Fri 1 Jun 2018
It’s not perfect, but the city has ambitious plans for cycling, and the Festival of Cycling offers a chance to celebrate progress
In theory, Edinburgh might not look like the perfect city for cycling. Apart from the weather there are the (in)famous hills, then there’s the … (add your own excuses here.) But things are changing.
Currently the city council is committing 10% of its transport budget to cycling, a first for a UK city, as well as introducing 20mph speed limits across a large area. And in September, Edinburgh will finally be getting its own bikeshare scheme, which will include a proportion of e-bikes to help beat the hills.
The city also hosts the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, or EdFoC for short, now in its sixth year. A mix of talks, organised rides and workshops, it tries to focus on cycling as everyday transport, as well as sport, a leisure activity and a cultural entity. This year’s edition begins next week.
When I first moved to Edinburgh as a mature student, I gave up my car, which at the time felt like a great sacrifice. I thought I’d get another when I graduated. I hadn’t really thought about how I’d get around and had been complaining about getting to morning lectures on time. It was a throwaway comment from my tutor that changed my life – he took his pipe from his mouth (he wasn’t smoking it, the university had just banned that, but still liked to suck it) and said: “Better get yourself a bicycle then.” I have never looked back.
Owning a bike opened up the city to me in a way I had never experienced before. Edinburgh is a fairly compact city, with the sea to the north and (even bigger) hills to the south. You soon learn to rely on a range of gears for ascents, and good brakes for heading down again.
The city has notoriously fickle and changeable weather, and it is windy. One of my earliest experiences of cycling here was a wind so strong it blew me up a hill, which was fine until I reached a red light. That said, it has about as much sunshine as London, on average, and is one of the driest places in the UK. Plus, in the summer it doesn’t really get dark.