Cycle Lane Pandemonium on the A701

Concerns have been raised over the increased width of the cycle lane along the A701, Penicuik’s main trunk road.

As part of the Scottish Government’s pledge to give cyclists a safer cycle route, Midlothian Council have increased the width of the cycle lane on a section of Edinburgh Road between Tesco Penicuik and the dual carriageway at Auchendinny. The works, which have been carried out since new year, have raised the eyebrows of locals though, due to the narrowness of the main transport lane in places.

The busy trunk road, which runs from Edinburgh to Dumfries, has seen its fair share of accidents in the past few years, however there are now concerns that the number of incidents could increase due to the new one metre width of the cycle lane between Penicuik and Auchendinny.

One “pinch point” outside Glencorse Barracks has been identified as a possible trouble hotspot. This small stretch of road had its traffic islands removed, as part of the widening works, along with the removal of two traffic calming sections of pavement by the ‘welcome’ sign. The purpose of this was to allow cyclists to have as much room as possible along the road. However the increase to one metre has seen the main transport lane reduced to a mostly impassible width neighbouring the old entrance to the barracks. Due to a middle right turn lane and the increased width cycle lane, only a 1.5m wide car could pass a cyclist safely, should they be faced with a car turning right into the car park and a cyclist in the cycle lane. Exasperating the problem is the incomplete removal of the old road markings, which only serve to confuse drivers further.

Another narrow lane point can be found at the Mauricewood Road/A701 junction. This accident prone, non signalised, junction has too seen alterations due to the widening. To accommodate the increased cycle lane width, the right turn middle lane has now been decreased in width, so that only a car with a width of 1.5m could fit comfortably within the box. Neighbouring this, the main transport lane is impassible should a cyclist be present in the cycle lane. Despite the changes, the junction is still awaiting signalisation as part of Taylor Wimpey’s required developer contributions at Greenlaw Mill.

On the other end of the scale, a wide stretch of road outside Glencorse Barracks has gained an extra lane. The lane, which could easily be confused as a second car lane or a bus lane, is now around 2.5m wide, only a few centimetres narrower than the main transport lane beside it. The Penicuik Cuckoo has heard from a concerned local that one Lothian bus has attempted to use the lane to expedite its arrival to the bus stop outside the high school.

The Midlothian Advertiser reported last month that Midlothian Council reaffirmed that the new markings are not against regulation however our research has shown that this may not be the case.

Whilst no set rules exist for the width of the main transport lane, in the presence of a cycle lane, in Scotland, there are several government documents which do advise planners on what to do. In London, a cycle lane should not be used on road when the main transport lane would be reduced below three metres, as is the case on the A701 (document here).

In a document about minimum lane widths during narrow Motorway contraflows, it states:

Where heavy vehicles including public service vehicles, caravans, etc are expected the lane width may only be reduced to 3.25 m, desirable minimum, and where there is a shortage of space an absolute minimum of 3.0 m.

The lane width, when excluding the cycle lane, now falls well below three metres, with an approximate width of 1.8m.

Finally, some guidance is given to road planners in Scotland in another document (available here). It states that for vehicles, 4.3m is needed to pass a cyclist, whilst 5.05m is needed by buses and HGVs. For an HGV this amount of clearance would see the truck pass into the cycle lane on the opposite side of the road. As this is not happening it can be said that HGV’s and buses must either be passing unsafely or they aren’t passing at all.

It should however be noted, that whilst appropriate space should be given for passing, the cycle lanes are not mandatory (there is a broken line) therefore drivers are allowed to enter the lane, should it be safe to do so.

We asked you, on our Facebook page, what you thought of the new markings. A cyclist, Carolyn Higgins, who uses the road frequently got in touch:

Just beyond this photo [above] in the Penicuik direction as well near the traffic island is a section with 3 dangers for a cyclist and not enough room for a car and cyclist. The road needs to be repaired more than increasing the width of the cycle lane. Ever since this change, yes I am able to avoid things that could cause me to lose control of the bike or severely damage my bike and still stay in the cycle lane. However, the cars have been more irritated with cyclists since (IMO) and I have felt that it is more unsafe now than before as cars are now passing me closer than they were despite the fact that I am cycling within the area of what used to be the cycle lane not the newly marked one.

Another reader, Kerry Carruthers, said:

Maybe Midlothian council could of spent the money on repairing the roads instead. I am all for cyclists using the road safely but this is a joke.

This was also echoed by Louise Williamson:

It looks like my 5 year old has been sent out with a paintbrush and told to draw a road. The bit past the barracks is an absolute mess and there is nowhere near enough room to pass a cyclist safely until there is a gap in the oncoming traffic, which at peak times is very rare

Shona Hepburn argued that money should have been invested in a off road route, such as the old Penicuik railway line:

A safer cycle route would be an off road route.. they should work harder to provide cycle lanes/paths that arent on the road at all. Cycle lanes dont however need to be this wide. All it will do is encourage (bad) drivers to undercut cars if there is queuing traffic etc

It is believed that the concerns have been passed onto the council in a recent Penicuik Community Council meeting.

What’s your view on the new markings? Are they a welcome arrival which will aid the safety of cyclists? Are they too big that they might actually make the safety worse? Let us know your view below in the comments. Additionally you can email us at if you’d prefer to wright a longer excerpt for publication.

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