Now that spring has arrived, and the weather has become kinder, people appear to be finally taking advantage of Transport For Edinburgh’s bike hire scheme. If you are unfamiliar with this, customers can use an app on their phone to hire bicycles for single trips, or for the whole day, for less than they would pay to travel by bus.
As a means of transport for visitors, they are a welcome alternative to the tour bus. If you want an example of the environmental impact of tourism, look no further than the tour buses that clog the city’s streets, belching out diesel fumes as they carry sometimes as few as half-a-dozen passengers on a ridiculously convoluted route around Edinburgh’s tourist attractions.
Those same six tourists on bikes cycling around the city trying to find the best route to the Castle may sound like an accident waiting to happen, but it will create a lot less air pollution. I reckon a couple of Californians falling off their bikes at traffic lights is a small price to pay if it means future generations of children not growing up with asthma.
However, in terms of its tourist attractions, Edinburgh is not the most bike-friendly of cities. Visit Amsterdam, and its wide, flat streets scream out to visitors “Please cycle along me”. Likewise, 90 per cent of commuters in Copenhagen would appear to make their daily journeys by bike.
To cycle from the Botanic Gardens to the Castle you have to take as many extreme uphill stretches as some of the more gruelling stages of the Tour de France. I reckon it would test the stamina of Bradley Wiggins.
I have admiration and sympathy in equal measure for the army of enthusiastic rickshaw cyclists who ply their trade on the Capital’s hilly streets throughout the summer. It must be arduous enough cycling up the Royal Mile, The Mound or Victoria Street at the best of times. To do so while towing a couple of overweight American tourists shows commitment above and beyond the call of duty. However, anything that will take more petrol vehicles off the road is a good thing, as Edinburgh Council themselves have acknowledged with their plans to ban polluting cars from the city centre.
The recent Extinction Rebellion protests have raised everyone’s awareness of the fragility of the future of the planet, partly because they made their point using humour. Most people were amused when a handful of protestors glued themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s garden fence. I’m not sure he was amused as he has been sitting on that fence for three years, trying to decide what he thinks about Europe. Corbyn may not have any coherent policy on Brexit, but it appears to me that he does care deeply about the environment. Not only is he always photographed leaving his front door pushing a bike, but it also looks as if he buys all his clothes out of charity shops.
However, I am not alone in become somewhat disturbed by the fact that the Edinburgh bike hire scheme in sponsored by Just Eat, the food delivery company.
A healthy alternative to bus travel is being supported by an unhealthy alternative to getting off your backside and walking to the kitchen to cook your own dinner. There is something almost Dickensian in the nature of these companies like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, where young people on zero-hours contracts cycle the streets in all weathers, servicing the appetites of the idle rich.
I would not be surprised to find out that the only people under 25 who are not obese spend their entire day cycling up steep cobbled streets delivering food to lazy, fat slobs. Ah well, I suppose it means some people are keeping themselves fit.
Tickets are now on sale for Vladimir McTavish’s 2019 Edinburgh Fringe show 60 Minutes To Save The World on www.tickets.edfringe.com