Events and campaigns

A new bike rider’s perspective on cycling in Edinburgh

**I attended a support ride for the East West cycle route in Edinburgh today. Sadly, my partner Jon couldn’t make it. So instead he’s written a piece from his perspective as a new rider on Edinburgh’s impending decision on the route.**

Getting in the saddle

It was back in February that I ditched the bus pass and start cycling to work from Corstorphine to Orchard Brae. There wasn’t one deciding factor for the change, but between saving £50 on a monthly bus pass, avoiding lengthy bus queues and getting fitter, switching to two wheels seemed a good idea.

I’d bought a bike in 2014, going out for the occasional weekend cycle on city back roads, but not taking a chance on busy main roads. Despite being the fastest way to get from A to B, I felt that cycling busy, trafficked streets wasn’t much fun.

The madness of barriers preventing accessible cycle routes (and accessible routes full stop).

The madness of barriers preventing accessible cycle routes (and accessible routes full stop).

There are a few issues facing the new cyclist, from building confidence on roads to finding a route that gets you to work safely and, hopefully, quickly. I’m lucky to have a cycling-mad partner (**way-hey! Fame!**) who had a copy of the Spokes Edinburgh Map which includes various potential routes that looked promising on paper.

I was also introduced to the City Cycling Edinburgh Forum, a friendly bunch that offered plenty of advice for a newbie.

With some support, plus a couple of trial journeys that took me down some dead ends and into the path of some pretty hellish traffic on Queensferry Road, I was soon negotiating the quieter streets of Corstorphine, Murrayfield and Roseburn. Bear in mind, I had a four mile commute – it was a lot of effort to find a safe cycle route.

Within six months I’d dropped a jean size, saved a few hundred quid and found a fantastic new way of getting to work that brings the city to life every day.

I also realised the strange situation that Edinburgh’s active travellers – that’s cyclists and pedestrians – find themselves.

Making Edinburgh more cycle friendly

Roseburn cycle route option a

Thanks to Andy Catlin for this great image from the support ride

I’ve recently started a new job in the city centre, so gone is my daily Orchard Brae round trip. One of the most awkward parts of my new commute is Roseburn. On leaving leafy Roseburn Park and arriving on Roseburn Place, the ideal option would be to turn up Roseburn Street onto Roseburn Terrace, before taking off towards Haymarket via West Coates, just like the cars do.

Instead I have to take an awkward detour through Dalry, onto the canal, through corporate plazas before reaching the city centre without tangling in too much traffic.

A direct cycle route into town would be ideal, and I’m sure would encourage many others to hop on a bike. The current set up makes this area a pretty horrendous option for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike, but it’s something that’s currently being debated by numerous parties as Edinburgh Council gets set to decide on a new route that will favour active travel (pedestrians and cyclists), the City Centre West to East Link.

It’s a heated debate, with those in favour of change pointing out that segregating bikes from drivers on the journey into the city centre will help make the journey safer for everyone, while pedestrians will also be given more space to walk the pavement and cross at the lights.

Similar schemes can be found around the world, with good levels of success. There’s more footfall for local shops, more people are encouraged to take their bike to work and everyday journeys thereby reducing the number of cars on the road and the pollution they cause. In the long term it’s win-win for residents and commuters.

Like any big changes, there’s been opposition to the proposals, driven by scaremongering that overlooks key facts, but it’s understandable that change is seen as a bad thing for those at the centre of it. Perhaps some of them will look at evidence-based arguments.

Where next for Edinburgh?

There are three choices for the Council when it comes to Roseburn – A and B or nothing at all.

If the West to East Link falls foul of Edinburgh Council and they either choose Option B or to scrap the whole thing, then I suspect we’ll see fewer people taking up cycling and car usage increasing over the next few years.

The brave option would be to go for Option A, but in the current political climate, I’m not sure if councillors are brave enough to face the wrath of a minority of vocal council tax payers.

There’ll be some hardy souls who’ll keep taking up cycling, but to my mind riding a bike to get around shouldn’t be seen as a game of Russian Roulette that will hopefully result in the winner getting home in one piece.

Cycling and walking deserve to be at the heart of our council’s transport plan. Shouldn’t we be trying to make Edinburgh cleaner and healthier for everyone?

Welcome to the Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland

Women’s cycling is growing, diverse and inspiring. Why then does the mainstream media (and many people I chat with) lump women into one homogeneous group? Why do we see so many all male panels dominating the cycling conversation? Why is it that women are considered secondary and unimportant when it comes to cycle sport? Why are we constantly talked about but not really listened to?

Female voices are too often not heard, despite there being a plentiful supply of amazing, articulate and talented women that work and volunteer within cycling or are actively involved within the cycling community. The Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland aims to change the status quo and demonstrate the diverse and incredible talent, leadership, opinions and experiences of women who ride bikes.

Now officially launched as a membership organisation, I’d urge you to join WCFS. All are welcome – we only want our members to share our objectives as an organisation. Basically, if you think women need more representation within cycling and want to contribute to that, here’s the joining info. I am a member of the committee along with a brilliant bunch of ladies and look forward to helping to further progress women’s cycling in Scotland.

We had an amazing launch event as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling last night. Lee Craigie and Jools Walker were our keynote speakers, providing a snapshot of exactly the kinds of diversity the Forum wants to highlight within women’s cycling.

Lee Craigie on her very recent MTB time trial adventure on the Highland Trail 550.

Lee Craigie is the founder of The Adventure Syndicate and all round inspiring lady. You can read more about her adventures, work and successes here. She talked about how women make excellent endurance athletes, yet we are badly under-represented within endurance events and sport. She brought her epic Shand MTB to the event – there’s surely no better mascot for women’s cycling than a mucky, laden bike-packed MTB 🙂

Jools Walker, aka Lady Velo, is a cycle chic blogger from London. She got back into cycling in 2010 after a 10 year hiatus and hasn’t looked back since. She champions the accessibility of cycling in all its forms and made sure to impress upon the attendees of the launch that there were plenty of people who told her she “wouldn’t like” fixed gear riding, or road riding, or riding clipped in. But hey, guess what – she didn’t listen to the naysayers. There is no prescribed way to be or ride your bike – women on bikes are awesome regardless.

Fangirling to the max with Jools

I’ve been following Jools’ adventures for quite some time on Instagram, so was super duper chuffed to meet her and get a chat in the pub afterwards 🙂

Both Lee and Jools are clearly passionate about women’s cycling, and that enthusiasm at the launch event definitely ignited ideas, plans and aspirations.

So let’s keep up the momentum. Come and join us! We are still in the early stages as an official organisation so are looking to firm up events, activities and opportunities. We are very keen to hear from people that would like to get involved, share skills and peer mentor each other. Hope to hear from you 🙂

For more on the WCFS launch, check out this Storify.

 

 

Encouraging new bike riders with the Edinburgh Cycle Challenge

I’ve been a very busy bee recently. For the next few months I’m project managing the Love To Ride Edinburgh Cycle Challenge, a three week cycling event from 1 – 21 March funded by City of Edinburgh Council.

The aim of the game is to encourage new and occasional cyclists to get on their bike, log rides via the website or app, and win some great prizes in the process. Of course, regular cyclists are more than welcome to get involved, too.

If you live or work in Edinburgh, all you need to do is:

  1. Register yourself (and workplace) for free on the website: www.lovetoride.net/edinburgh
  2. Encourage colleagues and friends to take part.
  3. Ride a bike anywhere for 10 minutes or more between 1 – 21 March, log the ride online and win some great prizes.
  4.  Workplaces across Edinburgh compete on leaderboards to get the most people on bikes!

It’s really easy to get involved and offers a range of benefits for individuals as well as employers. A ten minute bike ride is accessible to most people, and even if participants don’t have a bike they can borrow one and enjoy a short trip somewhere they feel comfortable. Plus, it’s all about participation and not distance – cycle 1 or 100 miles and there’s the same chance of winning a prize.

