LOTHIAN MSP Kezia Dugdale says it’s “just too dangerous”, while Transport Minister Keith Brown insists one of his civil servants thinks it’s a safe road to cycle.
Now, after a furious and very public row over just how perilous it is to pedal along Easter Road, the debate has reached the crunch point with Ms Dugdale challenging the minister to see for himself – by getting on his bike for a rush-hour ride down the busy thoroughfare.
The spat started when Ms Dugdale said during a Scottish Parliament debate she would never venture down the busy street, given the fact it has become a notorious accident blackspot among cyclists.
She said: “I cycle only to two places. One of those is Portobello beach, which I can cycle to from my house entirely off road, thanks to the Restalrig railway path. The other is my gym, for which I need to cross only one main road.
“There is no way I would cycle to work, because that would involve cycling up Easter Road in the morning at peak times; it is just too dangerous.”
Mr Brown responded by telling MSPs: “One of the officials from Transport Scotland regularly cycles up and down Easter Road and feels that it is a safe road to cycle.
“Such things are subjective and depend on people’s experiences and perceptions of the environment around them, but other people feel that the road is safe in the circumstances.”
The exchange sparked a furious controversy, with nearly 100 tweets about Mr Brown’s comments. Ms Dugdale followed up the debate with a letter to Mr Brown saying she was disappointed by his remarks and pointing out there had been 19 incidents involving cyclists in Easter Road over the past three years.
She asked: “Does the fact that one person feels comfortable enough to use a road make it applicable to all and that less confident cyclists should just get on with it?”
In reply, Mr Brown accused Ms Dugdale of “a lamentable attempt to misrepresent my comments”.
But Ms Dugdale said: “For the Transport Minister to shrug it off, saying ‘My civil servant thinks it’s OK’ is not the response people are looking for from a government committed to increasing the number of journeys by bike. I challenge Keith Brown to cycle up Easter Road with me at 8am on a weekday morning and see whether he thinks it’s safe.
“This is not about two politicians fighting, this is about whether a major arterial route in Edinburgh is safe to cycle on and I don’t believe it is.”
Mr Brown declined Ms Dugdale’s invitation. He said: “I know Ms Dugdale and I both agree on the need to increase cycling safety, and the prevalence of cycling generally which the Scottish Government is committed to.”