Edinburgh City Council have announced plans to build a new cycling route crossing the city centre. The plans will cost around Nine million pounds to complete and the completed cycle route is intended to be 'family-friendly'. The plan goes before councillors at a meeting on Tuesday 27th October and if approved will subsequently go through a period of public consultation.
The route is designed to fill a key gap in the existing network of cycle paths in the city and the intention is to have as many segregated sections of bike lane as possible to protect cyclists from other traffic.
Cycling campaigners have been generally supportive of the plans but some say the focus on a 'family-friendly' layout is perhaps missing the point of long term investments in cycling. The first intention in quite major infrastructure investment should be to make the route 'commuter-friendly'. These sort of investments should make cycling a viable, quick and safe alternative to driving. Construction should be aimed at creating direct routes between key points in the city along which cyclists can quickly get from point-to-point safely.
In fairness to Edinburgh City Council they have announced targets to have '15% of all commuters cycling to work by 2020'. With a recent poll suggesting almost three-quarters of residents support further investment in cycling in Edinburgh, this target may well be achievable with plans such as these. The proposed new Edinburgh cycle route will require a reduction in parking around Melville Street and the removal of bus lanes on Haymarket Terrace and may face opposition from drivers in the public consultation phase.
The proposed new Edinburgh cycle route will across the city centre from Leith Walk to Roseburn via George Street. It is designed to tie in with ongoing improvement works around Leith Walk and George Street. The designs are intended to improve on the current situation where this is considerable conflict between bikes and the Edinburgh trams in particular. A number of accidents have occurred with cyclists getting wheels stuck in tram lines and a number of these cyclists are considering legal action against the Council.
Overall these plans are a step in the right direction for Edinburgh. It remains to be seen whether they can be delivered on time and on budget. Hopefully we will also see similar investments in the other big Scottish cities. It would be good to see Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee investing in similar schemes. Around Scotland, however, cycling infrastructure investment is gaining a higher profile as the benefit from these schemes is better understood by councils. Inverness recently opened a £3 million cycle path from Inverness to Fort William, alongside Loch Ness.