• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Infrastructure behind cycling problems in Edinburgh

ByTom Harrington

Dec 5, 2023
A man in a helmet stands mnext to a banner that says more bikes, less cars. The word bike is replaced with a drawing of a bike.

Despite the University of Edinburgh being named “the best university in the UK for student cyclists,”
Edinburgh cyclists feel that cycling in the city is more dangerous than ever.

The Student has found that cyclists at the university feel unable to cycle safely in the city, citing
faults in both the city’s cycling infrastructure and the attitudes people hold towards cyclists.

Amelia is a second-year student who has been hit by a car twice since coming to Edinburgh, in her
most recent collision she was left concussed and in a sling, and on both occasions she was riding in a
bike lane.

She told The Student that “[This time] I had good friends around me, but last time I didn’t and it was
much harder – I was a first year, and I no longer felt safe in the city.

“I think doing something I love safely is so important, and I just did not, and still, don’t feel safe.

“When I walk out the door I hope that I come home. That’s all I ask, I literally just hope that I come
home, and that shouldn’t be how it is”.

Amelia’s experience isn’t unique. Government statistics from 2021 disclosed 16,458 reported
collisions between cyclists and traffic, ranging from minor accidents to mortal collisions, a figure that
has remained relatively constant since 2005.

When asked what should change, Amelia told The Student that: “[our] whole population’s view on
cycling needs to change, a whole-body shift, they just can’t see cyclists as anything over than
annoying bugs on the road.

“Everyone hates cyclists, everyone dehumanises cyclists, but we are all doing the same thing trying
to get from A to B.”

Conor, who hit a pothole whilst cycling into Edinburgh this summer, told The Student about his
experience with cycling infrastructure, and how it compounds the problems facing cyclists:

“I hit a pothole, and the next thing I knew I felt my hands slip off the bars and I thought, ‘shit this is
going to hurt.’ I think I hit a car in the next lane and then crawled into the hard shoulder.

“The road quality in Edinburgh is the worst I have seen in the UK, the roads everywhere in the city
are full of huge holes

“But I know that speaks to a wider problem of infrastructure crumbling since 2010, and 13 years of
Conservative government and austerity.”

Conor elaborated that “a lot of our road infrastructure is not fit for purpose.

“Edinburgh is a pretty old city, and a lot of roads are narrow and winding, when they were built they
weren’t built for SUVs or 4x4s which makes it a lot more dangerous for vulnerable road users; and
contributes to this idea that cyclists delay motorists, rather than that we share the same road.

“Where cycling infrastructure exists the cycling infrastructure is poorly designed, it gets bogged with
leaves, and potholes – which all sort of compounds into cyclists going on main roads – roads that are
totally unfit for cyclists to be on”.

The issues Conor and Amelia have faced have in their words been “really traumatic” and “terrifying”,
stemming from poor cycling infrastructure in the city and a need to “degenerate that tabloid idea of
cyclists versus motorists”.

Critical Mass is an international movement that campaigns for better cycling infrastructure, we
spoke to Dan, who organises Critical Mass Edinburgh’s rides: “It’s depressing really”.

“When you look across Europe you see Paris, Utrecht, Seville, they’re all making big moves to
improve cycling infrastructure, but here the council drags its feet and becomes slaves to the SUV
owners kicking up a fuss over any slight inconvenience.

“They should be looking to the future and seeing what needs to be done.”

Edinburgh currently has 112 miles of cycle lanes, with 2 miles of cycle tracks physically separate from
traffic and pedestrians.

Data from SusTrans has shown that only 1 additional mile of cycle lanes has been added since 2019.
Amsterdam by contrast has 320 miles of cycle lanes, as part of a 22,000-mile national network.

The infrastructure in the Netherlands was born out of frustration with the danger traffic presented
to vulnerable road users, with campaigns like Stop de Kindermoorde successfully advocating change
in both infrastructure and attitudes towards cyclists.

Both Critical Mass Edinburgh, Amelia, and Conor, all advocate for a similar “whole-body shift.”
“Do you think that a motorist would be so cavalier about driving in a cycle lane if they had
experience cycling themselves?”

Image Via Amaya Bañuelos Marco.