A LONG-STANDING ban on cyclists using paths in the Meadows may have to be scrapped – because it is illegal.
It emerged today that signs painted on the walkways to deter cyclists from quieter areas of the beauty spot could fall foul of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act.
The 2003 Act was designed to improve access to green areas for cyclists as well as walkers but its implications are only now becoming apparent.
Park paths in Glasgow have already been opened up to cyclists as a result and Edinburgh City Council is now investigating whether it needs to follow suit.
Any move to open walkways to a mix of walkers, joggers and cyclists is likely to prove controversial over fears pedestrians could be knocked over.
But cycling groups today said the relaxation of rules would encourage people to improve their behaviour.
Bikes are currently only permitted on Middle Meadow Walk, and the east-to-west routes along North Meadow Walk and South Meadow Walk. Cyclists are not supposed to use the paths that criss-cross the Meadows.
The impact of the law was revealed by council staff at a recent Friends of the Meadows meeting.
Southside and Newington Tory councillor Cameron Rose said: "This will be quite controversial for local people. Older residents, in particular, may be concerned.
"The primary issue is first to determine whether the signs are illegal – the council has to do something about this.
"Ten or 15 years ago, there was a similar debate about mountain bikes on the Pentlands.
But experience suggests that cyclists and pedestrians can co-exist without detriment."
Although the "no cycling" markings are clearly visible on the paths, some cyclists are known to ignore the rules.
There are also local anecdotes of people being knocked over by cyclists travelling too fast.
Ian Maxwell, a member of cycling pressure group Spokes, said: "By making paths more accessible, rather than having 'no entry' signs, it is hoped this will improve cyclists' behaviour, rather than make it worse."
Peng Lee Yap, chairman of Friends of the Meadows, said there would be an "inevitable conflict" between the various users of the paths. But he added: "While this is clearly a difficult issue, it was felt that the positive way forward is the approach of Spokes to improve cyclists' behaviour."
A city council spokesman said: "We will obviously arrange the signs in our parks in line with the appropriate legislation."