iphotography

Lanzarote’s attitude to cycling

Much to my other half’s despair, I just spent two weeks with him in Lanzarote taking photos and spraffing on about the island’s cycling provision and infrastructure. Never mind sun, sand and sangria, on my trip to the Canaries I was all about the segregated cycling provision, demographic breakdowns and the impact of presumed liability.

Cycling in Lanzarote has a lot of perks

Cycling in Lanzarote has a lot of perks

Lanzarote is not only sunny, warm and visually arresting, but is very appealing for cycling. I don’t just mean all-day road rides or epic mountain bike adventures; cycling is a viable form of everyday transport. I was really impressed by the island’s attitude towards bikes, and my trip there put some things into perspective when I think about Edinburgh.

Bike at El Golfo

Bike at El Golfo

Lanzarote is a small island with a population of around 120k. Even at the peak of the summer season with a a tourist influx, the island’s population swells to around 200k, less than half the population of Edinburgh. The island is well connected with beautifully tarmaced and well-maintained roads, and isn’t overly mountainous.

There was a considerable amount of segregated infrastructure available in the resorts of Lanzarote, used by all different kinds of people.

Segregated provision in Puerto del Carmen

Segregated provision in Puerto del Carmen

Visitors use hire bikes to get around in Puerto del Carmen

Visitors use hire bikes to get around on segregated infrastructure in Puerto del Carmen

In my two weeks on the island, I saw hardly any high visibility clothing and helmet wear. Visitors and locals alike used segregated infrastructure, as well as riding happily on the road. Cycling was accessible to all ages, and it warmed my cockles to see just about every kind of person out and about on a bike.

Older people cycled happily

Older people cycled happily

Family cycling provision

Family cycling provision – see how happy this family are!

I didn’t see a single painted bike lane on the streets of Lanzarote, but interestingly vehicles appeared to be extremely courteous of cycling all over the island, including roadies out for longer spins in the Timanfaya National Park. This will be partly due to presumed liability, which ensures that the most vulnerable road users are protected and facilitates mutual respect on the road (the UK is one of only five European countries that doesn’t operate in this fashion).

I saw a lot of mountain bikers as well as roadies as I travelled around the island on a couple of bus tours. The Lanzarote landscape is spectacular and would be pretty incredible to see via a bike. The roads are immaculate and there are some good climbs to keep everyone entertained.

MTB riders take a break at Haria

MTB riders take a break at Haria

This small island does have the weather on its side, but its resident population is less than a quarter of Edinburgh’s yet the investment in segregated infrastructure and presumed liability means that cycling is normalised, popular and not the preserve of the fit and the fast.

As illustrated time and time and time again, good quality cycling provision that is safe and separate from traffic is what encourages everyday cycling. It would be unfair to say my home town is ignorant of this fact, as the recently published Roseburn to Leith consultation demonstrates that Edinburgh understands what works. I would heartily recommend you respond to the council consultation positively – it’s brave and re-allocates space from traffic to pedestrians and cyclists so it’s imperative you show your support.

I hope our city takes a leaf out of Lanzarote’s book and we start to see more segregated provision (and a bit more sunshine wouldn’t go amiss, either!). Until that happens, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to pedal off into a Canary-coloured sunset…

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My Mini Cycle Tour Around Comrie in Perthshire

I haven’t had much time to get out touring this year because of all the house stuff that’s swallowed up my life, but this weekend I got the opportunity to go camping in Comrie, which is nestled in the hills just outside of Crieff. I decided to cycle there from Dunblane, and it was all just so easy and wonderful that I’m kicking myself for not exploring more of our fine country of a weekend.

I was pretty excited about this wee mini tour because I had to load my bike up with sleeping mat, bag and tent as well as perfectly packed panniers for a potentially rainy weekend of cycling. Previous bike expeditions have always involved the glamour of hostels, so this was new to me. Gosh, it was SO exciting.

me and my load

me and my load

The first time on the bike with all the weight was a bit daunting, but I soon got in my groove and pedalled to Haymarket station, where I jumped on the train to Dunblane. From there, I did a gorgeous 20 mile ride up to Comrie Croft, which I highly recommend for a visit.

