Monday, March 07, 2011

The Innertube Map

The Bike Station, a volunteer-run organisation of good people who recycle bicycles and promote cycling in Edinburgh, have launched a London Underground-style map of the Edinburgh bike paths: the Innertube Map. Have a look at the PDF; it's very slickly designed.

Their website invites feedback, so here's mine.
  • "Innertube" is a clever name, and I hope it catches on as a nickname for the bike path network itself. I will start using it two sentences from now.

  • It's pretty. If it's possible, I'd really like to see this displayed at entrances to the Innertube.

  • The FAQ on the website hints that this was argued to death in the planning stage, but the inclusion and exclusion of short on-road connections between paths - sometimes keyed on the map, sometimes left out - doesn't follow much logic. In particular, a section of Seafield Road, a busy, fumy road used for goods lorries running between the city bypass and Leith docks, is keyed as part of the Leith-Portobello route. At the other side of the map, Roseburn Place, a short, relatively quiet street with cycle lanes and advance stoplines, is just part of the whitespace. It's a pity there's a gap at Roseburn Place, because in reality it is the only piece of route you have to share with motorists to get from the Leith Shore to Glasgow.

  • An advantage of not connecting the lines up is that this way, the map shows the Innertube's potential. If the funding and the will were in place, a few hundred yards more dedicated cycleway is all it would take to make the Innertube into a proper inner circle of motor-free routes. I won't hold my breath, but it's nice to think about.

  • Can we stop calling bike paths "traffic-free"? Cyclists are traffic, and so are pedestrians.

  • Like so many cycle maps, it has a footnote to the effect of "Please cycle with respect." I've never once seen "Please drive with respect" printed on a map aimed at car drivers. In fact, my AA road atlas lists locations of speed cameras and has a page of tips on how to break traffic laws without being caught, in order to help motorists drive as disrespectfully and recklessly as possible. This isn't an ordinary double standard; it's a reverse standard - I don't think the Bike Station became part of it on purpose, but I hope they'll reconsider this for future prints. Pointing out the fact that paths are shared with pedestrians is fine.

  • Which brings me to my main cautionary point. The Innertube is cool, but it's not the only route available to cyclists in Edinburgh. For still most journeys, the far more useful routes are the roads. Some of the promotion of this map - not the promotion by the Bike Station themselves, but by a news story or two that I've seen about it - is focusing on the dangers of road cycling, and how splendid it is that we can all ride our bikes on the bike paths and be safe and happy. Bike paths are cool - they're green, fun and friendly, and it is a plus that you don't have to be constantly thinking about who might kill you. But we have to be very careful about how they are promoted, or more people will just end up getting irritated at cyclists continuing to ride on the grown-ups' roads. It's a damaging and cycle-discouraging myth that bicycles are dangerous, and too often, the false need to create cycle facilities threatens to make the myth true. I don't want Edinburgh turning into bloody Doncaster.
Good on the Bike Station for putting together this map. I will continue to take the Innertube to work on days when I'm not in a hurry. I hope the map does its job of promoting the bike paths, gets more people cycling, and that it will be even better in future prints.


Helen said...

I suppose you would have mentioned if you did, but do you by any chance have anything at the Fringe this year? I've been a moderate fan of yours since playing Hamlet and Aunts and Butlers years ago, and I was disappointed to miss Broken Holmes. I know this sounds stalkerish, but I just enjoy your sense of humour and as I'm up there for a week anyway, I thought I'd check if you were putting anything on.

Robin Johnson said...

Thanks! Afraid I'm sitting it out this year - hoping to put something together for next year, though. I'll certainly plug it here if it happens. Hope you have a good time!

Helen said...

Alright, hope to see you there next time around!