Bus firm boss saddles up for 'frightening' rush-hour ride

CYCLISTS and bus drivers have never been known as the best of friends as they vie for position on the Capital's roads.

But the often tense relationship could be about to improve, thanks to an "eye-opening" journey by the head of Lothian Buses.

Ian Craig, the company's managing director, saddled up for a 45-minute tour of the city centre ahead of a meeting with cycling lobby group Spokes, filming his trip along the way.

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The bus boss said the experiment had shown him how "frightening" an experience it could be to get around Edinburgh on two wheels.

Mr Craig was filmed from a vehicle travelling in tandem with his bike.

Among the busy roads he navigated was George Street, where the city's buses have been temporarily rerouted to accommodate tram works on Princes Street.

The resulting film was shown to cycling enthusiasts at Spokes' public meeting and was inspired by a similar exercise where a bus driver and a cyclist swapped places for the day in Oxford.

Mr Craig said: "I was invited by Spokes as part of their spring meeting on safety issues and it sounded like a good opportunity to get on my bike.

"The experience was pretty revealing – it opened my eyes to the challenges that cyclists face, which are clearly significant.

"The focus for me wasn't just on bus drivers. It was about experiencing what the city centre traffic is actually like for cyclists. I wouldn't single out any particular group of motorists, but I saw behaviour ranging from the very courteous to that which was frightening."

Mr Craig, who was already a keen cyclist before his outing, admitted to enjoying trips through the Meadows or along the Union Canal, but said it was his first time trying to navigate the Capital during rush hour.

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Spokes' Gary Bell said the bus chief's example should be followed by other transport bosses.

He said: "It's easy to talk about an integrated transport system, but this is exactly the sort of thing people have to do to see how it would work. For the managing director of the bus company to do this, it sends such a strong message. He'll have been able to see the good things and the less good things done by his drivers."

On Saturday, the Evening News reported on the case of nanny Seria Ullah, who had to have plastic surgery to rebuild her face after being knocked off her bike in a hit-and-run accident.

The 38-year-old suffered serious facial injuries, including a shattered cheekbone, after being thrown from her bike when she was struck by a car in Ferry Road last month.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Edinburgh has one of the highest death tolls for cyclists in Scotland. Figures released by national cycling organisation CTC showed that five cyclists were killed in the city between 2001 and 2006.

An Evening News investigation in September also uncovered 237 serious accidents and 1637 slight accidents involving cyclists in the last ten years.

Mr Bell added: "To become a confident cyclist you have to overcome that initial fear and become assertive. Cyclists may be slower than other road users, but we have as much right to be there. By the actions of some drivers, it's clear they don't all believe that."

Last year, the city council invested 380,000 on cycle projects, including improvements to cycle lanes and a 100,000 completion of the Rodney Street Tunnel project with help from sustainable transport group Sustrans.

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When the tunnel opens next month, it will link up many of the city's key cycle routes.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's transport leader, said a further 130,000 was being made available for cycling projects this year.

He said the council was currently looking at a number of initiatives to encourage cycling in the city, including plans for a bike share scheme based on those already in operation in cities such as Paris and Barcelona.

It is also hoped that Edinburgh's tram line can become the first in the UK to carry bikes on board when it is opened in 2011.