Comment: Cycle path can get Edinburgh on right track

Cars and heavy vehicles can make life difficult for cyclists in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

Cars and heavy vehicles can make life difficult for cyclists in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

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With such high levels of car use in the city, it’s no surprise many are in favour of an East to West bike route, says Henry Whaley

The council’s proposed cycle route through our city centre from East to West highlights the choices we face as we tackle a growing population, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and climate change.

A dedicated direct and safe route for residents to travel by bike will encourage people out of cars and onto a healthy, active alternative. With 40% of our population without access to a car and huge successes from similar schemes in London, it’s of little surprise that the consultation feedback for the whole route was two to one in favour and every section having more than 70 per cent support.

The scheme is about giving people a choice on how they travel – the easier it is to choose cycling the more people will do it. It won’t be every journey but more people will cycle more often.

We simply don’t have space for current levels of car use and an increasing population so having a range of options including those less space intensive will improve things for us.

To make alternatives to the car, such as cycling, attractive to a wider range of people, we need it to be safe and use direct routes.

Having to mix with faster, heavier motor vehicles is off-putting to many potential cyclists. This route will give that feeling of safety on journeys to or through our city centre, linking up where people live and work.

It’s also important that we have a vibrant community and local shops play a key part in that.

Making our streets a place where people want to spend time and money is about much more than allowing a few to park or load their cars.

The scheme includes widening pavements, pedestrian priority over side roads and new signalised crossings which will enhance the experience for those on foot.

The Council have responded to specific concerns from some shopkeepers and residents by reinstating the loading bay on the north side of Roseburn Terrace, increasing the right turn lane and eliminating the floating bus stop whilst maintaining the cyclepath to form a much improved ‘Option A’.

The Council are also assessing an alternative ‘Option B’, which would take the cyclepath away from Roseburn Terrace, on an indirect and complicated route involving three road crossings as well as restricting the space for motor vehicles at the already tight Roseburn Street Junction and not widening the Roseburn Terrace pavements. It’s another option, but one that is worse for most people.

With Edinburgh in competition against other cities for central government funding to promote active travel it’s important that we put forward our strongest case, both to secure funding but importantly to reap the benefits of encouraging more of us to take that first pedal to a more active lifestyle. The improved Option A is the strongest option.

This is our chance to promote a compelling alternative to a car dominated environment. We should embrace it and look forward to the benefits it will bring.

• Henry Whaley is an Edinburgh resident campaigning for better cycle routes