Published: 9 January 2013
Guide: British Cycling
More town and city cycle commuting guides
Akin with many other major European cultural centres, Edinburgh is a city with a strong cycling ethos. The grand and elegant city has a well-developed network of on and off-road routes, a proactive council and strong local cycling advocacy. We take a closer look at what’s on the ground for cyclists in Scotland’s majestic capital.
Edinburgh is criss-crossed with national routes and encircled with a regional cyclist’s ‘ring-road’. These, together with comprehensive array of traffic-free routes, form the basis of Edinburgh’s biking network.
National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 76 runs through the hilly heart of Scotland’s first city, entering the city from the west along the Roseburn cycleway before taking to the roads through Haymarket and along George Street. NCN76 then turns south, crossing Princes Street Gardens and the Royal Mile before heading out of town south east, skirting the edge of Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat.
NCN Route 75 also crosses the city from south west to north east, running into town along the Union Canal towpath. Sharing the route of NCN76 briefly through the Old Town, NCN75 leaves the city centre heading north east, following first the Warriston Path then the Water of Leith path all the way to Leith docklands on the Forth Estuary.
The city is encircled by an outer cyclists’ ring road of regional routes – the southern arc running from Craigmount to Musselburgh, the northern arc along the banks of the Forth estuary from Cramond in the west to Musselburgh in the east.
Edinburgh is further blessed with 11 local off-road cycleways, all which offer continuous traffic-free routes connecting the city’s sprawling suburbs and iconic city centre. The Bike Station’s funky London Underground inspired ‘Innertube Map’ details these routes, including access points, crossing points etc in an easy to digest, colour-coded pocket-sized infographic.
In addition, Edinburgh's first ‘Quality Bike Corridor’ runs from the King's Buildings Campus in South Edinburgh to George IV Bridge in the city centre.
In 2012 the Council upgraded the 3km route, popular with students and commuters, by providing new or enhanced bus and cycle lanes, changes to the parking and loading restrictions, and route signage. A map of the corridor can be found here.
Open Cycle Map details the location of cycle parking in Edinburgh.
Despite its hilly city centre, cycling in Edinburgh is popular and the city is served by a good selection of shops. The city's best known, Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative, is at Alvanley Terrace. The independent ‘Bike Chain’ is on Rodney Street near Scotland Yard Park, while popular chain store Evans’ is located on Fountainbridge. Bicycle Works is at Argyle Terrace and sponsors a number of local teams and clubs, as well as offering affordable repairs to the city’s legion of cycle-bound students. Leith Cycles and Eastside Cycles both serve the eastern end of the city centre beyond Calton Hill. Full details of all shops in the area can be found on Open Cycle Map, or you can search for an Edinburgh bike shop on our online shop-finder here.
Cycling and public transport
Sheltered cycle parking is available on both at Waverley and Haymarket railway stations. In terms of taking bikes on trains you are advised to familiarise yourself with the policies of the individual train operators.
Edinburgh City Council offers some practical advice on cycling and trams, focussed on cycling safely around trams and tram tracks.
Lothian Buses, the major bus operator in the region, prides itself on its cycling awareness programme which teaches its drivers how to behave around cyclists.
Edinburgh’s many traffic-free paths offer a multitude of leisure riding options, with coastal routes, canal towpaths, parkland and converted railways to explore. The Pentland Hills, to the south of the city also offer great mountain biking and stunning views back over the urban landscape to the north and the Lothian countryside to the south.
Don’t leave home without...
... a copy of Lothian Cycle Campaign’s (SPOKES) cycle map, available from selected local bike shops and here at the Lothian Cycle Campaign (SPOKES) website for £5.99.