I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I met Kim Harding last week. Kim, a freelance ecologist and the man behind the Edinburgh Cycle Chic website, is now planning Edinburgh first cycling festival – would he turn up in a sharp tweed suit on a vintage dutch bike, or perhaps something more hipster and modern? And would he dissaprove of my rather utilitarian garb? Despite touches of spring in the air, I was dressed very much for winter, particularly as I wanted us to do the video interview outside Peter’s Yard café near the Meadows.
But Kim turned up on an ordinary bike and in clothes every bit as ordinary as mine. It’s his ideas that are colourful and creative. The Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, which will take place 15th – 23rd of June this year, is going to include bike polo, a fashion show, the voodoo unicycle team, poetry, music, and more. Mark Beaumont will be speaking there, and Juliana Bhuring, who last year become the first woman to cycle round the world, setting a record of 152 days. Bhuring will be taking part in a day called “heels on wheels” the brainchild of Leith fitness trainer Tracy Griffen (though I doubt whether the intrepid Italian Buhring actually wore heels on her round the globe trip.)
Kim also told me about the Edinburgh Cycle Chic website, an offshoot of the famous Copenhagen Cycle Chic website. “It’s about normalising cycling” says Kim. “It’s basically just going out and trying to show that cycling can be a normal thing to do…you have people in normal clothers, riding bikes, as a way of getting from A to B. You don’t have to dress in lycra, you don’t have to sprint everywhere, you can just ride a bike.”
I asked Kim how we can make Edinburgh into a true cycling city, like Copenhagen, where one in three journeys is by bike. He’s got some clear demands – reduce the city speed limit to 20mph, and most importantly, build proper cycling infrastructure.
“The city with the highest cycle modal share in Finland is up in the north end of the Baltic, so they get far worse weather than we get here, and yet people cycle. It’s making it possible, it’s making it convenient, it’s making it easy that makes a difference.”
He’s disappointed that, so far, the council have failed to commit to proper cycle lanes in the planned resurfacing of Leith Walk – and despite a massive campaign, he thinks they are very unlikely to do it (more on that story in my next video.) The council’s current position is that it’s too expensive, but Kim says that in cycle demonstration towns in England they found the return on investment was 19-1 – largely due to health benefits.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Kim thinks that if we copy cities like Seville and Barcelona, Edinburgh could become a great cycling city in five to ten years, with all of the benefits that would bring – cleaner air, safer streets, and better health.
“You get some people saying that the health benefits will take years to kick in. But if you look at the literature on health, exercise actually has an effect on people’s health in weeks. If you get people who are sedentary taking exercise, within two to three weeks their health improves. All we need to do is have some leadership, and that’s the key. That’s the thing that’s really lacking.”