Tube is the only way to travel for Capital's cyclists

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IT HAS provided inspiration for countless designs, but now the famed London Underground map will be used to promote Edinburgh's cycleways to commuters in the Capital.

The city is unique in Britain in having more than 70 miles of off-street cycle ways that reach right into the city centre, made up of disused railway lines, canal towpaths and along the banks of the Water of Leith.

Mark Sydenham from cycling organisation the Bike Station said they are hugely under-utilised because no-one knows they are there.

His group has teamed up with Edinburgh Lothian Greenspace Trust to ensure the network makes its way into the hearts and minds of commuters as a valid alternative to the roads.

Mr Sydenham said the idea for the London Underground style of design, which is believed to be the first time it has been used for a cycle map, came from seeing an old map of the railway lines that criss-cross the city.

"It lends itself perfectly to be set out like the Tube map," he said. "I saw an 1896 map of Edinburgh railway lines and got the idea that it needs to be laid out like Tube lines.

"There's potential to take thousands of cars off the road. The cycle paths go from Granton to Leith to Cramond, right into Haymarket - they're perfect for daily commuter journeys. One of the most common reasons people have for not cycling is that they're put off by the traffic, but in Edinburgh they can easily stick to the paths."

The map is expected to be revealed next month, after which the group will kick off its ambitious task of rejuvenating areas of the track that are less well-loved.

Poor signs, bad maintenance and inadequate tree clearance has meant that the paths are hard to use in some areas, leading to a perception that they are uninviting or even dangerous.

But Mr Sydenham said the project hoped to change that with the setting up of a conservation and woodland management programme, which would take care of things such as fallen trees, litter and graffiti.

He said: "The idea is that, the more people come, the more value will be placed on these spaces. The canal towpath and Water of Leith areas are well looked after, but those in Granton and along Ferry Road, no-one looks after.

"To start with, we're focusing the conservation management and signage strategy on the sections in the north of the city - those that are most neglected. From there, we'll develop it." The project is expected to cost 121,000, and it has applied to have 98,000 of that paid for by the People's Postcode Lottery's Dream Fund. The winners of the fund will be announced at a ceremony at the National Galleries on January 31.

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