The high road on the B827 was absolutely stunning and I was rewarded for my climb. The landscape was beautifully bleak, and I was treated to a glorious tailwind for most of the leg. It’s quite difficult to explain just how contented I was on the bike, in the middle of the countryside, feeling completely self-sufficient, strong and enjoying getting to my destination on my own steam.

The B827 high road to Comrie

The B827 high road to Comrie

The camp site at Comrie Croft was fabulous, with extensive mountain bike trails (if that’s your kind of thing), a tea room serving delicious bacon rolls, a bike shop, several camping fields and a hostel. I will absolutely have to return. A pitch was £10 a night and included hot showers, plenty loo facilities, fire pits and a glorious view. There was also a tonne of tea on offer.

The tea room at Comrie Croft

The tea room at Comrie Croft

I was a bit doubtful about my tent, newly purchased from Decathlon for a meagre £20, and it did look a little bit sad and decrepit once it was up. However, it was the best £20 ever spent, as not a single spot of rain managed to get in despite Saturday taking a leaf out of the Deluge’s book and utterly drenching everything in sight, including me, for almost eight solid hours. It was cosy and dry and I cannot believe it didn’t blow over, leak or refuse to pack back into its bag. It was a quality bit of supremely cheap kit!

My pokey wee tent from Decathlon

My pokey wee tent from Decathlon

We spent Saturday afternoon in the saddle and did another 20 odd mile ride exploring the countryside around Comrie. Myself and friends Suzanne and Lizzie layered up, braved the weather and enjoyed being badass cyclists in headwinds from a horror show and biting, stinging rain for several hours. The weather was so atrocious we even had to have a stab at drafting each other, which is generally unheard of when I get on a bike.

Badass cyclists ahoy

Badass lady cyclists ahoy – thanks to @backonmybike for the snap

Sunday was the return to Edinburgh, much to my disappointment. I packed up the tent and panniers and cycled back to Dunblane, this time with Lizzie to keep me company. It’s much more preferable to have a chum as we were evenly weighted and paced, happy to natter or just enjoy the ride.

Lizzie enjoys the Perthshire countryside

Lizzie enjoys the Perthshire countryside

I really need to invest in a better tent and lighter four season sleeping bag, because I can see this kind of mini adventure becoming a bit more regular. This time round I didn’t do lots of miles or spend much money, because I wasn’t sure how I’d take to a full load on the bike and sleeping on the ground for several days. But it turns out it’s bloody wonderful. I had such a good time. Honestly, it was just so much fun. For those interested, here is the A to B and the Comrie loop on Strava.

The only problem I can see with cycle touring and camping is when stuff gets wet. Without a drying room, clothing and feet stay damp and cold, which is rather miserable. In Scotland it’s pretty difficult to avoid wet weather. So I figure the best way to avoid this is with better kit…

Now I know what I’ll be asking for at Christmas! 😉

2014 was a good year in cycling

I have some diverse bike things in the pipeline for 2015, with a weekend residential for Belles on Bikes in March, Pedal on Parliament in April, an 11 day cycle tour around the Outer Hebrides booked for the summer, various CTC Scotland bits and bobs, and the ongoing irritation of trying to strengthen my offending right knee. I am also in the market for a road bike and nervously look forward to clipping in for the first time in 2015. So many exciting things!

Saying that, 2014 was far from a write off from a two-wheeled perspective. So, as I cycle away from 2014 and welcome all these new events and challenges, now is an excellent time to recap my last year in cycling.

Highlights of 2014 include my two-day visit to Arran in May with the Lothian Cyclists, my first ever cycle touring experience. I think I caught the touring bug on this stunning island…

Mountains at the peak of the hill after Lochranza

Mountains at the peak of the hill after Lochranza

Triumphant at the summit of the hill after Lochranza

Triumphantly knackered at the summit of the hill after Lochranza

I had a brilliant 2014 with Belles on Bikes Edinburgh, helping to get the women’s cycling group off the ground with some other dedicated women in the city. We now have over 160 members and the group continues to grow, showing a real need for relaxed cycling opportunities for women.

