There is nothing more fun than seeing the look on road cyclist faces when they see you take a Brompton on their favourite circular road route. Today I had that pleasure several times, and a few were even encouraging, although I think at least one thought I was lost.
I didn’t start with the intention of going on the route I ended up on, but I wanted something a bit longer than my under-an-hour trips to the sea and back, as pleasant as they have been. I started out towards Cramond and the sea, but then decided to avoid the potholed road of mass vibrations and headed towards Cramond Brig.
The bridge that goes over the river, and of course, once crossed, it’s a turn around and go back up that lovely long hill you just freewheeled down, or head up onto the cycle track to South Queensferry. I didn’t fancy the hill, but I didn’t fancy South Queensferry either.
The route across the Forth from South Queensferry to North Queensferry on the old Forth Road Bridge appeared to be closed today, and I didn’t fancy returning via the Dalmeny Estate either. They are trying to keep people out, which contravenes the rights of access enjoyed in Scotland, but I didn’t see the point in upsetting folk and getting into an unnecessary arguments either.
So, I took the only other option here and headed for Kirkliston. This is a popular route for many road cyclists, and is usually a very busy road full of fast cars, which would scare me a little. With the lockdown under way, it was busier in places than I expected but nothing as scary as it would be normally.
The underpass lulls you in to a false sense of security, making you believe that you’ll be hidden from the madness of the A90 and get a quiet pass to Kirkliston. But it doesn’t: It spits you out on a road with a vague indication you have to loop around and ride up the side of the main road you had just passed under and had hoped to have avoided.
But to Kirkliston it was for me to still go, and I think I would doing the circuit the the easy way round because lots of bits of gentle up hill bits were followed by long bits of downhill where I was cruising at decent but safe speeds and with an option to pedal faster, or not.
The sun was shinning, the day was heating up, and I was grateful to be able to open the vented sleeves on my Gore Phantom jacket (see previous post).
Now, I have been in and out of Kirkliston a few times, always by car, and heading through it in a different direction, so I am going to use that as my excuse for what happens next…
You see, I thought I had got my bearings and because I could see the control tower of the airport in the far distance, I thought you got to the junction at the end of the road and turned left…which is what I did.
The next stretch of road didn’t have single car on it, it was lovely and quiet and I saw plenty of people walking and running. What I didn’t know as I sailed down the nice long gentle hill was that this was a dead end. All that is there at the end of it is the fence at the back of the airport runway. At least with no planes in the sky it was quiet and the air was still clean and fresh.
But this could only mean one thing…back the way I came, back up the nice long hill.
Never mind, the weather was being kind and I had learned a valuable directional lesson, one I will try not to repeat in the future.
Back on track, I went through Kirkliston to the crossroads, where you do turn left. So I was right about the left, but not which left.
The weather was hotting up and I was regretting not bringing a water bottle. I had had two large mugs of tea before I set off and I hadn’t intended being out that long. As it got warmer I started to wonder if this was a mistake.
But I slowed down, allowed my body to cool, and thought that if all else failed I could stop in one of the petrol stations furthers on by Newbridge or Gogar, and get some water. It wouldn’t be ideal, I didn’t want to enter any shops with the Covid-19 thing still very much in progress, but I would have little other choice. In Kirkliston itself it was the Scotmid or slog it out, for now I would slog it out.
After negotiating my way out of Kirkliston I was delighted to meet up with the cycle path that runs from Newbridge all the way back into Edinburgh.
At the Newbridge roundabout you have to cross the M9, and a lovely bridge is provided for you, but just who on earth thought the placement of those bollards (and making them concrete and out of initial sight) was a good idea?
Cycle path designs seem a little hit and miss; it’s as if things are often thrown in to make it feasible but not really intended to be use. A bit of a planners box ticking exercise but not really thought out. To get to the Newbridge’s industrial estate by bike is possible, but they didn’t really expect many people to do it because it’s not a great design. It does improve after the RBS offices but more of that later.
The path is good most of the way, it does run over some junctions and past quite a few houses.
In some spots it got very narrow indeed, and congested with street lights, bus stops, wheelie bins, building works, and just the general footpath (not cycle path) type stuff. It didn’t feel like a cycle path at this point at all.
I knew the path from the airport to the Gyle centre and home, but I hadn’t experienced the rest of it from the airport to Newbridge and was quite surprised how rough and restricted it was. It felt as if they allowed cyclists on the pavement, because they had to do something but they weren’t really inviting you to actually use active transport options. Perhaps that’s why the estate is filled with car dealers…
Once you get nearer to the airport things are better. I was on familiar ground now, having run from the airport three times a week when I worked near there.
The airport sits to the left of you as you head toward Edinburgh, and the road to and from the airport joins the Glasgow road via the lovingly name Dumbbell roundabout. It got that moniker because from above that’s what it looks like. As you approach it from Newbridge you are on the side of the East bound carriageway but after the roundabout you will be facing the traffic, if heading into Edinburgh, on the West bound side.
