Get on your bike for city’s Festival of Cycling

The Festival of Cycling has a focus on family-friendly riding. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Festival of Cycling has a focus on family-friendly riding. Picture: Jane Barlow

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WHEN Kim Harding and his friends first came up with the idea for protest cycle Pedal on Parliament, they ambitiously estimated that 300 people would turn up, while secretly believing that if 50 attended, it would be a great success.

When 3000 cyclists arrived to campaign for a cycle-friendly Scotland three years ago, Kim realised the scale of support and came up with the idea of organising a dedicated festival.

“We suddenly thought ‘cycling is quite a big deal. Edinburgh has festivals for everything, so why not cycling’?”

So that’s exactly what he set about doing, and last year launched the very first Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.

This year it is back again, with even more activities, organised bike rides, workshops, talks, films, and come-and-try events than ever.

“We are trying to provide something for everyone,” says festival director Kim. “It’s going to be quite exciting.”

This year’s festival, which started on Thursday and runs until June 22, has a specific focus on women in cycling and family-friendly cycling. Today, actor Tam Dean Burn will leave from Craigmillar Library at 11am to take on the Julia Donaldson Cycling Marathon.

Following the Queen’s Baton Relay route, he will read the complete works of Julia Donaldson – 184 books – during stops as the baton travels throughout Scotland.

At 4pm today, cycle lovers can come together at a barbecue held at Hart’s Cyclery in Corstorphine but there’s one condition – all attendees have to arrive on a Raleigh bike.

After the food and drink is guzzled, there will be a gentle ride around the local area for plenty of Raleigh action-shot opportunities.

Tomorrow will see the first inter-schools mountain bike race to be held in Edinburgh, which will take place on the newly built trails at Liberton High School. Riders will compete in age groups from under-12s to under-18s, with individual and school prizes up for grabs.

“There are lots of kids’ events and there’s a bike curious event for families to see how they can use bikes to move children around,” explains Kim, from Newington.

“There’s an element of fear about cycling with children but there’s also a big element of curiosity so we are looking to show families different methods and that cycling can be an alternative to the school run.

“It gives kids a chance to get more exercise on the way to school and it means that they perform better at school.”

The UK’s first Women’s Cycle Forum will form part of the festival and will be held this evening from 6pm at the Ukrainian Club on Royal Terrace Gardens.

Designed to disprove a commonly held misconception that “women don’t cycle”, the panel is about engaging and inspiring more women to join those already making a difference in the world of cycling. Confirmed speakers include Rachel Aldred (London Cycling Campaign policy forum), Sara Dorman (Pedal on Parliament), Cherie Morgan (Play on Pedals) and Claire Connachan (Belles on Bikes).

Talks running throughout the festival cover topics such as what to do if you’ve had a cycling accident and tips on cycling across America.

The Mind of a Helmet Camera Cyclist, on June 20 at the Canons’ Gait pub, promises to be an eye-opener.

David Brennan (aka Magnatom) has been cycling for eight years, and filming his commute using a helmet camera for six.

In that time he has had death threats, been threatened with arrest, been shot at and helped set up a safer cycling campaign.

Come and try events include taster sessions at Meadowbank Stadium’s velodrome on June 21 and a bike repair masterclass on Monday at Gypsy Brae.

One of the festival’s most popular events is the Original Edinburgh Night Ride, which starts at 11pm on June 20.

Promising to be a “magical experience”, the organised ride from Leith to Dunbar and back again is designed to show how different night riding can be.

“It’s a very different experience cycling at night because it’s much quieter and it’s lovely being able to watch the sunrise,” says Kim. “It takes you out of yourself completely.”