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Cyclists hail traffic-free route to Midlothian

Sustrans member Jenny Muir. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Sustrans member Jenny Muir. Picture: Ian Georgeson

CYCLISTS will be able to ride under the busy Edinburgh Bypass from next year on a new £500,000 route linking Edinburgh to Midlothian as part of ambitious plans to make the city bike-friendly.

The three-mile-long cycle link, partially running along a stretch of old railway line branching off the former Borders network, will start from Gilmerton Dykes and travel under the bypass heading towards Loanhead.

The connection will allow cyclists to travel from the city’s southside into Midlothian on a traffic-free path for the first time. Riders will be able to safely cycle as far as historic Rosslyn Chapel.

The path forms part of the old disused railway linking Millerhill into Penicuik.

The project is being funded courtesy of £250,000 from pro-cycling charity Sustrans, with Edinburgh council matching the financial contribution.

A three-metre-wide bitmac cycle lane surface, a new replacement bridge across Gilmerton Station Road, and a widened shared use footway along Lasswade Road to enable safe access to Gilmerton are being built.

Sustrans’ construction projects officer Graeme Brown said the cycle route would be completed by spring next year, with works having already started. He said: “At some point we were hoping for it to tie into the new development proposed in Shawfair. It’s on the cards to have a lot of housing at Shawfair. This will potentially form part of that.

“It’s been on the cards for a long time. Our local volunteers have been pushing us to try and get something done. Midlothian Council instigated it by spending £80,000 on the section up to the bypass two years ago. That’s spurred Edinburgh council to look into the feasibility and design of carrying it on into their patch. Potentially, there’s a few options to branch off this link.

“The bypass is quite a big barrier for people moving outwith Edinburgh into Midlothian and vice versa. This is one way of helping people get through safely. Cyclists have previously ended up running the gauntlet, waiting for a break in the traffic.”

Edinburgh council is discussing lighting the stretch of cycle path to allow for year-round use, but a decision is yet to be made.

City transport vice-convener Jim Orr said: “I’m very pleased about the planned Loanhead-Gilmerton cycleway because it takes cyclists through one of our green flag parks, Burdiehouse Valley Park, and connects well to the excellent off-road path that Midlothian Council have created between Rosslyn and Loanhead.

“This makes it a great route for both commuters and leisure cyclists. Also, it demonstrates that we are investing in cycling all over the city and not just in and around the city centre, and so it’s particularly good news for cyclists in the south of the city.

“With the A90 cycleway to South Queensferry also planned for this summer, there will be two lovely, new, family-friendly paths to get away to the countryside around Edinburgh.”

The southern cycle route is one of 104 walking and cycling schemes being constructed across Scotland in a major push by councils and the Scottish Government to promote alternate forms of transport.

Edinburgh council is targeting 15 per cent of all commuter journeys being made by bicycle by 2020. Commuter journeys by bike stood at just over seven per cent two years ago.

London has followed the Scottish capital’s aggressive goals, with mayor Boris Johnson aiming for a 400 per cent increase in cycling by around 2025.

Sustrans is spending £620,000 this financial year on cycling and walking links across Edinburgh through the Community Links scheme.

A section of path along Leith Links is being resurfaced, while the footway is being widened on Seafield Road to improve a cycle route linking Leith to Portobello.

A well-used section of the National Cycle Network travelling from South Queensferry and the Forth Road Bridge into Haymarket is also being upgraded in 2013-14.

On-road facilities are being upgraded around Beeslack Community High School in Midlothian, with feasibility work being carried out to improve links to the planned Newbattle Abbey station.

In East Lothian, Sustrans is investigating upgrading Becky’s Strip – a core path that connects the communities to the south of North Berwick to avoid busy A-class roads. A cycle path will also be created from Boghall Roundabout to Wester Inch in West Lothian.

Ian Maxwell, of pro-cycling campaign group Spokes, said of the Gilmerton-Loanhead path: “We know that there is a problem in getting out of Edinburgh and anything like this that makes it easier to get out of the city without mixing with busy traffic really expands the options for leisure cycling in the Lothians.

“We would welcome developments of this type. I think with the way things are going at the moment, we stand a good chance of achieving 15 per cent of journeys by bike by 2020 because we’ve got both the structures and we’ve already got a good level of cycling.”

Dalkeith ward councillor Alex Bennett labelled the new cycling route linking Midlothian to the Capital an excellent idea. He said: “I supported the planning a long time ago. The bypass is a nightmare to get around even with a car. From Dalkeith to Sheriffhall, there was a boy killed two or three years ago from a [collision with a] van.

“He was cycling on the road and they made the pavement into a cycling track, so from Sheriffhall Roundabout to Dalkeith the pavement is a cycling track. It’s about taking cyclists off the road.”

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “We’ve allocated considerable funding to the Community Links Programme as part of our commitment to increase the number of shorter journeys made by foot or bike and it’s greatly encouraging to see over 100 walking and cycling schemes.

“The record number of applications received says a lot about the level of interest in creating a healthier, greener and more active Scotland. This week, ministers launched the Active Travel campaign, which encourages people to walk rather than take their cars for journeys less than two miles. This project will help build momentum by making more short journeys possible by walking and cycling.”

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com

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