To do this, you go down the cycle path towards the airport but turn right on the designated cycle and pedestrian crossing, go under the A9, and back up facing the traffic on the side of the roundabout slip road. It’s a bit disconcerting but worth it because a) you have no option anyway as the path on the side you were on is about to run out, and b) the path on the westbound side is actually wider and better distanced from the road. It does give you a wee hill up off the roundabout but I can assure you, from experience, it’s a lot easier to cycle it than it is to run up it!
Following this shared path, with is definitely much nicer, and you carry on towards Edinburgh via the RBS Bridge. It’s called that because RBS paid for it, it therefore carries their moniker, and it leads to their huge business centre. I can only surmise they were forced into it to get the planning, but it may have been their idea. I’m just a sceptic about these things.
By the time you get to this point in the journey you are almost back in Edinburgh itself. We cross the car entrance to the RBS buildings and then cycle along until we need to make a sharp right up and onto the bridge. It is possible to carry on but I have never understood the next bit of the path as it seems to stop dead beside one of the busiest junctions on the Edinburgh Ring Road, the Gogar roundabout, right near to the Gyle Shopping Centre. I just can’t see what you’re supposed to do at that point unless you want to take your life in your hands and cross the two dual carriageway sections off the roundabout (suicidal), join the traffic on the roundabout (seriously unpleasant), or cross back to the cycle path that you would have been on had you take the RBS bridge in the first place (also darned dangerous) by dashing between the cars waiting to join the roundabout whilst the lights are red.
That is just my opinion, and I’m sure someone will duly point out something I have repeatedly and completely missed.
If your legs had been enjoying the wee rest of the gentle incline down towards the bridge they are about to get a nasty shock. The climb onto the bridge is steep but over quickly, or that first bit is anyway. What follows is a deceptively steep long pull on and up to the crest of the bridge itself. It will surprise your thighs every time, well it did mine whenI was running, and that experience wasn’t improved upon today. I think it’s because you come out of the switchback climb straight onto the slope and have no time to even get straightened up before you’re climbing again.
But then I am unfit and my legs can be quite pathetic.
The bridge takes you back over the carriageway again and after a fun helter-skelter effect descent to the shared path (the pedestrians get more direct steps down) you can head towards the city centre again.
If your legs have had enough by this point you can take the option offered by the tram station which is coming up. They allow bikes onboard, and it will take you right to the centre of the city if you need to. Sadly, there aren’t any stops on my way home beside from this one and the one slightly near the Gyle I suppose, but this would only have given me a very tiny Covid-19 infection possibility advantage of probably less than ten minutes.
From here it’s a nice cycle so long as the road isn’t too busy. Having used this route under normal conditions I can say that it won’t do anything pleasant for your lungs, your health, or your psyche. This is the escape route west from Edinburgh towards Livingston, and eventually to Glasgow, so it’s busy.
The next highlight in the Gogar roundabout, yes, the one I mentioned earlier. This is where the dead end cycle lane ends. Luckily if you’re already on the left side, which is the right side, if you get my drift, then its a fairly simple but cautious crossing and you’re heading for Maybury.
You will rarely be alone crossing here, and social distancing will be impossible. This is lockdown and I had another cyclist, and three walkers, all on the tiny island I was waiting on. I was at the front and I stayed there.
Oh, I should have put these the other way around, but I wanted to quickly show you the totally insane crossing just before you get to the Maybury crossing. You see that tiny bit of dropped payment, right near the main road, and the tiny drop on the other side? Well, take your life in your hands because that’s where you’re crossing. Not where the shared path comes out, but up towards the junction with the busy Glasgow Road.
Back on track, we are now dealing with shared paths that don’t look shared, again, and I always take the bus lane at this point. There is just too much crossing of driveways, too many pedestrians and parked cars, wheelie bins, and signage etc. It is wider than the one I experienced earlier but you feel like you need to be an owl on it to see what could be coming from every angle.
After a brief trip down the bus lane I turned into the housing estate and made my way, in a kind of along then up, then along then up, zig zag fashion, until I had to rejoin the main road again and head for home. At least it gives you some respite from a direct up the steep hill of Corstorphine Road South.
By this point I’ve done nearly 16 miles, I’m fairly warm, a little hungry, and rather desperate for a coffee. And like all good cycles, it has to end (back home for now) with coffee and cake 🙂
With lockdown in Scotland extended for another three weeks, getting out on the bike is becoming more and more important to me.
It is nice to see the UK Government talking about a ‘golden age of cycling’ as a means of getting out of the Coronavirus situation, but they need to do a lot of work on infrastructure and they need to do it quickly, or people will revert to their cars. That could actually be worse than previous because if people won’t use public transport the congestion and pollution could easily multiply.
I hope we seize the opportunities for a green recovery and do not go back to killing the planet again, before she is forced to have another go at killing us.
ALL PHOTOS CAPTURED FROM MY GOPRO HERO4 SESSION FOOTAGE AND COPYRIGHT OF GIRLONEABROMPTON (2020).