Gorgie farm is one of the top attractions to take children to in Edinburgh. It is a great place for kids to spend a few hours looking at the animals, sitting on the tractor and using the play park. I have used my bicycle to transport my son to Gorgie farm many times, but there are challenges with the route.
Gorgie farm is an example of a location, because of the nature of the attraction, that should be accessible by safe cycling infrastructure. The reality is that the busy roads that you need to use to reach Gorgie farm will put off many people from using a bicycle to get there.
I managed to find a safe route to Gorgie farm, but it took a lot of time to research and I have to push my bike for the last 5 minutes to avoid cycling on busy roads.
My main consideration for the route was the safety of my son, My route is a classic illustration of the challenges people face when trying to use a bicycle for everyday journeys.
Get on the Union Canal
Gorgie farm isn't too far from the Union Canal, which has the traffic-free cycle and walking path, so this was a good starting point in researching a route. First step was to work out how to get on to the Union Canal from where I live in a manner that avoided busy roads. I discussed the challenges of doing this in my post about cycling on the Union Canal.
Where do you get off the Union Canal?
The next step was to work out where to leave the Union Canal. Travelling north from the canal it is impossible to avoid the busy A70 road, but I studied the map to see if there was a compromise or alternative. I found one! If I came off the Union Canal at Harrison Park I could access some quieter residential streets that would take me that bit closer to the farm, avoiding busy roads.
From Harrison Park I took West Bryson Road, which curves down to Dundee Terrace. These two streets have more parked cars than moving cars, so they are nice and quiet. There is a little path near the end of Dundee Terrace, through some trees and bushes, that drops you at a pedestrian crossing over the A70 to Henderson Terrace. From here, Gorgie Farm is just a 5 minute walk.
Time to push the bike
Walk being the key word in this case. No way am I going to cycle down Henderson Terrace and then Gorgie Road to get to the farm. These are busy roads with no cycling infrastructure. I am not taking that risk with a child, so I push the bike along the pavement the rest of the way. I am content to do so and think 'actually, that wasn't too bad, at least I got here even if I had to walk the last 5 minutes.'
However, should I expect better? When I see images and videos of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands or Denmark I think it should be better in Edinburgh. I should be able to take my son to Gorgie farm on a bicycle without feeling that the only way to do it safely is to use a car.
What is the answer?
Whereas I am happy with my partial cycling and partial walking route to Gorgie farm I can appreciate that many people would see this as a hassle and much rather use a different form of transport to get there. I cannot expect people to do what I do and spend ages researching safe bicycle routes, particularly when it is easier to jump in a car in a city that is largely designed to move people around in cars.
However, if we want to meet climate change and active travel targets then we need to have a city with more safe cycling infrastructure. The residents and visitors should feel that they have a choice to use a bicycle instead of a car to reach places like Gorgie Farm.
Read more of my thoughts on using a bicycle for commuting and everyday cycling journeys. I have been keeping a diary of my experiences.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.