cycle campaigning

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.

 

 

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! 😉

 

 

 

 

The countdown to Pedal on Parliament begins!

Pedal on Parliament, Scotland’s biggest, most weighty and visually impressive cycle campaigning event, is coming up on the horizon. Pencil the 25 April into your diary and come along to the mass cycle and walk on the Scottish Parliament. I’ve been for the past two years running and have written about how it’s influenced me previously, so will be there this year with bells on.

PoP is about more than just cycling provision, though. It’s tying to show politicians and the non-cycling public that the bike can make massive positive societal changes, from more connected local communities, to safer streets, to a healthier population and better environment. To that end, the campaign has produced this little animation called Katie Cycles To School:

If you’d like to get involved with PoP but can’t make it along personally, maybe you could share this video on your own blog, Twitter or Facebook page? The message can be spread with more than just you and your bike on the 25 April 🙂

I look forward to meeting lots of new like-minded people at PoP this year. If you’re planning to attend, drop me a comment below and we can maybe sort out feeder rides – I’ll be organising a Belles feeder ride likely from west Edinburgh and all are welcome!

April was 30 days of biking

On the 1st of April the weather was horrific. Rain was coming down in sheets and as I looked out the window to gauge the day I was not impressed. The weather was so poor I would have normally jumped on the bus.

But not on 1st April 2o14. I had signed up to complete #30daysofbiking, a pledge to ride your bike every day for the month of April and to be part of a community of joyful cyclists. It’s a couple of years old now and has spread like wildfire, consuming the bike-minded first in the US and now across the pond.

30 days of biking

So I slung on the waterproofs and braved the elements because of my pledge. That was the only reason I dealt with the horrible conditions. And as it always is, cycling in the rain was just about as good as cycling in the dry. So began my #30daysofbiking.

April was a good month to cycle every day. My daily commute was absolutely splendid in the spring sunshine.

Davidsons Mains Park

Good morning, Davidson’s Mains Park!

Daffodils on Victoria Path

Spring is out in force, with daffodils on Victoria Path

Victoria Park Edinburgh

The Victoria Park in the sunshine

I signed up to volunteer at the Scottish Bike Show along with other CTC members and was treated to some seriously lovely looking bike candy to drool over. Look at that Shand hand-built bike, isn’t it gorgeous?

Shand bike

Drool drool drool.

I did a couple of short rides in Glasgow, one out to the Emirates Arena (for said Bike Show) and the other down to Pollockshaws to meet South West Community Cycles. The folk there were absolutely lovely and I hope their venture is a real success for the south of Glasgow. They are also right next to Pollock Park, which is a joy to cycle through.

Pollock Park, Glasgow

Pollock Park is stunning in the sunshine

I also got the opportunity to explore more of my own city and went down some of the paths and nooks I’d never ventured down before.

Water of Leith path

A sidestep off from the Water of Leith path

tunnel on path

Spooky…

I also took the time to enjoy the tried and tested routes I do all the time in our beautiful city. Instead of just belting along the paths I spent time soaking up the view and noticing lots of new things about my routes. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in such a wonderful place, but a quick jaunt on the bicycle always reminds me.

Roseburn path

Overlook to Murrayfield from the Roseburn Path

The Water of Leith

The Water of Leith

I managed to squeeze in a longer ride with the lovely Belles on Bikes, as per my previous blog post. And I also fitted in a bit of cycle campaigning by attending Pedal on Parliament with lots of friends and colleagues.

PoP group shot

Pedal on Parliament crew, ready for some campaigning

Last (but by no means least) I acquired a new bike. Welcome to the Orbit tourer, which I already love dearly. It’s had a bit of a makeover since it came into my ownership, and I look forward to spending some cracking hours in the saddle with this cracking bike.

Ladies' Orbit tourer

Oh dear me, I love this touring bike!

Suffice to say, April was a pretty decent month as far as pedalling goes. Long rides, short rides, bicycle events, even a new bike! The pledge to ride every day was a real incentive to get out more. I made conscious decisions to fit a cycle in daily (except one, sadly) and found that it’s in fact extremely easy to do.

So I think I will be doing my #30daysofbiking next year too – and I will try to get full marks next time. Happy cycling!

 

 

Will you be at Pedal on Parliament?

It’s not long until Pedal on Parliament 2014 on the 26 April. Will you be there to add your support for a cycling-friendly Scotland? I plan to attend with some of my CTC buddies and colleagues, as well as friends that love a good old cycle on their bike and thousands of other like-minded folk.

Pedal on Parliament Poster

I attended for the first time last year and had a bit of an epiphany on the day. I’d never seen so many people on bikes together before. It felt, well, amazing. The mass of attendees was something spectacular and made me realise just how many different kinds of folk on bikes there are. Sounds silly, but I’d never appreciated just how versatile and loved the bicycle is.

I love this amateur snap I took last year, which illustrates just what I mean. The chap in the full lycra standing next to the couple in casuals, along with high-viz commuter style shows just a tiny cross-section of the thousands of participants from the event.

Pedal on Parliament 2013

In 2013 the queue of cyclists stretched from Middle Meadow Walk up to Summerhall. Perhaps this year we’ll get twice as far!

What everyone has in common is a love for riding, for embracing this most humble but wonderful form of transport. Pedal on Parliament proved to me that cycling is a truly universal thing. It can touch everyone. And it should. So we should get together to tell the Scottish Parliament that, don’t you think?

Last year I did my PoP in a purple dress, red gloves and high-viz pink waterproof, complete with helmet and other safety faffage. So I was kinda going down the commuter stroke everyday utility avenue, with a total and complete lack of understanding around colour and how it can clash quite painfully on people’s eyes.

Safety faffage at PoP

This year I might wear TWEED. Though it is a bit restrictive across the arms. Hmm. And I figure I probably won’t rock up in a helmet either. I’m sick of feeling like an “other” when the bike is involved. (But I suppose that’s for another blog post!)

Anyway. I digress. You should come. It will be fabulous. Lots of bikes, lots of people on bikes, lots of solidarity asking for more time and money and thought to be given to people on bikes. And I believe there will even be some bicycle celebs like Graeme Obree attending too (although when I took this photo last year I had no idea who he was, oops!).

graeme obree pop

So what is not to love about Pedal on Parliament? 🙂 I’ll see you there, yeah? Ding ding!