I've never fallen for any ideology unreservedly and never will, unless or until I lose what intelligence I have left. At the moment, any green credentials I ever espoused are rapidly being eroded. We woke up on the morning of Monday 24 August to discover that Edinburgh City Council had dumped not one, but two, domed bike racks side by side outside our modest home on the city's north side. There they sit like empty chicken runs. The length of these two items comes to over 16 feet or 500cm. The bike lobby, Spokes, will undoubtedly be pleased. The racks take up precious car parking spaces as we enter our 70s, when we need as well as want our cars and were thinking that we might even require a disabled parking space before too long.
There had been some straws in the wind months ago, which with the virus we had forgotten about. Unwisely. A few days prior to the arrival of the bike racks some laminated notices were affixed to a couple of lampposts too high to for us read and too firmly attached to lower or remove. Not far from us is a public park. On the other side of the park outside another private dwelling is a row of bikes for hire. The owners of these bikes have complained mightily about sleep-shattering noise from individuals returning their borrowed bikes in the small hours of the morning and littering the place to boot. Voices in the wind. The bikes for rent are still there. I have written about our unwelcome bike racks to a councillor from our ward who apparently sits on the city's Transport and Environment Committee and to the official receiver of complaints at the council. No acknowledgement. Nothing. Silence.
Not that I'm against cycling in principle, or attempts to green our lives, although I don't fancy being instructed to go totally vegetarian. It's just the presumption that all of us should don lycra and helmet and pedal off precariously into city traffic with all its attendant alarms and dangers. Ours is a quiet, narrow residential street. Many of the inhabitants are elderly, their cycling days long over. There was no personal consultation. Someone in the council seems to have decided that despite the vastness of the city, where there must be many neutral locations for bikes for hire or bike racks for rent, these should be placed so as to inconvenience ordinary home owners. Will we even get a reduction in our council tax? Cue sound of hollow laughter.
The city after lockdown
Edinburgh is a strange place these days. Businesses function in states of quiet desperation, opening late and closing early. There are no summer crowds. A mixed blessing. Visits to museums, galleries, and even my husband's attendances at his mosque, have to be pre-booked. Our north end of the city is one endless construction site as the tram extension to Newhaven continues. From the east end of Princes Street, through the former St James Centre, high above the still functional John Lewis and St Mary's Catholic Cathedral the horizon is spiked with gigantic cranes. Down Leith Walk traffic follows confined or diverted lanes and Constitution Street, between the statues of Queen Victoria and Robert Burns, is closed off. Daily nose-to-tail hold-ups have to be factored into any journey time.
It's not that one observes much work being done. Clusters of workmen, Lego lookalikes in black trousers, yellow hi-viz jackets and white hard hats, chat to each other or on mobile phones or gaze with grim expressions into holes in the ground. Maybe I'm just passing whenever they're on lunch or tea break, but you wonder why it's all taking so long. Oh well, yes, there was the lockdown of course. But now? And then, back to the bike lobby again, everywhere you go in the city cycle lanes are being more clearly defined, also reducing space for alternative forms of transport.
I've often driven along the length of Ferry Road and not seen one cyclist, other than the odd lone Deliveroo rider. Last year, when we could travel, we spent a week in Copenhagen where hundreds of cyclists or electric scooters zoom by all the time. That city is mostly flat and the central city streets are wide avenues. Ample room for cyclists and motorists. And cycling is in the Danes' DNA. They simply skim across the ground. In Edinburgh, not so much. It's a hilly city. Imagine puffing up the Mound or the long ribbons of Dundas Street or the Royal Mile, keeping to narrow cycle lanes, holding up the likes of David Torrance on a high-powered investigative run.
We face many dilemmas as climate change looms: no cars, no plastic, no meat. No planes crossing the Atlantic either. Only wee sailing boats with buckets for toilets. Who can forget what young Greta Thunberg was willing to endure for the sake of humanity? At times it feels as though it isn't a good time to be getting older, but maybe that was always true. It's just a bit of a sair trauchle to be experiencing it now.