by Kirsty Lewin of Spokes Porty

On 10 December at 7.30pm, people from across the city will gather at Middle Meadow Walk to cycle around Edinburgh’s city centre.

The date is significant. The Light Up The Night Cycle Ride is being held on the last day of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. We must reshape our city so that women and girls can cycle without fear. 

The ride will highlight the urgent need for night-time cycling infrastructure that is safe for women. We are calling on The City of Edinburgh Council to prioritise safe and comfortable protected or off-carriage way cycle infrastructure on well-lit routes.

We want the local authority to provide well-signed routes that are permeable and always have a way out, and to develop routes which use natural surveillance where possible, for example streets with high footfall.

Kirsty Lewin on the right with some women cyclists who plan to take part in the Light up the Night Cycle Ride on 10 December PHOTO © 2021 J.L. Preece

I love cycling. It is a fantastic way to get about. It’s fast, clean, and good for my mental and physical health. Most importantly, my cycling is good for Edinburgh. Cities with a high proportion of trips made by cycles have cleaner air, safer streets for children, quieter residential areas, and thriving local high streets. Edinburgh has ambitious plans to improve cycling infrastructure to make it easier and safer for everyone who wants to cycle to be able to do so. 

However, current infrastructure is poor and not fit for purpose, particularly for women. Many women say they would cycle but they are afraid of traffic, and they fear the off-road routes in the dark. Some women cycle to work regularly, and when the clocks change in the winter they stop cycling and start driving or taking the bus.

Many of us talk of the dilemmas we face trying to choose the safest route as the days get shorter. Do we risk a dangerous junction, and roads renown for speeding and close-passing drivers? Or do we use an off-road isolated path that has no escape routes and reports of anti-social behaviour, abuse, and even assault?

Planning academic, Dr Caroline Brown, said: “Male violence doesn’t just affect the women victims, it affects the behaviour of all women who weigh the risk of every decision they make. Off-road paths shouldn’t count as cycle infrastructure if they’re not safe for everyone every time.”

Joining details here on Facebook or turn up on the night.

All welcome.