Lesley Hinds: More and more get about by bike

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THERE is no doubt that Edinburgh is becoming one of Scotland’s most bike-friendly cities, as the results of the Bike Life Edinburgh report demonstrate. There are many encouraging signs: more than half of the Capital’s residents live in a household that owns a bike, 16.5 million cycle trips are made annually and the number of children cycling to school is increasing.

In Edinburgh we recognise the important role cycling can play in getting around town and as such have committed to increase our cycling budget year-on-year, with funding currently at eight per cent of our entire transport budget.

With help from Sustrans and the Scottish Government we are continuing to grow our network of cycle routes. We’re currently working on several exciting new projects to connect across the centre and out to the suburbs.

But while Bike Life Edinburgh makes promising reading in terms of the increasing popularity and improved perceptions of cycling, it is clear there is still work to be done to make riding a bike in the Capital feel safer and more comfortable.

With this in mind we recently launched an on-street route, with protected cycle paths on busy roads, between the Innocent Railway cycle path and the Meadows and we’re about to begin consultation on protected cycle paths for Leith Walk. In the centre itself, we are currently working on a vision for the future of George Street, where a successful trial of segregated cycling provision was recently completed.

On Tuesday the transport and environment committee will also be considering proposals to consult on a major new cycle link across the city centre from Leith Walk to Roseburn, linking into our extensive off-road path network in the north and featuring protected cycle paths along main roads.

Next year, we plan to introduce 20mph speed limits to urban roads, which will not only reduce the likelihood of accidents, but will create a more comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for those riding bikes.

We are always keen to hear from people who ride bikes, who can help influence the future of cycling in Edinburgh, where we spend the funding we receive from the Scottish Government and what changes are made in the city. Our Active Travel Forum allows citizens to input into policies and proposals for improving sustainable transport, but we also want individuals and groups to spread the word more widely, advocating cycling in the city and helping make the case for further investment.

What the pioneering research of Bike Life shows us that more people want to get about by bike, and if we can help them to do this, then we’ll also be making Edinburgh a cleaner, greener and safer place to live.

Lesley Hinds is transport and environment convener at the city council