Edinburgh

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?

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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!

How much money I saved in 2015 by cycling

It’s pretty much the end of the year, so I’ve got my final figures for my Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment. I’ve been doing posts quarterly on this, and by my last estimates in August I was up £653.77 against the fictional car. I’ve now totted up the remaining year, give or take a few days as it’s the 27th today and there are a few journeys left in December.  But hey, what are a few days? Let’s tot up September, October, November and December…

Autumn and winter’s numbers

  • Total journeys: 101
  • Total distance: 855 miles
  • Total calories: 27,719 kcal
  • Total climb: 22,702 feet

Bike expenditure in last four months

As it turns out, riding the same bike almost every day over two and a half years means that things need replaced. And so it was over autumn and winter, when all the proverbial buses came at once and I had to replace both gear cables, both tyres, chain, cassette, two brake block sets, one brake cable, and the rear brake completely due to it being cheap to begin with and eventually falling off. Combine that with a service to get everything sorted and I was down £130. Ouch. That’s a big wedge out of my potential savings.

However, when cycling thousands of miles over bumpy, pockmarked Edinburgh roads you’re going to have to expect wear and tear. This is now my third chain and cassette and umpteenth brake block, so it goes with the territory.

As for bus fares, I have been spending a bit more on buses these last few months due to some rotten weather. So I am down £30 for this, too.

Total expenditure – £160

Public transport equivalent

  • I substituted £142.50 worth of bus fares in  September, October, November and December. It wouldn’t have been more economical for a Ridacard over these months, so let’s just go with the total.
  • Public transport cost = £142.50

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – £39.16
  • Petrol cost for 855 miles – £73.92. The majority of journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to £80 to account for congestion.
  • Total running cost = £230.56

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – £122

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (£142.50) + gym (£122) – expenditure (£160) = £104.50 savings
  • Car (£230.56) + gym (£122) – expenditure (£160) = £192.56 savings

2015 grand totals

  • Bike vs Public Transport – £633 in pocket

  • Bike vs Car – £846.33 in pocket

  • Total miles cycled – 2,454

So that’s it, folks! Over the course of the year, I have managed to save almost £850 against my fictional car. I am pretty happy with that, especially as my fictional car has been perfect and required no repairs or anything on its fictional MOT.

In conclusion

I think I will write a bit more about this over the next week or two. It’s been incredibly interesting to tot up my cycling and compare it against potential spends on running a car. Of course, this crude experiment has done nothing to try and understand the other amazing benefits afforded by cycling. No mention of:

  • carbon savings
  • societal benefits by riding a bike (bike riding offers a wealth of plus points in this sense)
  • my physical health and fitness
  • my mental health
  • the “feelgood” factor

More on this soon.

 

 

My approach to bad weather is to just keep cycling

It’s been a bit dreich in Edinburgh these last few days. The weather has taken a big huff, and is currently gusting itself into exhaustion. Looks like we’ll have to wait until Wednesday for the watery sunshine of late autumn to reappear, so in the meantime it’s worth remembering that when you’re cycling there’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad kit.

My urban armour

How to combat crap weather – become a gore-texasaurus

To combat the wind and wet, I’ve finally cracked out the winter gear. You can still cycle through the worst of the year without turning into a MAMIL-esque wannabe.  My garment arsenal consists of gore-tex boots from Clarks, waterproof trews, fluffy buff, Vulpine winter storm cap, waterproof gloves and winter waterproof jacket. This keeps me snug as a bug in a warm and cosy rug and conveniently goes over whatever normal everyday clothing I’ve got on.

I was out today in double-dot rain and 45mph gusts and felt totally invincible in my urban armour. My other half ventured out with me in the appalling conditions too, and decked out in waterproofs head to toe he took to the jaunt like a duck to water, which was quite fitting really seeing as we were cycling through a deluge. Other than utterly slaying the weather, the best part was getting into the house and stripping off our outermost layers of proofing; underneath our gore-tex forcefields we were both bone dry.

It’s all about mentality and kit. So long as you know you are conquering Scotland’s hostile climes in your winter get up, it doesn’t matter how much of a hissy fit the weather takes. The elements literally roll off you.

So do your worst, winter. I am ready.

