backtracking on pilot initiatives like the closure of Braid Road when we are still in such abnormal times with so many people avoiding public transport.”

However, Conservative councillor Jason Rust, who represents Colinton and Fairmilehead, has welcomed the reopening.

He said: “Having had such an entrenched view on the closure of Braid Road against local views, I am pleased that the council now recognises that reopening will mitigate the negative impact of traffic and public transport delays and reduce the level of intrusive traffic using surrounding residential streets.

“However, serious questions remain about why this is only a recommendation for part-opening in one direction rather than a full reopening and about the anecdotal evidence referenced in their briefing.”

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