Beating Edinburgh Festival Traffic By Bike

Submitted by edg on Fri, 19 Aug '22 6.31pm
Video clip

It’s reckoned that the population of Edinburgh doubles during the festival and with the city having experienced a post-pandemic surge this year seems to be following that course.

As the crowds flock to the city centre, patios, stages and other structures pop up around Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and New Town, and cars are blocked off from busy streets. Traffic through the city centre grinds to a snail pace.

Walking is often a good way to get around the city, but the fastest way to cross from the Old Town to the New Town is probably by bicycle as this video shows.

The video begins at George Square on the South side of Edinburgh, where Underbelly and Assembly have a major presence in their temporary festival hubs.

We then head through the Old Town, descend the Mound, cross bustling Princes Street and connect with the George Street bike route. The journey ends at the Rose Theatre, on Rose Street, and just off Charlotte Square. 

All in all, the trip takes about 7 or 8 minutes, although it's not without hazards - mainly unpredictable pedestrians and drivers.

Both pedestrian and vehicle traffic is heavy in the Old Town. From George Square to the Royal Mile there is a dedicated cycle lane, although cars use it as a parking spot and the route has been absorbed into a construction site near the Royal Mile.

Descending the Mound, you can see why it’s important to pay heed to the sticker on the back of the bus that says: 

“CAUTION Cyclists 
Do NOT Pass on Left”.

The front of the bus veers into the bike lane when turning the bend on its descent. There's no room for anything else.

Once onto George street, the riding is more relaxed, but you still need your wits about you as a cyclist. George Street usually has a dedicated bike lane on either side of the street and is an excellent calm route to travel between the twin New Town squares of St Andrew Square and Charlotte Square in the West End.  

During the festival, the area between Hanover Street and Frederick Street becomes a great patio area, complete with a marquee and bars, extending out from Assembly’s Fringe hub in the Assembly Rooms and the bike traffic going in both directions is diverted to the lane on the North side.

The ad hoc design and signage of the route means pedestrians regularly step into the path, particularly at the entrance/exit to the temporary patio garden, at the Assembly Rooms entrance and half-way along the diverted bike path. You can see this in the video.

Given that Edinburgh regularly shuts and re-configures its city centre (at least once a year for the festival in any normal year) it is sometimes surprising that the results look so last-minute.

I was riding a single speed mountain bike. And yes the brakes are squeaky, although I don’t think they need “WD” as the passer-by suggested - the disc brake pads need alignment.

Even with poor festival road conditions, I still think the best way to cross town is by bike. . It’d probably take more than 8 minutes to cross town going the other way from Charlotte Square to George Square as you will be climbing the Mound. But it’d still probably be faster than by car.

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