Wheels in motion make dangerous walkways

CYCLISTS and pedestrians don’t seem to mix, certainly not on pavements anyway. Walking along a path and minding your own business could seriously damage your health according to some Leith Walk pedestrians.

Complaints were heard at the April community council meeting about the dangers posed by cyclists who whizz past pedestrians on pavements and don’t even use cycle bells to warn of their approach.

“I thought it was illegal to ride bicycles on paths anyway,” said local resident Anne Finlay, who claims that she has almost been run down by speeding cyclists on the Walk on more than one occasion. “Pavements are for people, why are cyclists allowed to ride on them at all?”

Edinburgh Council is clear. “We don’t allow cyclists on pavements,” a spokesperson said. “Though we don’t have powers to charge anyone, this is a police matter. There are some blue signs installed in Edinburgh which denote shared use of the path, but these are not displayed on main footpaths. They are more likely to be found on promenades.”

Lothian and Borders Police say: “It is against the law to cycle on pavements and this is enshrined in legislation [Section 64 of the Road (Scotland) Act 1984].”

The spokesman added: “It is a matter for discretion by the police as to whether charges would be brought. Our current Drive Safe/Cycle Safe campaign focuses on education and certainly safe cycling is part of that campaign.”

Keen cyclist, owner of Leith Cycles and a father of two daughters, Richard Dowsett (pictured left with secretary to Leith Central CC Roland Reid) sees cyclists pass the window of his shop on Leith Walk. “No-one can predict what a dog, or a small child is going to do,” he says. “If a cyclist is anywhere near pedestrians, he or she needs to be able to stop instantly. I’m surprised that there are not more accidents actually.”

Richard hires bikes to tourists who are looking for a day out. They always ask if they can cycle on the pavements. Richard says no. “We need a better cultural understanding about the safe use of cycles here in Britain,” he says.

The community council has learned that Edinburgh Council doesn’t have ‘No cycling’ signs and it would require a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) to make some, a lengthy process and one unlikely to be agreed. Installing these would mean that a toddler on a trike would be breaking the law. But the council could put up posters on display boards along the Walk to remind inconsiderate cyclists that riding on pavements is against the law.

Cyclists cite recent serious accidents as proof of the dangers to their own health and safety of cycling on the road. Edinburgh Council claims that there isn’t enough space on the Walk for separate bus and cycle lanes. In the meantime, neither cyclists nor pedestrians feel safe. Surely this issue needs a rethink.