I was trained up as a Belles ride leader, learned first aid, achieved a Velotech Bronze mechanics qualification and made new friends and connections through all the female participants and other ride leaders across Scotland. Plus, we got to cycle around Edinburgh and its local environs and take to the roads on a two-day residential in Perthshire. What’s not to love?

The tourer in Pitlochry

The tourer in Pitlochry on the Belles on Bikes weekend

Amazing routes in Perthshire

Amazing low traffic routes in Perthshire

As well as Perthshire and Arran, the bike took me to a wide range of spectacular locations throughout the year…

Cycling in Skye

Cycling the quiet B roads of Skye in an enormous helmet!

Cycling in the Pentlands

Two-wheeled Pentlands visit during winter.

Mount Tiede National Park

Jumping on the bike at the top of Mount Tiede National Park in Tenerife – what a view!

Cycling in Tenerife - Mount Tiede National Park

Big smiles in the desert landscapes of Mount Tiede National Park in Tenerife, just before cycling 22 miles downhill

Winter views across Threipmuir Reservoir

Winter views across Threipmuir Reservoir in the Pentlands

On top of exploring and touring, I managed to rack up around 2,000 miles of utility cycling coupled with my daily commute. Miles that accumulated without even trying; trips to the bloke’s flat, visiting friends, going to the shops, getting from A to B. All that otherwise dead time filled with (for the most part) enjoyable bike trips along the city’s extensive path network and a bit of on-road riding.

All in all, I’d say 2014 was an excellent foundation upon which to build my year of cycling in 2015. I don’t have too much in the way of resolutions, other than get my knee sorted and get fitter and faster. To help with both of these aims, I’ve started hill training around Arthur’s Seat and it almost feels like a pleasure rather than a challenge with these views.

View from Arthur's Seat route

View from Arthur’s Seat 5.5km circular route

Do you have any objectives or plans for 2015? Maybe you want to clock up some serious miles, get a particular route under your belt, try a different type of cycling or get on your bike for the first time in a while? I’d love to hear any of your resolutions! 🙂

So here’s to a happy 2015, filled with plenty bikey goodness, wonderful adventures, good company and excellent Scottish weather (well, we can always hope…).

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!

 

 

A glimpse of Edinburgh’s many faces by bike path

Glorious weather in winter is reasonably rare in Edinburgh. We’re much more accustomed to driving rain, wind and the occasional dump of snow. So when I tweaked the curtains this morning to see the city squinting from solid, unrelenting sunshine there was only one thing to do. Go for a ride.

I plotted out a route with my trusty SPOKES Edinburgh cycle map (well worth the six quid price tag!) and set out in the late morning with a belly full of porridge and tea.

Starting at the Union Canal, I pootled along the towpath. There were loads of other folk out enjoying the weather, so the going was slow but idyllic. Anyway, the towpath is hardly the place to be tearing along at a rate of knots and is the perfect route to soak up the urban scenery. The house boats at Harrison Park are a particular highlight.

canal at Harrison Park Edinburgh

You can stop here at the Zazau house boat for a cuppa and cake.

boat house canal edinburgh

The boat house at Harrison Park, a local landmark.

Just past Longstone there’s a bridge connecting to the Water of Leith path that will eventually take you to Balerno. No cars, no junctions, no nonsense. Just straight up and over to the path.

view of Edinburgh canal from bridge

The view back to the canal from the bridge. You’d hardly think you were in a city!

I took the Water of Leith path up along the river, which was gurgling away in the sunshine quite the thing. There are a few paths and such that lead off the route, so still plenty to explore there for another day. Then there’s a fabulous railway tunnel, dark and exciting and echoey and old.

