If you decide to cycle to work, the route you know (by car or bus) is probably the simplest – but is it the best?

Edinburgh is fortunate to have a significant mileage of off-road paths – mostly on former railway lines. Unfortunately they are not evenly spread throughout the city!

Learning about quiet routes and cycle paths was crucial for me. Until I found out about the NEPN I thought my commute would have basically been the same as the horrible bus route. LivD on CCE

The provision in north Edinburgh is the best with a continuous tarmac network linking Roseburn, Davidson’s Mains, Trinity, Canonmills and Leith.

“it’s thanks to the NEPN that I cycle to work 5 days a week in all seasons (with a few very bad weather exceptions)”
gowgowuk on CCE

In the east there is a mostly traffic-free route from Portobello to Leith Links and Easter Road. There is also the delightful Innocent Railway Path from Joppa to St. Leonard’s. It will soon be connected to The Meadows by a new segregated cycle route – an exciting development in Edinburgh.

The other main off-road routes are the Union Canal towpath and the Water of Leith Walkway, this goes all the way from Balerno to Leith, but is not completely continuous. The main section is in a steep wooded valley and joins the canal at Slateford. Most of this not yet tarmaced (or lit) and won’t suit many people unless the surface is dry.

A good introduction to Edinburgh’s cycle routes is the Spokes map – available in all good book and bike shops. (Spokes is the Lothian Cycle Campaign which has worked successfully for improved conditions for cyclists since 1977.)

showed me the Spokes map. “what’s that purple line going from my home to my work? Coo!”

LivD on CCE

For detailed route planning turn to CycleStreets. This is a brilliant journey planner for cycling started in Cambridge but helped to go UK-wide by Edinburgh involvement.

CycleStreets is based on OpenStreetMap which is an on-line map which has been created and improved by many people (anyone can revise/add details). Edinburgh is particularly well mapped.

The result is that journey planners use the CycleStreets algorithms get offered routes based not just on distance but also estimated times based on factors including hills and waiting at traffic lights! Direct routes may not be the quickest – or most pleasant.

There is an ever growing list of apps and web sites that are based on OSM and CycleStreets which present the routes in different ways.

The newest (July 2015) is CityCyclist. It is neat and simple but only available for iOS devices.

The Bike Hub app has ‘turn by turn navigation’ – familiar to car satnav users. This can be particularly useful for navigating unfamiliar/new routes. In noisy traffic this is best with an earpiece. Some people are happy using headphones others are concerned or even hostile. Satnav messages are not constant so not the same as music/radio.

I walked the shortest/obvious routes a few times first to a: get an idea of what they looked like for bikes and b: establish how long they took to walk, the better to work out the timesaving from cycling

wingpig on CCE

First commute in Edinburgh was from Balerno to McDonald Road down the Water of Leith path. Took me a bit longer than I had thought and some bits of it I quickly dropped in favour of short stretches of road (e.g. through Stockbridge). Should have done a few dummy runs to work this out before the Monday morning.

gembo on CCE


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