Winter is officially closing in

The clocks went back today. The light and any remnants of heat have gone along with the hour, leaving wind and darkness for the next four months. Autumn is my favourite time; the colours of the leaves, the smell in the air, the crispness and cooler temperatures all conspire to make September and October splendid months to cycle. But that’s all starting to come to an end with winter firmly on the march.

I squeezed in some great autumnal rides while the light was on my side these last few weeks. Last week I went out with Lothian Cyclists and did 50 odd miles around South Lanarkshire, a part of the world I know almost nothing about. I always enjoy going out with that group – the pace stretches me and I get a chance to give the road bike a spin. The cycling was excellent and despite an epic number of punctures it was a near perfect ride with blue skies and red leaves. Thanks to CJ from the group for his snap – isn’t this view cracking? Route here.

simple symington

Image courtesy of CJ from Lothian Cyclists

Closer to home, I did a shorter ride with the Edinburgh Belles out to Ratho in order to feast on The Bridge Inn’s utterly enormous onion rings (they are approximately the size of basketball hoops). That was another lovely little ride – 20 miles in ideal autumn conditions and only one puncture to put a dent in our day. Thanks to Jo from the group for her pictures. It’s clear that my photography skills have got some catching up to do! Route here.

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Thanks to Jo from the group for these images

Aside from recent leisure rides, the bike mileage has been kept consistent over autumn with my daily 14 mile round trip to work. I prefer my new commute to the old one by a considerable margin, as it’s more varied and the on-road part tends to be much quieter than the old streets I had to deal with. I’d say I only have a mile or so of commute on road with the rest comprising parks and path. There’s also the added bonus that I no longer live at the top of one of Edinburgh’s seven hills – my knees are considerably happier!

But now winter is coming. It feels kind of appropriate that I am reading George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire as the new season approaches. My winter will never be as bad as the Starks’…

The Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment – June, July and August

Summer has been and gone, and with it three months of my Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment. At the end of May I was up £331 against the fictional car, so let’s see where I’ve managed to get to with warmer weather and more favourable cycling conditions in June, July and August.

Summer’s bike numbers

  • Total journeys: 116
  • Total distance: 737 miles
  • Total calories: 29,925 kcal
  • Total climb: 27,088 feet

My bike and I managed to climb to the peak of the south summit of Annapurna in the Himalayas this summer by visiting friends, getting to work, going to yoga and so on. The 10th highest mountain on our planet, Annapurna stretches 26,545 feet to the heavens, so I’ve also started a 500 foot decent. This is considerably more climb than the last quarter – over 11k feet in fact. Just goes to show that summer is the cyclist’s friend.

Annapurna's south summit

I cycled to the top of Annapurna’s south summit. Thanks to creative commons twiga269 for the use of the image

Bike expenditure in last three months

  • No bike maintenance over the summer period – the bike was happy as a clam, just like me.
  • £21 – Bus fares in total. I didn’t take the bus much over summer at all because my knees have been behaving.
  • Total = £21.00

Public transport equivalent

  • I substituted £219 worth of bus fares in June, July and August so the £51 monthly Ridacard would have been considerably more cost-effective.
  • Ridacard cost = £153

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – £39.16
  • Petrol cost for 737 miles – £91.82. The majority of journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to £95 to account for congestion.
  • Total running cost = £251.64

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – £91.50

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (£153) + gym (£91.50) – expenditure (£21.00) = £223.50 savings
  • Car (£251.64) + gym (£91.50) – expenditure (£21.00) = £322.14 savings

Year to date totals

  • Bike vs Public Transport – £528.50 in pocket
  • Bike vs Car – £653.77 in pocket

To the end of August I am up over £650 on the car. That is definitely not to be sniffed at, especially with four months to go. The summer period was always going to give numbers a boost because of the better weather, longer days and any excuse to get on the saddle. I’m starting to wonder if I might hit £1k savings by the end of the year?

With £650 in pocket, I could buy an old banger of a car to wipe out my gains from cycling, pay half of my yearly council tax bill OR buy the EBC Revolution tourer for £550 and have £100 left over to buy a nice wee lightweight tent and a couple of nights’ campsite pitch fees…

revolution-country-traveller-15

Hmmm… 😉

 

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! 😉