By Aislinn Redbond, posted 18/03/21
Time to put away the excuses. Here are some tips to get started cycling around Edinburgh.
JustEat offers a bicycle rental scheme which can be a good starting point for people who are not sure they want to invest in a bike yet.
Photo: Workspace at Wee Spoke Hub.
For people who use cycling as their primary form of transport, they can talk of its liberating power (no reliance on bus timetables!), its cost-effectiveness (second hand bikes are widely available), its health benefits (a bit of cardio on the way to work, anyone?) and its positive effects on the environment (goodbye petrol!). For people who do not cycle, this sort of enthusiasm may peak their interest, but it rarely converts them. Cycling can be a daunting activity to take up in a city like Edinburgh, with its hills, busy roads and questionable weather, but there is no time like the present to give it a try. In fact, there really has never been a better time to try cycling through Edinburgh, as the City Council has invested in a number of temporary measures to make cycling safer during the pandemic, and the return of spring means it is the perfect opportunity to get accustomed to traveling by bike in Edinburgh.
Concerns around safety on the road are the most common barriers to cycling in the city which, frankly, are not without merit. The City of Edinburgh Council has begun addressing these issues, limiting vehicular access to certain roads such as Bank Street and East Princes Street so that there is less competition between cars and bicycles. They have also developed temporary cycle lanes which help to give cyclists more space on the road. Given that there are less vehicles on the road during the pandemic, new cyclists can capitalise on these conditions to familiarise themselves with cycle routes through the city.
On the topic of safety, it is important to emphasise the responsibility cyclists must accept in protecting themselves on the road. According to UK legal requirements, every bike must have a front white light, a rear red light, and clean reflectors to ensure that they can be seen in traffic. High visibility jackets and armbands can also be helpful in making cyclists visible to other road vehicles, and wearing a helmet is often recommended to reduce the severity of a head injury if involved in a collision. Though high-visibility clothing and helmets are not legally required to cycle, it is up to each individual to carry out research to determine whether they think it will be beneficial to wear these items.
The hilly landscape of Edinburgh may seem unappealing for new cyclists, but there are a number of ways to get around this. Firstly, the availability of electric bikes, for purchase and for renting, means that you do not need to worry about having the requisite fitness to push your bike up the hill! Secondly, there are a number of routes that are quite flat for cycling so with a bit of research, you can find one that suits you. You can also set yourself a challenge to tackle some of the hills over time, giving you a fitness goal to work towards with both physical and mental health benefits.
It can be hard to prepare for the weather in Edinburgh on a good day, but cycling does not need to be weather-dependent. Owning a waterproof jacket (and maybe some waterproof trousers) makes cycling much more comfortable in the rain, and layers are the key to staying on your bike during the winter and summer months so that you can adjust depending on the temperature as you set off. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast can allow you to prepare for your cycle, but it is often just good practice to have a raincoat in Edinburgh anyway!
Edinburgh aims to become a carbon-neutral city by 2030 which will be no easy feat. It will require individuals to adopt lifestyle changes, as well as the councils enhancing the infrastructure for more sustainable living. Adopting cycling as a primary means of transport will be pivotal to achieving this goal, and the more people hopping on the saddle, the more demand there will be for improved cycling infrastructure across Edinburgh.
Wee Spoke Hub is also here to support you and your bike, offering a number of services from selling refurbished bikes and parts, to helping to repair your bicycle. Once lockdown has eased, the Wee Spoke Hub will be reintroducing their Buddy Cycle Scheme where an inexperienced cyclist can be paired up with a confident cyclist and they can take on the Edinburgh roads together - covering the routes that will be most useful for the new cyclist. We want to encourage as many people to get outside and embrace cycling for all its benefits, so even if you just want a chat to know more about how to look after your bike, you can reach out to us on our social media. The pandemic has brought a lot of challenges to our communities, but embracing the opportunity to discover Edinburgh by bike might be one way to find a positive from this experience - there’s only one way to find out!
For more information or advice on cycling in Edinburgh, visit www.sustrans.org.uk.
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