In recent years, Edinburgh has started to take some bold decisions to reallocate space away from cars to provide protected routes for cycling. The proposed Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle link is one such plan that will open up an east-west cycle route into the city centre – currently something that has not been easy for all but the most confident cyclists to tackle.
Bold decisions tend to lead to strong reactions, and this route is no exception. There has been some pushback against these plans, mainly driven by the mistaken belief that only existing cyclists will benefit from them. So here are five reasons in five words why everyone who lives or works in Edinburgh should support the plans.
1. A route everyone can use
Cycle tracks separated from traffic mean kids can ride them too – and apart from anything else, that’s one less car on the school run. And where children can ride in comfort so too can adults, including those of us who aren’t as speedy on their bikes as we used to be…
2. A street fit for people
Wide streets like this make crossing the road dangerous even with a pelican crossing. Reallocating space from cars to make cycle tracks and wider pavements has been shown to increase safety for all road users. Shorter, quicker crossings benefit pedestrians, and being separated from the carriageway by a wide cycle track makes the pavement a nicer place to linger.
3. Making Edinburgh a healthier city
As this pollution heat map (courtesy of Friends of the Earth Scotland) shows, this area is near to some of Edinburgh’s most polluted streets. You might think cutting road capacity would increase congestion but as long as people are offered a suitable alternative – by making cycling and walking more attractive – then over time traffic has been shown to disappear with knock on effects right across the city. And walking and cycling benefit people’s health too – reducing the pressure on the NHS
4. Joining up the missing links
By tying together currently disjointed routes, this link starts to knit Edinburgh’s cycle network into a coherent whole – meaning that its effect is multiplied across the city and compounding the return on the city’s investment. More people will be able to to travel to the Zoo, to Murrayfield, to the ice rink, and into the west End and Princes st for shopping or work, without adding to the congestion – or taking up a parking place that those who cannot cycle could otherwise use.
5. Supporting local shops and businesses
Cyclists are shoppers too – and they spend more money over the course of a week than those who drive as well as being more likely to visit local shops and businesses. While shops may fear the loss of a parking space right outside their door – study after study has shown that everywhere good quality cycle infrastructure has put in, businesses have seen either no effect on sales – or increases in turnover, sometimes quite dramatic.
In short, you don’t need to be a cyclist to benefit from this route – in fact you don’t even need to want to cycle to benefit. Even if wild horses wouldn’t drag you onto a bike, you’ll gain in the long run. So please get on and support these plans – by responding to the consultation (but hurry because it closes today) and signing the petition.