04 August 2016

The problem with cyclists...

One of the main 'take-aways' from the recent #roseburn meeting (more on that soon) was  that Edinburgh's already a great place to cycle, so why do they need to do it down 'our' street (one of the main arterials into the city centre...).

Speaker after speaker claimed to 'be a cyclist myself' and rhapsodised about Edinburgh's amazing oof-road cycle routes.  To paraphrase one audience member 'there are lots of places that people can already cycle, amazing cycle paths'.  And, that's perfectly true, but they don't take you into the city centre to work!  Others suggested that the NCN route (the one that runs down the tram tracks) is under-utilized, and needs better signage...

The real answer, as Peter Gregson* himself, admitted "The problem with cyclists is we don't want to take funny awkward routes".  

And, of course, he's right.  There are lots of reasons that cyclists don't use existing 'funny awkward' routes - like ones that take you through a park full of kids and pedestrians, up and down hills, and through dodgy intersections - but they will use safe, well-designed routes, and even more importantly, so will people who don't currently cycle, as we're seeing in London:

Cycling now major transport mode in LDN: 645,000 journeys a day, 10% up from 2013. Morning rush trebled since 2000 pic.twitter.com/3gZPIwp0EE
This shows, if nothing else does, why 'quiet routes' won't increase cycle use enough to make a difference, but good infrastructure will.

If we take seriously concerns about pollution, congestion, the massive expansion Edinburgh is under-going, and the inability of our road network to cope with increased single-occupancy vehicle usage, then we need to build direct, easy to use arterial networks.

Reducing car usage is what will enable emergency vehicles to get through our streets, deliveries to shops, and essential traffic.  It's the excess car use that blocks up Roseburn and keeps the buses from running.

Transforming the environment into one that doesn't privilege rampant car use - but allows those who need cars to do so - is the main plank to keeping Roseburn moving, and that means cyclists too.

* The individual behind the 'anti' campaign. 

02 August 2016

Cycling Paradise...in Scotland?

I spent last week looking out my kitchen window at family groups cycling down the middle of the road, mums with their handbags dangling from their arms; sober, sedate older citizens cycling home with their newspapers and loaves of bread; groups of early teenagers zooming around *without helmets* on their own. In fact, the first 48 hours I was there I didn't see any helmets at all, despite seeing dozens of cyclists - far more than I saw moving cars.

Amazingly, I wasn't in Holland, or Paris, or Copenhagen.  I was in Scotland, about 50 miles from Edinburgh, in Elie.

Elie's a little seaside village, popular with tourists, and even more popular as a holiday home or vacation spot for the well-heeled.  But the narrow-crowded streets make driving a nightmare, so families bring their bikes, or rent bikes for the duration of their holiday, and cycle back and forth to the beach, golf courses, and tennis courts.  I particularly liked the moment I peered around a narrow corner and was confronted by 3 lads in wetsuits and flipflops, cycling along casually with their phones out, while a car waited patiently behind them.  Or looking out the window as it got dark, to see the cheeky grin of the 8 year old staying below us, who had cycled home at 10pm, and had clearly left his parents some way back with his little sister. 

Elie is a privileged space, and perhaps not easily replicated outside Centre Parks, but it was nonetheless immensely refreshing to see that *in the right space* parents were willing to hop on their bikes, let their kids have some freedom, and leave their cars at home.