Background Info

At the moment Gorebridge Community Trust is working within the community to encourage active travel. However, in order to encourage more people to commute by bike two to three times a week, we need cyclists to feel safe on the road. As an experienced cyclist, I was petrified when I had to use the Sherifhall roundabout on my bicycle – other cyclists refer to it as 'The Blender' and largely try and avoid it.

So, we have been working within communities in Midlothian to encourage cycling but there is only so much we can do without infrastructure for cyclists. Creating safe access across the Sheriffhall for cyclists would help us support more people to commute to Edinburgh or the Sheriffhall Park and Ride by bicycle.

An active travel bridge would be an iconic symbol of the Scottish Government's desire to support cycling and sustainable transport. With thousands of new houses being built in Midlothian the new roundabout will only temporarily relieve congestion unless people are supported and encouraged to use public transport and to cycle. At the moment it is only the brave and experienced cyclists who attempt to navigate the Sheriffhall roundabout. By creating a safe, separate cycleway, more people will be encouraged to commute from Midlothian into Edinburgh by bicycle, which will not only relieve congestion but also have innumerable health and environmental benefits.

It has been proven in cities such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and more recently New York, that providing separate cycling infrastructure increases the number of cyclists, decreases congestion and increases safety. Not only this, but there are numerous academic articles, which make a clear economic case for the investment in high-quality cycling infrastructure. Yi et. al. (2000) state that 'The provision of high-quality cycling infrastructure can promote cycling uptake and deliver economic returns well in excess of investment and ongoing maintenance.' Our built environment influences our behaviour, if the Scottish government is serious about sustainable transport and their highly ambitious goal of reducing climate emissions by 66% within 15 years, cycling needs to be central to all new transport developments.

Scotland has helped transform the UK's energy mix with investment in wind turbines and the Scottish government has shown it is serious about emissions reduction by committing to cut greenhouse gasses by 66% within 15 years. We need to focus on reducing emissions from transport next, not just by encouraging electric vehicles but by supporting people to become less dependent on cars.

In cities, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, where services are centralised, there are numerous public transport options and access to car clubs, cars can be seen as a luxury and not a necessity. In satellite areas, such as Midlothian, this is not the case – cars are a necessity. In fact, I only learnt to drive after moving from Edinburgh to Newtongrange. With thousands of new houses being built in Midlothian, there will be thousands more cars. A key area to focus on reducing car journeys is the commute into Edinburgh. During rush hour a bicycle really is the fastest mode of transport into the city and home again.

What stops people from using their bicycles? ‘The main barrier to cycling in this country (UK) is the perception that our roads are too dangerous and uncomfortable, largely due to high volumes and high speeds of motor traffic’ (Thornton et. al., 2011). Whilst my colleagues and I are working with communities to overcome this ‘subjective safety’ worry, there are very real dangers to cyclists at poorly designed junctions and roundabouts. The Sheriffhall roundabout is definitely one that is not cyclist friendly. It would be wonderful to see an iconic cycling bridge, or at the very least a separate cycleway. This would give commuters a choice and would be a very clear statement from the Scottish government in support of cycling.

I would happily write a literature review on the benefits of well-designed and well maintained cycling infrastructure. As yet, I have come across no evidence to suggest that there are any deleterious effects, only positive impacts. This was clearly demonstrated in New York, as documented by Janette Sadik-Khan in, ‘Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.’ She oversaw the remodelling of the streets around people, be that pedestrians, cyclists or those using public transport. Real choices were provided and people used their cars less. Significantly, as the number of cyclists more than doubled, the number of serious injuries fell. She described this transformation as a ‘Copernican revolution.’ I am asking the Scottish government to show its desire to be part of that revolution, please put people and the environment at the heart of new transport initiatives. Give us proper transport choices and future proof any new construction such as the Sheriffhall roundabout.

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