The challenge also fosters a bit of friendly competition between businesses and individual departments within organisations. The leaderboard is a fun way to encourage more colleagues to jump on a bike and rediscover the joys of cycling.  But even if your workplace isn’t interested in getting involved, you can sign up as an individual and still take part. There’s no reason not to register, really! 🙂

What’s particularly interesting about the challenge is the behaviour change model that encourages more people to get cycling. On average, around 40% of non-cyclists that participate in the challenge start to ride a bike after the challenge finishes. The model is well established and successful. Take a look at this video to see how this works in practice.

But back to Edinburgh. This March’s Cycle Challenge prizes include:

  • a beautiful Gazelle Esprit bike from Hart’s Cyclery
  • B&B stay at the Cramond Mill
  • 100 cinema tickets
  • bike gear from Wee Cog
  • goodies from Route Clothing
  • massages from Blue Morpho
  • memberships to CTC
  • tickets to the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, as well as a day’s cargo bike hire and some snazzy mugs
  • lunch for four at the Cramond Falls Cafe
  • Rich Dyson photography workshops
  • and more to be confirmed.

There are plenty of prizes up for grabs, and all for just ten minutes on a bike.  If you know anyone in the city that’s been toying with the idea of cycling or just needs a bit of a nudge, then this could be just what they need to rediscover the joys of travel by two wheels.

With the myriad of benefits cycling brings for you and your colleagues, what’s to lose with the Edinburgh Cycle Challenge? I’m encouraging organisations and individuals across the city to get involved, so I’d be delighted if you wanted to register and take part.  It’s free and good fun, so register here and get on your bike!

My much less woeful George Street consultation experience

Since writing up my experience of the George Street design consultation in mid-August, there’s been a fair bit of discussion and chat about it. The City Cycling Edinburgh forum has several threads dedicated to the consultation, the blog comments have some good discussion points, and I’ve had quite a few face-to-face conversations about it, too. Who says democracy is dead, eh?

In a surprising twist, I also had a chap from the council on the phone to me last week. He was keen to hear about how I felt the consultation exercise went, and I hope I came across as honest and not-mad. We spoke for probably around 20 minutes, and I recounted my confusing and slightly depressing foray into public consultation. He was really helpful, attentive and promised to feed back my experiences. Which is really nice. Bear in mind he’s not taking forward my actual input on the George Street redesign because I’ve already done it via a blank sheet of paper and even blanker stares from consultants.

Here’s his blog comment that led to the conversation, which I think is very useful and relevant for anyone interested in George Street:

Hi Claire
I’m the guy at the Council who has been in charge of the George Street Experimental Traffic Regulation Order from the outset, so I wanted to say I’d seen your blog and thanks for posting it.

The meeting you were at (13/8) was in fact the only part of the George Street trial that I have not been in charge of and I wasn’t in attendance. I’m sorry to read how negative it was for you, especially as the rest of the project to date has been characterised by a huge effort to engage the public and to value people and their needs above all else.

By way of example, from July 2014 to July 2015 there were some groundbreaking aspects of the project. We took the view that there was only any point in running a trial if it is tested properly, and to everyone’s satisfaction. Otherwise, why trial. So to reassure and to overcome people’s (natural) scpeticism, the public were put in charge of the research aspects.

The Council paid for an independent research company to undertake 1200 interviews and other traffic-based research, but there have been quarterly meetings where the public have been first to receive the results (before any elected members or senior officials) and it has been the public who have interrogated and scrutinised the feedback. It’s been a refreshing approach, in many people’s eyes – for example here http://www.broughtonspurtle.org.uk/news/george-street-experiment-thrives-success-and-failure)

So, with this meeting being the first to have moved away from this model, I was interested in your feedback, sorry to read it was negative, but I’m interested in hearing from you about your thoughts. The street is so important to the city, to its many stakeholders, and getting the design right for the long run is something I am passionate about. I’d be happy to pick up the conversation with you if you’d like.

