Cycling Resources in Edinburgh Too Centralised

Edinburgh’s long-awaited cycle hire scheme launched in the capital last week. Whilst I welcome additional active travel options for residents, I was disappointed to see that only one location out of the first 24 is located in South West Edinburgh. Worse, in the coming months, only 2 more out of c. 80 provisional sites are planned to serve a quarter of the city’s population.

Whilst new cycle options in the city are of course very welcome, it is vital that provision is made for all residents across the city. The focus on the city centre is concerning for a purportedly city-wide scheme. Though central locations may be attractive to visitors and tourists, they do little to alleviate pressures on congested arterial routes and bottlenecks driven by high car usage, particularly at peak commute times.

My ward, Sighthill/Gorgie, is one of the most public transport-dependent in the city. Low levels of car ownership mean that public transport options are essential for the large population of students, professionals and pensioners in the area. We need to do all we can to encourage cycle uptake as an active transport alternative for journeys to work in particular. A heavy concentration of hire points in the city centre does not achieve this. It also does not seem equitable to constituents in my community who feel overlooked.

Unfortunately, the South West has also been under-resourced in other areas related to cycle infrastructure. Just over a week ago, I attended the meeting of the South West Locality Committee. At this meeting, we reviewed a report summarising the Council’s annual cycle programme, sent to our Committee from the Transport and Environment Committee. I and many of my colleagues from the South West were dismayed to note that no new cycle provision has been made in the South West. Or, as I pointed out to the committee, from a possible 49 funded projects, zero are located in the South West.

Our Committee will be raising this issue with transport colleagues and I will be pushing for a review of the current allocations. I hope that we may still be able to restore some balance to the resource allocation process.

These examples raise wider issues related to over-centralised resource allocation in Edinburgh. I believe public resources should be equitably distributed to benefit all citizens and all communities across the city. We have had limited scrutiny of resources at locality level previously, but this is now changing. Earlier this year, the Council introduced a new governance structure in the form of locality committees to manage local issues at a local level in the city across Edinburgh’s 4 localities: North East, South East, South West and North West.

I am committed to ensuring that the new locality-based governance structure is effective as it brings opportunities for improved community engagement, with decisions being made closer to the communities we serve as Councillors. But unless appropriate resources are devolved to locality level and budgets are equitably allocated to communities across the city, Locality Committees risk being ineffective advisory committees unable to respond to the needs and priorities of our constituents.

Published in the Edinburgh News | 24th September 2018