March 2014

Cycling: Past, Present and Possible Futures

The Spokes Spring public meeting was our best ever, with an articulate and overflowing audience and some great ideas for Edinburgh’s future…

According to the Augustine United janitor, the audience was over 120 people, with the prepared seating in the main hall fully occupied and latecomers sent up to the gallery.

Prof Colin Pooley, of Lancaster University Environment Centre, and leader of the multi-university Understanding Walking and Cycling project, was the main speaker.  Here is his presentation.. [ppt 1.3MB].  His resulting recommendations on cycling policy are summarised in the slide below.  This was not necessarily an order of priority – all the recommendations are very important.

Making Cycling Easy
[providing the best possible cycling environment on different routes]

  • Fully separated cycle and pedestrian routes on all arterial roads.
  • Restrictions on traffic speeds, parking, access etc on all residential roads
  • Adopt ‘strict liability’ on roads to protect the most vulnerable road users
  • Changes to structure of cities to make accessing services by bike easy, and storing and parking bikes easy
  • Societal and economic changes to give people flexibility to travel more sustainably (flexi hours, school provision etc)
  • Change the image of cycling so that it becomes ‘normal’

Click here [pdf 2.4MB]  for a detailed summary of key findings and recommendations from the research.   For a fuller description see the book Promoting Walking and Cycling, based on the research.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City Council, responded briefly, after which the two speakers formed a panel for an hour of questions from the floor.

Andrew Burns’s main message was that Edinburgh is on the way, and enthusiastic, but knows it has a long way to go.  The 2011 census [see Spokes Bulletin 118] shows bike use up, walking up, bus use up, rail up and car commuting down.  Uniquely in Scotland, the proportion of car-free households is up.  Cycle commuting has doubled in the last 10 years.  The council is the only one in Scotland to allocate a fixed proportion of its transport budget to cycling, 5% at the last election, rising by 1% a year, reaching 7% this year, 14/15, and Cllr Burns envisaged it reaching 10%.  Furthermore, much of this is doubled by Sustrans match-funding.  However, Edinburgh had only now reached the stage where onroad segregation had become politically feasible – but we would see it increasingly, starting with George Street and Leith Walk [the citymost half].  In questions, Cllr Burns promised another look at making Princes Street more bike-friendly once the George Street scheme [which is a one-year experiment] is up and working and he promised an update on many other issues such as a city bike-hire scheme and coloured surfacing policy.

For more details see our report on Prof Pooley’s talk and the QA session [pdf 87k].

Cllr Andrew Burns’s ‘Really Bad Blog’  has a brief report on the meeting.

To print a single page listing Prof Pooley’s main conclusions and recommendations [you need MS Powerpoint] download this file [ppt 177k] then use the ppt option to print 6 slides per page.

For quick links to the meeting downloads and to previous public meetings go to our public meetings page.

Did you miss this excellent meeting?  Make sure you stay in touch by joining Spokes!


Spokes took the opportunity of Prof Pooley’s visit to suggest meetings with Edinburgh Council and with John Lauder of Sustrans Scotland, both of which were eagerly snapped up.

We particularly thanks Council Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds who organised and chaired a seminar by Prof Pooley, attended by 10 or so relevant officers, as well as Cllr Adam McVey [Transport Vice-Convener, SNP], Cllr Angela Blacklock [Lab], Cllr Cameron Rose [Con] and Cllr Nick Gardner [Lab].


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