Tunnel on Water of Leith path to Balerno

Light at the end of the tunnel.

Just after the tunnel there’s a tiny wee pothole-laden road that takes you over another bridge and into Colinton. One right-turn onto Redford Road and then there’s another tucked away path that you’d go right past if you didn’t know it was there.

This took me through a part of the city I am very unfamiliar with and I got lost several times. In true tourist fashion I had to whip out my trusty map and make sure I was on the right track. Essentially, you follow the Braid Burn through Colinton Mains Park, then the Braidburn Valley Park and out into Greenbank. It’s all path the whole way. No traffic. Yippee!

Then on to the Hermitage of Braid. I only recently discovered the Hermitage and what a revelation it was. The route through makes you feel like you are in the middle of the wooded countryside, with a babbling burn and trees stretching to the sky. But you’re still in the city.

Braid Burn in Hermitage of Braid Edinburgh

Beautiful burn in the sunshine.

Hermitage of Braid Edinburgh

Stately homes since gifted to Edinburgh are plentiful on this route. One example in the Hermitage of Braid.

The Hermitage takes you out to the back of Blackford. As a west-of-the-city girl my knowledge of the south is pretty poor. Even so, you don’t expect to see a huge tract of farmland and fields. So many different views and landscapes and less than halfway around the route. Edinburgh really is an amazing place.

Fields and farmland on Blackford Glen Road Edinburgh

This is still the city. Just behind Blackford, on Blackford Glen Road.

A quick traffic-light-controlled junction later and I was back on path again, taking a gander through Inch Park and then up past Craigmillar Castle (sadly you can’t see it from the path). The views were stunning, so I tried my best to take a snap with my iPhone. But it doesn’t really capture the vista to be honest.

Arthurs Seat from Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh

Look at my stunning city!

I followed the path to its conclusion, took a right and (again all completely away from traffic) made my way down to the Brunstane burn to encounter more fields and countryside and wilderness… But still in the city.

Brunstane Burn path

This is an older photo of me on the same path. All the same fields and stuff!

Next stop was Portobello, where I filled up on lunch and had a cup of tea. Of course, after seeing extinct volcanoes, giant trees, rivers and burns, parks and fields I would have to take a snap of the beach.

portobello beach

Sun, sand and no sangria. But copious cups of tea in Portobello.

There was more path involved to leave Portobello and eventually come out at Granton. Path, path, path with only a small piece of road to negotiate before getting onto, yep you guessed it, path. You hug the coast all the way along to Cramond. It was glorious because of the views across the waters. Depending on where you are along the route, you can also see the Forth bridges in the distance.

View across to Fife from Silverknowes

What a great view to Fife from Edinburgh.

View to Cramond Edinburgh

The beach on the way to Cramond.

A wiggle through Barton via more path and residential streets and I eventually made it home, one fantastic Edinburgh adventure under my belt. Thank you so much lovely, glorious bike!

The trusty steed

The trusty steed triumphs again.

So there you have it. One 27 mile route from the Union Canal down to Cramond, taking in pretty much every type of environment or view you can think of. Desert and mountain didn’t feature, but a whole range of other sights did. Aren’t Edinburgh cyclists spoiled for some beautiful views?

Here is the route mapped. Try some of it for yourself.

It’s almost entirely off main roads. All those stunning views with no cars, no traffic, no impatient drivers or jams or engines revving. Absolute bliss for a pootler like myself. I’d say about 5% needs to be negotiated with a regular flow of traffic – namely Seaview Terrace (Porty), Lower Granton Road and Redford Road.

Route Pros

  • Views and a big range of environments
  • No major hills or exhausting climbs
  • Very little traffic to deal with
  • Never far from help in case of mechanical disaster
  • Did I mention the views?

Route cons

  • Very busy with dogs (sorry dog owners, but I fear dogs off the lead as they are unpredictable)
  • Route is quite muddy in places – not suitable for skinny tyres

Have you done any of this Edinburgh route? Got any favourite parts? Let me know in the comments 🙂