Well done, council! Thank you for taking the time to do this 🙂

It was brilliant to be so pro-active and I was pleased to hear that the council’s staff working on the street design are so invested in the project and keen to get a positive outcome for all users of the street.

I believe there are more George Street consultation bits and bobs lined up, so I will be keeping an eye on how it all goes. I might even go to another event! 😉

 

 

 

 

My woeful George Street Design consultation experience

For those not in the know, George Street has been under an experimental road traffic order for the past year. As part of the experiment, the 30 metre-wide road has given over some space to cyclists. Which is nice.

What’s not so nice is its poor design. I’ve been using it for the last year as part of my daily commute, and although I absolutely embrace the council’s decision to offer some proper space for cycling, in practice the experience is flawed for all users of the street. There are plenty other online discussions that are much clearer than I could ever be when it comes to George Street’s ETRO, so I won’t go into detail here.

I did, however, attempt to go into some detail at an open consultation event yesterday. I am not a very vocal cycle campaigner, as this blog confirms. Nor am I a transport planner. I only have my opinions from first-hand experience of riding a bike and reading a lot of cycling literature. I also walk, use public transport and occasionally drive. I feel frustrated and isolated whenever I attempt to “discuss” cycling issues with people that don’t ride a bike for transport, but I felt it important to attend the event and weigh in with my two pennies.

When it comes to cycle campaigning, my usual tact is to write to MSPs and the like as I feel I can be much more considered and back up my observations with links to relevant studies and evidence. Of course, in conversation that’s not so easy to do and I can get frustrated and emotional and can’t articulate myself.

My George Street design experience was almost a carbon copy of that template situation. I was dismayed to hear a range of bizarre and sometimes frightening responses from some of the consultants hired to undertake the consultation, as well as attendees. I couldn’t fight the good fight because I was too busy disliking conflict with strangers.

Some choice exchanges and overheard conversation included snobby opinions on how all the traffic should be moved onto Princes Street because the shops there are very tatty (!). Another grim comment went along the lines of how George Street needs loadsa parking, as posh people will only shop in posh shops if they can have their cars parked outside.

I had a classic conversation when I asked the consultants whether they thought people on bikes were shortchanged in Edinburgh due to the lack of space for them. Pedestrians get footways, traffic gets roads, bikes get a useless hybrid that encourages conflict. They disagreed.

I also had a cracking comment from a consultant who stated that cycling was embedded in Dutch culture, so they are not very relevant as a comparison to the UK. I was too flummoxed to mention that the Dutch only have a cycling culture because investment was made in infrastructure 40 years ago and it has grown from nothing to amazing.

Another choice snippet came from a fellow consultation participant, who stated that the cycling lobby in Edinburgh was getting too strong. As if fighting for cycling as a legit transport mode is the enemy. Because bikes are such a bad idea by easing congestion, being environmentally friendly, keeping people fit, encouraging more robust and connected communities etc etc.

Of course, I also got the standard red light jumping, cyclists on pavements crap and that “You don’t do yourself any favours”… Because if one cyclist red light jumps then we all do it, OBVIOUSLY.

I appreciate that the point of consultation is to gather feedback from lots of different people. I totally get it. And I also understand that some people don’t think bikes are brilliant. What I don’t get is the thinly veiled vitriol and meanness directed towards people riding bikes and the willful ignorance of the problems that too many cars create.

So it’s back to the old considered email, I think. I’m a bit fed up feeling belittled because I choose to cycle in my city.

*** Update 01/09/2015 – I have since been contacted by the council re the above blog post and experience, feel free to read about it.

Edinburgh loves a good festival

The Edinburgh Festival of Cycling will soon be upon us! Now in its third year, this ten day celebration of all things two-wheeled is fast becoming a highlight on the Edinburgh festivals calendar. And for good reason too – the festival is entirely run and coordinated by volunteers and brings the city’s cycling community together. It sounds clichéd, but there’s something for everyone, from family rides to building your own bamboo bike. So shove it in your diary and check out the programme – it’s running from 11 – 21 June.

