August 2012

Edinburgh Council Cycle Policy

What should Edinburgh be doing now under its new Labour/SNP administration? And, following the Olympics, will it include a Sir Chris Hoy Cycle Network? …

After the April council elections  Cllr Jim Orr was appointed Transport Vice-Convener, and given responsibility for cycling policy, under Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds.

As one of his first actions, Cllr Orr called for a report [doc 25k] on existing cycling policy and how the cycling budget is being allocated.  We were delighted that his motion includes a review of staffing needs, and re-affirms the council decision that investment in cycling should rise by 1% a year, from its current 5%, during the course of this council – i.e. until 2016/17.  With cycling already grown to well over 5% of commuter trips [Scottish Household Survey] and with the council target to raise this to 15% by 2020 such decisions are vital.

In Spokes’s early days only some 2000 Edinburgh residents cycled to work.   Whilst cycling remained static in most of Britain, Edinburgh Council’s efforts meant that by the time the Active Travel Action Plan [ATAP] was drawn up in 2010, over 7000 people were cycling to work.   The 15% target means over 20,000 cycle commuters by 2020.  And the target for 10% of all trips to be by bike will mean that large numbers of shopping, leisure and school trips will also be by bike.   [All figures from ATAP].

Following Cllr Orr’s motion, Spokes was recently consulted at a meeting with council officers.   We made the following main points…

  • We support continuing ATAP implementation and particularly welcome the plans now being drawn up to link disconnected routes, such as Canal-Meadows-Innocent and North Edinburgh Network to South Edinburgh.  We also look forward to the eventual results of before-and-after studies on the South Edinburgh 20mph zone and Quality Bike Corridor, and what lessons they bring for other parts of the city.
  • A big disappointment when ATAP was written was that it skirted over the difficult but critical question of the city centre.  Since as early as 2009 the Council has been promising to consult on radical improvements, such as buses/taxis one-way in Princes Street and George Street, or a motor-free Princes Street, but nothing has happened.   The Council’s Gehl Report on the central area was very positive on the place of cycling, but officials seemed to play this down.   The Council absolutely must take cycling seriously in Princes Street as an iconic shopping and visitor destination, as well as a through route, and this must become a central element of city cycling policy.
  • Cycle use in the city has now reached such levels that onroad segregated facilities must be trialled.   There is also huge public appetite for such a trial, and the action in ATAP to ‘consider’ this must now be strengthened and put into action.   A great opportunity has arisen with the planned major overhaul of Leith Walk.
  • An important aspect of ATAP [p26] which has fallen well behind is improved cycle facilities on major arterial routes, A1, A7, A8, A70, A702, etc.   Ideally, and in the longer term, many of these will doubtless be onroad segregated, but smaller improvements at cycle lane gaps, junctions, and other scary locations [as proposed in ATAP by April 2013!] can be implemented rapidly and relatively cheaply.
  • Although infrastructure is the key to big and ongoing rises in everyday bike use, promotion is also useful.  We emphasised one small but inspirational idea [in ATAP, but not yet implemented] – the planned public bike counter – you increment its number as you cycle past.  Here are a couple:  USA first in Portland,  Busy counter in Copenhagen.
  • Finally, adequate staffing is vital.   Higher investment in cycling means staffing must be reorganised so that the budget is spent and spent effectively – particularly as cycling investment is more staff-intensive than work on roads or other ‘big’ transport.   Historic note – for those with very long memories, this takes us back to the early days of Lothian Region, when cycle budgets were more than once badly underspent until the council appointed its 3-person cycle team [Spokes Bulletin 31 !].

Meanwhile, Spokes member Cllr Chas Booth has proposed a motion to Edinburgh Council’s 23 August meeting, calling for a Sir Chris Hoy Cycle Network, as a ‘golden legacy for Edinburgh.’

The motion [item 10.5 on the agenda, pdf 60k] echoes several points in our comments above – particularly the need to start working on segregated onstreet provision, and the opportunity provided for this by the forthcoming Leith Walk reconstruction.


It’s really important that councillors continue to hear from constituents about the need to move to a more cycle and pedestrian-friendly city.   Only in this way will the council put maximum enthusiasm and effort into cycling policy, ensure adequate staffing, and stick by its existing policy to raise cycling investment 1% each year.   Remember too that there are now many new councillors who therefore have not been lobbied in previous years.

Please contact your councillors with any points from above that concern you – or any other cycling or transport concerns you have.   Don’t repeat all we have said above.   A relatively short letter is best, making one, two or maybe three points, and if possible illustrating it with something from your local area or your own experience.   You have either 3 or 4 councillors – find them all at

And, if you read this in time, mention Cllr Chas Booth’s above motion and any points in it which you particularly support.



Comments are closed.