Snow and lack of treatment leaves 'dangerous footpaths and impassable cycle lanes' in Edinburgh

Council bosses have been accused of leaving ‘dangerous footpaths and impassable cycle lanes’ after failing to adequately grit and clear parts of the capital’s transport network.

Cyclists were forced onto the main carriageway
Cyclists were forced onto the main carriageway

This morning, Edinburgh residents awoke to find snow had hit the capital, causing disruption to commuters and school runs.

While roads were gritted and cleared, numerous segregated cycle lanes, some installed as part of the council’s controversial Spaces for People programme, were left untreated, forcing cyclists onto the main carriageways.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Colinton and Fairmilehead councillor Scott Arthur, Labour, himself a keen cyclist, said: “This was not a significant snowfall and there was plenty of warning off it.

Cyclist struggles in the snow

“Nonetheless, I awoke this morning to reports from residents in my ward of cars losing control, curtailed bus services, dangerous footpaths and impassable cycle lanes.

“The council can choose to defend the situation, but residents in my ward want a bit of humility and for lessons to be learnt.

“Time and time again I was told that the council had the resources to keep the Spaces for People cycle lanes on the A702 free of snow, ice and leaves.

“For two days now, however, they have been impassable due to a relatively small amount of snow.

Untreated footpath and cycle-way

“This has forced vulnerable cyclists into the now much narrower vehicle lane - the very definition of an accident waiting to happen.”

Fairmilehead councillor Stella Thomson said: “It was horrible to find the lanes weren’t gritted last night and I watched those cyclists with my heart in my mouth.

“Nevertheless, the temporary lanes have made cycling much safer generally and have attracted many more people to cycle, so we expect the council to fix this promptly.”

Convener of the council’s transport committee, and SNP councillor Liberton and Gilmerton, Lesley Macinnes, said: “We prepare well in advance for whatever winter might throw at us.

“Our teams have been out gritting priority routes and our Roads Services teams are on standby with a fleet of gritting lorries and mini-tractors ready to go when needed.

“We need to be responsive to unpredictable weather patterns. Last night for example, light snowfall was forecast but much heavier amounts fell than were predicted.

“Our gritting teams are on hand 24/7 to respond tp the poor conditions on the city’s roads, cycle paths and pavements.

“We operate a priority gritting system, treating priority one routes first, which include principal roads, bus routes and roads and pavements leading to hospitals, fire stations and care homes, in order to keep the city moving.

“These are complex plans involving coordinating a lot of machinery, additional staff and the need to be responsive to changing conditions.”

Pentland Hills councillor Susan Webber, whose ward was badly hit by the snow, said: “The snow that fell early on Friday morning was significant, in particular in the south west of the city.

“Frankly I can only breathe a huge sigh of relief that we have not yet had the Spaces for People schemes implemented along Lanark Road as there would have significant issues today for all road users.

“The degree of snow at Gillespie Crossroads was far greater than that at Longstone but I was told by the convenor that she understands this as the same thing is experienced regularly in Liberton too.

“I was also advised by the convenor following my second attempt to highlight issues of winter and seasonal maintenance of the new cycle segregation at our October Council meeting that ‘there are existing, well-developed operational measures and plans for winter maintenance and preparedness including but not limited to street sweeping, gully cleaning and road and footpath maintenance’.

“I am still left wondering where and what these plans were.

“As despite being provided with verbal assurance that robust and capable plans did exist, the report I requested and that was agreed to be prepared that outlined these is yet to materialise.

“It does seem that my initial concerns, raised as far back as August were legitimate, but again like everything else the Conservatives bring to committee, no matter how practical and helpful the content might be, we are ignored and dismissed.

“We continue to be excluded from any decision making or influence and it appears that it does pay to listen to all voices.”

Councillor Macinnes said in response: “While some light snowfall was forecast, the large amount that fell overnight was not predicted by the weather services.

“Our approach to this planning has been established in detail and agreed at committee and, as councillor Webber knows, a further report is being prepared for our January committee to provide an update and background to this winter’s activities to date.

“If she has any specific questions about the winter maintenance operations beyond what she should be able to find in committee reports on record, I am sure that the service department would happily meet with her to provide her with that technical information.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

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