I mention EdFoc not only because it is an excellent festival and well worth supporting generally, but also because I’m involved in a couple of events this year. I’m particularly interested in encouraging women to get on their bikes and to that end have been supporting the Women on Wheels thread of events, which has been masterfully put together by Suzanne Forup and Sally Hinchcliffe (two of Scotland’s BikeBiz top 100 women of 2015). So without further ado, let me tout the activities lined up in the hope that one of them may be of interest…

Women on bikes. More of this, please!

Women on bikes. More of this, please!

Women’s Cycle Forum – Sat 13 June, 7.30pm

Open to all. After last year’s successful launch, the Women’s Cycle Forum is back. This year we’ll be hearing from women from successful campaigns about how they ‘changed the record’ and make a difference to their worlds – and then consider together how we can build a better one of our own. Whether you ride a bike for transport, fun or sport, or work in cycling in any way, come ready to learn and to talk about what we can all do to make a difference across the cycling world. £5. Book here.

Belles on Bikes 15:15 ride – Sun 14 June, 10.30am

In partnership with Edinburgh Bike Coop, this women’s ride will be led by myself and fellow Belles on Bikes Edinburgh ride leaders, showing off some of the wonderful low traffic routes around the city. We’ll get a free Dr Bike session at the start of the ride, followed by a 15 mile route taking us around the east of the city. A lunch stop will precede the second 15 miles, which will take us to the west. Book a free spot.

Learn, then Ride – Sun 21 June, 10am

For women who have never cycled before, or have been off a bike for a long time and need to gain some confidence. This event is proving popular already, and will be led by a female cycle trainer. We’ll finish the morning off with a wee cycle around the Meadows. Book your free spot.

Women’s Literary Bike Tour – Sun 21 June, 2.30pm

All welcome! Love bikes and books? Me too! Come and join myself and other friendly bike-and-book nerds for a literary tour of Edinburgh by bike, celebrating cycling writing by women. The ride will cover no more than 5-6 miles by bike, and there will be some readings, conversation and a very good chance of cake. We are pleased to announce that Kate Rawles, outdoor philosopher, writer, activist and cyclist, will be part of the ride. She will be reading extracts from her book The Carbon Cycle – Crossing the Great Divide. Free – just rock up. More info.

But wait, there’s more!

So there you have it. Four female-led and oriented events. I’m pleased to add that there’s a strong female slant to this year’s events outwith Women on Wheels. Several amazing female speakers will be at the festival, including Emily Chappell, who I highly recommend going to see. When I went to the Cycle Touring Festival at the start of May she was there, and I was awestruck by her hard-as-nails stories. Seriously, she’s a machine. Go see her! 🙂

Roseburn Park feeder ride to Pedal on Parliament

As per my previous post about Pedal on Parliament, I’ve finally gotten around to arranging a feeder ride to the main event. Come join myself and fellow Edinburgh Belles ride leader Puck on a relaxed group ride to the Meadows from Roseburn park on the morning of Saturday 25 April. We’ll be meeting at 10.30am for 10.45am, next to the cricket hut and friends of Roseburn mural.

All are welcome, blokes and bairns included. We would love your friends and family to come along with us to Pedal on Parliament. Dress your bikes up, wear something fun, get in the spirit of things! Flags with political messages relating to active travel are always good too, we like flags 😉

If you would like to come but haven’t been on your bike for a while, PLEASE check it before attending. Ensure gears, brakes and tyres are functioning okay and bring along a spare inner tube.

We plan to take a leisurely pootle along to the Meadows. No rush. There will be on-road riding and a couple of right turns. We’ll take Russell Road and then cut through Dalry, to get us up along Gilmour Place and into the Meadows. We should arrive for around 11.15am, giving us time to meet up with other attendees and Belles from across Scotland.

There is on-street parking around Roseburn Park in the surrounding streets. If you’re coming from further afield then this is a good place to get chummed into town.  Any questions, just add a blog comment and I’ll do my best to help.

The Belles and I look forward to seeing you there and asking our politicians for better, safer cycling infrastructure in Scotland! Learn more about Pedal on Parliament and its manifesto.