Nearly half of cyclists feel ‘unsafe’ on Edinburgh roads

Cyclists descend on the Scottish Parliament for the annual Pedal on Parliament demonstration.
Cyclists descend on the Scottish Parliament for the annual Pedal on Parliament demonstration.
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NEARLY half of cyclists feel unsafe when out and about on the roads of Edinburgh, according to the latest findings of a city-wide survey.

Results from the annual Edinburgh People Survey, now in its tenth year, revealed 47 per cent felt “a bit unsafe” or “very unsafe” when heading out on two wheels.

The survey, which is the largest of its kind in the UK, also shed light on a number of other transport issues, such as support for the new 20mph limit and the level of satisfaction with public transport.

Ian Maxwell, of cycling campaign group Spokes, said the figures supported the need for further investment in Edinburgh’s cycling infrastructure.

He said: “We’re pleased that more than half feel safe but it does indicate there are a reasonable amount of people who don’t feel safe on the roads and that’s justification for doing more.

“We have reached a position where cycling is becoming far more common in Edinburgh. If we did a bit more we could have a far larger group of people going out on two wheels.

“What we are seeing now is the result of quite a lot of work that’s gone on to encourage cycling but we are part way through this process.

“If more happens to improve the position of cyclists and reduce the feeling of danger then we’ll see a number of changes in the number of people cycling.”

Transport and environment leader Lesley Hinds insisted the council was committed to improve cycling infrastructure.

She said: “I am pleased that the majority of respondents feel safe cycling in Edinburgh, but we do recognise that there is work to be done to boost this figure.

“To this end we have committed to increasing our spend – 10 per cent of the transport budget in 2017/18 – on cycling infrastructure and projects to encourage less confident cyclists onto our streets.

“For example, by implementing more schemes like the City Centre West to East Link and Leith Walk cycleway we will provide direct routes segregated from traffic, while our growing QuietRoutes network offers a series of off-road paths for cyclists of all abilities.”

Edinburgh’s 20mph rollout was another focus of the survey, which saw a total of 5226 residents questioned from across the Capital.

It revealed nearly two-thirds backed the idea of 20mph speed limits in the Capital, although the survey did not ask people directly for their views on the implementation of the city’s £2.2 million scheme, which is due to cover around 80 per cent of the city by next January.

However a ward-by-ward breakdown shows opinion remains divided with support of less than 50 per cent in one neighbourhood.

Among those most in favour were Southside/Newington (68 per cent), Portobello/Craigmillar (66 per cent) and Forth (65 per cent).

But in Almond ward, which includes parts of rural west Edinburgh where the scheme was piloted, only 48 per cent of respondents backed the scheme.

Grant Sangster, of Queensferry and District Community Council, said he was slightly surprised by the low result, adding the council was broadly in favour of anything aimed at making the roads safer.

He said: “Anything that can encourage drivers to think a bit more about other road users and the difficulties we face can only be a good thing but on the other hand I certainly accept it’s an inconvenience for motorists.

“There’s quite a few people here who are dependent on their cars so it’s maybe natural that you’d find it’s a bit less popular in Queensferry than other areas of Edinburgh.”

Neil McKenzie, owner of McKenzie Cars Private Hire in South Queensferry, said he backed the use of 20mph to make roads safer but only in certain areas rather than a blanket approach.

He said: “The general consensus in the back of the taxi is that’s it’s unworkable – that’s the most commonly used phrase.

“In South Queensferry there’s a bit more space and the roads are a bit more quiet so you have more time to notice things what’s on the roads. There’s no need to slow down to 20 to notice that.

“I think the people who were doing 40 in 30s are now doing 30 in 20s but I don’t think people are really doing 20 – I see very few people doing 20.”

His comments come after Tory transport spokesman Nick Cook said the question’s phrasing was in fact too general to genuinely test public opinion on the scheme.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh, said there was a “mild” sense of resentment from some in Almond about the area being used as a guinea pig.

But he added: “There’s a lot of my constituency which is still to be rolled out so we haven’t had the full impact of it but everyone who drives has encountered it in the city. I think there’s a low level of annoyance if 20mph makes people late. But I think over time people will come to understand that it’s the law of the land and that it was done for public safety.”

The survey also returned an Edinburgh-wide result of 89 per cent for satisfaction with public transport.

TOMORROW: How clean is your neighbourhood? What the survey said about street cleanliness, recycling, and bin collections.