Bicycle Book writer among ‘yes’ hopefuls for Peebles bike path

Inset, Bella Bathurst
Inset, Bella Bathurst
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National newspaper columnist Bella Bathurst has written in support of the proposed off-road walking and cycling route between Peebles and Lyne.

The council is considering a planning application to convert the former railway line.

Neidpath Viaduct, near Peebles.

Neidpath Viaduct, near Peebles.

And the noted writer and photographer, based at Symington until six months ago, is one of several who have written to the local authority voicing their support.

The author of The Bicycle Book (shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year), wrote: “The proposal ticks every possible favourable box; it’s inclusive, it’s beautiful, it’s relatively cheap, it fits with the local plan, it makes people more aware of the Borders’ industrial heritage, it helps tourism, it reduces traffic, and there’s already good evidence that the existing lengths of railway cycle track (from Innerleithen to Peebles etc) are both well used and well loved.”

Speaking to The Southern, Ms Bathurst said: “I know that bit very well and it’s a great great idea. The more cycle paths link up the better because then you can begin to use them for serious journeys, not just for recreation.

“I have used the one between Peebles and Innerleithen and just been so impressed at how lovely and how beautiful it is, and how much it gets used by both walkers and cyclists.”

She said the proposal is ‘good on all levels and would be really good for the local economy’.

Of her cycling book, she said: “It was an excuse to get to wander round Britain cycling.

“It does mean I realise how much the Borders in particular is incredibly cycle friendly and how much of a community there is now, and the degree to which places like Innerleithen have, not so much been regenerated, but now have an identity as a cycling town along with Peebles.”

But some Peebles residents are concerned about the proposed five kilometre track starting and ending at South Park Crescent, saying the road is narrow, without pavements and includes a blind corner, and noting many residents are elderly.

One South Park Crescent correspondent said “All the inhabitants of this street are pensioners and we don’t even have a pavement, so are forced to walk on the road. There is a very blind corner near the main road which is already quite dangerous without the added anxiety of fast-moving bicycles.”

Some have suggested that the route go through the South Park Industrial Estate, where the walk, the John Buchan Way, passes, and which already leads to the former railway.

Supporters welcome the prospect of being able to cycle to Lyne without going on the busy main road.

Chairman of initiators, Upper Tweed Railway Paths, Damion Willcock, said: “It would be a great boost to the physical and mental health of people in Peebles and a boost to tourism in the area and I would like to see the path go further.

“Mountain biking and road cycling are quite niche groups: a huge number of people would like to ride a bike, but don’t want to fall off down a hill or go on a road with fast traffic, they want to be somewhere safe.”