Have you heard of the Edinburgh Innertube?
If you have – then congratulations! You are probably aware of the wonderful network of off-street paths for cycling and walking that Edinburgh has to offer.
If not, and you thought Edinburgh Council were about to introduce an Underground system to add to the tram debacle, you are forgiven as they are pretty notorious for crazy decisions.
We’re very lucky to live just off one of the paths in North Edinburgh that were once part of the old railway network which ran from Granton and Leith, all the way to Haymarket and the city centre. This provides us with a brilliant traffic-free way to travel around with the kids and reach all kinds of places. It’s brilliant to get out into the fresh air and keep active as a family.
It can be hard to work out exactly where this network leads by looking at a traditional street map but thankfully, the Innertube map was created by the Bike Station to show the main routes available.
When I first bought my own flat in Edinburgh, I lived very close to the canal path from Tollcross and often enjoyed jogging along it towards Ratho. It was here that I became aware that there are many Edinburgh cyclists who like to pretend that they are in Le Tour de France, and think that bells are above them. Despite the width of the paths of the North Edinburgh network, I’m very mindful when I have the kids with me.
The cycle network in the Meadows is very clearly marked – complete with junctions etc. where cycles are meant to stop. It always confounds me how many pedestrians just wander out in these lanes and I fear more for the cyclists in this instance who should be able to expect a clear run. That said, I still don’t think the path layout excuses excessive speed.
After years of wandering the paths near our house with the kids, I try to follow a combination of the Highway and Greenway code (which is a nice way of saying I want people to THINK and engage any common sense they may have):
- When cycling keep to the LEFT hand side of the path : upon spying a pedestrian, drop your speed.
- Sound your bell or even call out to let any pedestrians know you are there if you haven’t seen them (say, when approaching a curve in the path).
- Manners are a must. A polite ‘Excuse me’ is fine but should always be followed by a ‘Thank you’ if they have given way to you. A smile also wouldn’t go amiss.
- Remember that people can move in an unpredictable manner – particularly small children – so give a wide berth when passing someone. Don’t sigh or tut, they have the same right to be there as you do.
- When walking keep to the RIGHT hand side of the path so to clearly see oncoming cyclists. This of course is dependent on cyclists following common sense – which sadly doesn’t always happen!
- Although running with music can be nice, be aware that this limits your awareness of others around you (and can also put you in danger).
Which leads me to my last point, I don’t think the cycle paths are much more dangerous than other roads in Edinburgh in terms of people who may want to rob or hurt you. The paths are well populated during the day and it’s rare not to see people every few hundred metres. That said, I wouldn’t go along there at night by myself, I always let someone know where I’m going if alone and I take my mobile phone.
My most negative experience was being out with the kids when a couple of local delinquents had stolen a motorbike and decided to take it for a joy ride along the path before setting fire to it. However the amount of outrage of the other path users was palpable – and you could hear numerous phone calls to the police occurring. Unfortunately, the accessibility to the path made it very easy for them to escape!
In short, it’s a great commodity to have on our doorstep that should be utilised more. Some people are idiots, some are even dangerous – so it never hurts to keep alert to what’s happening around you!
An interactive map of the Innertube is available here. Are you Edinburgh based? Do you use the cycle network or even have something similar where you are?
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