A Severe Case of Hoyfever


Posted by in August's Magazine

Thinking of health and fitness topics to share with you is a bit like waiting for a 22 bus. There’s nothing for ages, then three come at once. Watching the Olympics has got my creative juices flowing, and has also infected many with the urge to cycle like maniacs around the bumpy ‘tracks’ that are the roads of Edinburgh. Veering through traffic at top speed, many cyclists have contracted a severe case of Hoyfever having being exposed to the potent pollen of racing like there’s no tomorrow. So this is the start gun for this month’s topical theme.

It’s not just kamikaze cyclists I want to discuss, but also the precarious relationship between two and four wheel vehicles on Edinburgh’s roads. Somehow the two don’t mix. Cars often don’t like bikes because they nimbly nip through traffic jams (and some naughty cyclists, through red lights). Many cyclists don’t like cars as, well, they’re big and hurt if they hit you. The basic premise of my argument is that everyone is in too much of a hurry on the roads of Edinburgh, sharing too little road space. It’s slightly ridiculous that in such a tiny city we can have so much road rage. If you want a proper traffic jam, go to London or even the experts of gridlock, USA (if you’ve seen Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down you’ll know what I mean). Edinburgh shouldn’t do traffic jams. The roads weren’t built for it; let’s not mention the trams…

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We need less people in cars, and more folk enjoying less congestive modes of transport. Edinburgh Council has pledged to spend 5% of their travel budget on active travel, that is, travel requiring an individual to get off their lardy arse and move their body. The city is perfect for active travel as it is so compact. However it’s a chicken and egg situation, I know many folk will not cycle on roads because they are afraid of the proximity of traffic. Presently cars and bikes share main roads more than any other city I’ve encountered. Barcelona, Copenhagen and Amsterdam all have segregated cycle lanes on some main arterial routes on which I’ve had the pleasure of cycling. Why not here?

This topic has bugged me for ages. It’s almost as frustrating as RLJ-ers, cyclespeak for Red Light Jumpers. You know who you are. It ain’t big and it ain’t clever. A word to the RLJ-ers – don’t. Just don’t do it…leave yourself an extra minute or two for your journey time and be a courteous road user. As long as bikes share the road with cars, cyclists must obey the Highway Code.

A difficult game

A few years ago on a dimly lit afternoon my lovely hubby (or boyfriend as he was back then), took me on a drive around Edinburgh and we played ‘try to spot the cyclist’. It was a difficult game. I have been knocked off my bike twice in Edinburgh, both not my fault. Both times the motorist didn’t see me, once on Leith Walk. Nowadays I personally believe wearing high viz is as important, if not more important, than wearing a helmet. A helmet will protect your bonce but not stop you from being knocked off.

Having cycled many miles around this fair city to and from fitness sessions, I have become adept at weaving in and out of cars (the narrow roads sometimes makes this unavoidable). I have also developed pretty good upper body strength to deal with the bumps and holes in the road. It’s a bit like mountain biking at Glentress, but Glentress has no buses, trucks or intersections. Whoah! Adrenaline rush!

I know some businesses don’t want a segregated cycle lane on Leith Walk for fear they might lose some motor driven shoppers. There is an idea that cyclists are not as valuable traffic as car drivers are to shops. Part of the reason I live and work in Leith is that I can walk to my local shops, yet it still seems these mysterious car customers are the premium consideration. I am slightly miffed by this, to say the least. Cyclists shop as well! In fact I am more likely to stop off at a number of small shops on my bike, as it’s more convenient. I believe part of the problem is fear of the unknown. Would Leith Walk be better or worse with segregated cycle lanes? Do we have enough guts to even imagine it? Or are we safer reverting to two lanes of traffic each way?

I would like to see a detailed plan for Leith Walk with segregated cycle lanes. A visiting Dutch traffic engineer compiled a cycle lane study right back at the beginning of the tram project. Apparently it can easily be done. So now we need to see some plans of how it can be done specifically for Leith Walk. Only then can we decide exactly what Leith Walk should look like.

Your feedback is most welcome.

to tracy@griffenfitness.com or tweet @tracygriffen

Painting: Collision of Eras 2 (Sir. Chris Hoy), By Frank To

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