Last month I began commuting by bike for the first time. I blogged about my experience and at the time I was not sure if I would make it a routine thing. Since then I have cycled to work about half a dozen times and have really enjoyed it. This piece is about how I have been getting on with my cycle commuting and to highlight the advantages.
I have noticed that when I finish work I feel excited about the journey home. It is like a mini adventure to jump on my bike and pedal home, whereas taking the bus or walking does not get me this excited.
My confidence in traffic is increasing. Although a large part of my route is off-road, through the Meadows, the green heart of Edinburgh, there is a section in Edinburgh's busy city centre. I feel much more relaxed when tackling this.
It is now dark in the evenings, so my lights have become an essential bit of kit. On my summer cycling trips I rarely make use of my lights, so they have never been used this much before.
Normally my bike is not used between September and March because of the generally poorer weather and shorter days, but cycle commuting has allowed me to extend my "season" into November. Even though my commute is only about 6 miles return it is giving me a regular opportunity to have a bike ride.
I used to be dead against city cycle commuting and was determined to only use my bike for countryside forays where the roads are quiet. I had been afraid of the traffic, but I have discovered that I can cope with it and I am glad that I took the plunge. There are many advantages to using your bike to get to work and I am now a convert.
Advantages of cycle commuting
It may surprise you to know that I don't cycle to work. Although it is the most obvious way to make regular use of my bike I only ever use it for adventures on days away and overnight trips. But today I tried cycle commuting for the first time.
Like many people the reason that I have not cycled to work until now is that I did not fancy being amongst Edinburgh's horrendous rush hour traffic. According to Autocar Edinburgh is the fifth most congested city in Europe. My love of cycling is about it being an enjoyable way to travel- grappling with high levels of traffic is not my idea of fun.
For the last few weeks I began to notice a potential low-traffic route to work. I cycled parts of it, walked it and rehearsed it in my mind. It is not the most direct route, but it avoids some of the busy roads and the majority of it is actually completely traffic-free. This is the cycle pathways in the Meadows, the green heart of Edinburgh. These pathways are wonderful- wide enough for bikes to travel in both directions and a separate section for pedestrians. I think this is easily the best cycling infrastructure in the city and the closest we have to the wonderful cycle networks they have in Copenhagen.
The other great thing about the Meadows is that you are cycling among trees, grass and birdsong. You could not ask for more in a morning commute.
This morning I gave it a go and it went very well. I really enjoyed it. I was travelling quite early in the morning, before the rush hour kicks off, so it was probably a lot easier than if I was cycling after 8am. The last section is on potentially busy roads, but earlier in the morning they are a lot simpler to tackle.
The Meadows path ends at Forrest Road where there is a cycle lane, but I then have to move out of this cycle lane in order to turn right onto Chambers Street. As a pedestrian I observed this section of my route in rush hour traffic and it made me nervous. I decided that if it was very busy there was no shame in getting off my bike and wheeling it along the pavement and crossing the road on foot, but I did not have to do that today- it was nice and quiet.
Would I do it again? If the weather is good tomorrow I probably will. I enjoyed it and would like to make it a regular thing. I am not too sure about tackling it at peak commuting time and may just stick to cycling on the days that I start work earlier. We shall see what tomorrow brings...
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle. Follow my blog on Facebook: