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Sending tourists on the road like lambs to the slaughter

The festival is over for another year and the city is slowly returning to normal. However, September is not only the end of the festival but it brought the launch of the cities Cycle Hire Scheme. Sponsored by Just Eat, 1,000 bicycles will be available throughout the city by the end of 2018. Residents and visitors can hire a bike and return it to any hire point. Payment of the small hire fee is made via the app. This is great news for cyclists and for the environment. City of Edinburgh Council has set a target that by 2020 15% of all journeys to work will be by bike. The council are putting more funds into this goal but is it enough?

Edinburgh BridgesFew of us are brave enough to cycle in the busy streets of the city centre for fear of having an accident. The bicycle sharing scheme will not solve this issue. It will make bicycles more available and may be extremely useful for students hopping between campuses during the day and then being able to leave the bike somewhere and return home by bus, or go to the pub without having to worry about getting the bike home.

However, the majority of those who would commute to work by bike don’t avoid doing so because they don’t have a bike. A relatively decent bike could be purchased fairly cheaply and most employers have cycle to work schemes to spread the cost. Most people avoid it because they are not confident to cycle among heavy traffic. Only 25% of people think cycling in Edinburgh is safe.

Edinburgh is becoming increasingly busy with traffic. There is house building going on in every corner of the city and this is only going to lead to more congested roads. To their credit the Edinburgh Council have ensured a minimum standard of safety for the bicycles in terms of maintenance and visibility. However, beyond that no thought appears to have been given.

It is likely these bikes will be used by inexperienced riders, and likely by tourists who are unfamiliar with the roads. No helmets are provided with the bikes and given they are likely to be used on a whim rather than as a planned journey the rider is unlikely to be carrying one. The inexperienced cyclist is then set loose on the City’s busy roads without any training, assessment of capability or protection.

The council continue to tinker on the margins. This scheme is another example of good news for residents and visitors but in reality a piecemeal, half thought out, attempt at solving the City’s transport problem. What is needed is a fundamental overhaul of the City’s transport network, an assessment of what is required to ensure the city is safe and effective for all road users and ethical for the environment and thereafter to put that into practice.

A dream, that will of course never become a reality, would include underground parking, proper bus lanes that are unobstructed, and  segregated and raised lanes for cyclists. Far more than 15% of us would be likely to cycle to work rather than sit on a crowded bus or in nose to tail traffic if we didn’t risk death or serious bodily injury by doing so.  Despite over 7% of people already cycling to work there are only 204 miles of cycle routes in the city about half of that is segregated from traffic. There is no safe route to and from the city centre. Until something is done about that, unfortunately, the bike share scheme is likely to lead to more, rather than less accidents.

Blog by Alan Calderwood, Edinburgh Solicitor

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