To be a cycling nation again - Edinburgh Pedal on Parliament ride launches manifesto

28 April ride in Scottish capital will deliver eight-point manifesto to Holyrood

by Simon_MacMichael   March 13, 2012  

Scottish Parliament Bike Stands (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Edinburgh will play host next month to Pedal on Parliament which will see cyclists, walkers, skateboarders and roller-­skaters take to the Scottish capital’s streets to take its manifesto containing eight pledges that campaigners want local and national politicians to endorse to the Scottish Parliament.

Meeting at the Meadows at 1pm for a 2pm start on Saturday 28 April, the final route is still to be determined but will be no more than three miles and conducted at a pace suitable for everyone, with the aim of highlighting “the need for safer streets to make cycling something for everyone: from under eight to over eighty.”

Pedal for Parliament describes itself as “a light-­hearted ride with a serious purpose," with organisers adding: "Two cyclists have been killed in Edinburgh alone, since the start of the year, highlighting the need to make cycling – and any form of active travel – safer for all.

“Making Scotland a place where everyone feels safe to get on two wheels could transform our cities and villages and the lives of the people who live in them.

“Pedal on Parliament is a grass-­roots event that aims to demonstrate to our national and local government that the time has come to make cycling and other forms of active travel safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

The message of Pedal on Parliament is outlined in its manifesto (repeated below, with the full version including footnotes on its website) and is described as “a realistic road map that would take Scotland to and beyond its target of 10% of journeys to be taken by bike, by 2020. It contains eight pledges that we would like local and national politicians to sign up to, irrespective of party:

1) Proper funding for cycling.
2) Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
3) Safer speeds where people live, work and play
4) Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
5) Sensible road traffic law and enforcement
6) Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
7) A strategic and joined-­up programme of road user training
8) Solid research on cycling to support policy-­making.”

The organisers of the ride, who include members of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Lothian cycle campaign Spokes and its Strathclyde counterpart Go Bike, ackowledge that “The Scottish government has already made a good start in encouraging active travel. It led the world in signing up to a low-­carbon future, part of which will include much higher levels of cycling.

“The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland set the target of having 10% of all journeys in Scotland made by bike by 2020. We support much of what is in the CAPS but it has been seriously under-­funded and even that funding is under threat.

“On its own the recommendations in CAPS are not enough to raise the share of cycling to the levels envisaged.

“The history of UK cycling policy is full of cycling strategies which have been quietly shelved when it becomes clear that their targets are not going to be met.,” they add.

“We hope the Scottish government will not join the Westminster in this hall of shame.”

The ride was originally the idea of blogger Dave Brennan, who said, “With Westminster now engaging in discussions about the future of cycling and active travel, and the recent cyclist deaths in Scotland, I realised that for real change to occur in Scotland it is our politicians in Holyrood and our local councils that we need to engage with. Thus the idea for Pedal on Parliament was born.

“When I publicised my idea for the event online I had a huge positive response from other cyclists, so with the help of a dedicated group of cycle campaigners we are planning for a day of protest on the 28th of April. ”

The ride also has the support of Chris Oliver, Chairman of Cycling Touring Club (CTC) Scotland, who in his profession as a consultant trauma orthopaedic surgeon in Edinburgh specialising in upper limb injuries has regularly treated injured cyclists over the years.

Mr Oliver said: “From Kirkpatrick MacMillan onwards, Scotland has a long history of popular cycling which has been all but forgotten.

“We call on everyone, young and old, fast and slow, whether they already cycle or just wish they could to from right across Scotland to come along to Pedal on Parliament to put pressure on Scotland’s politicians to sign up to the manifesto and show the rest of the UK that cycling doesn’t just belong on continental Europe, it also belongs to the country where it first began.”

Making Scotland a cycle-friendly nation: a manifesto

The great city is not the one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or
bicycle can go safely everywhere. – Enrique Peñalosa

Cycling should be the obvious solution to many of Scotland’s ills. It is cheap, healthy, democratic and convivial, benefits local economies and makes the streets a safer place for all. Cyclist benefit themselves – physiologically their bodies are, on average, many years ‘younger’ than non-cyclists’, and they suffer less from the ‘western’ diseases that beset Scotland so – and they benefit others, cutting congestion and improving air quality. And yet bikes barely seem to be takenseriously as a mode of transport while the majority of Scots don’t cycle, simply because they feel it is too risky. Although statistically the benefits of cycling vastly outweigh the risks, poor design and maintenance of roads and cycle routes, dangerous driving, and lack of enforcement mean those risks remain unacceptably high. Making Scotland safe for cycling and walking, and – more importantly – making it feel safe, could transform our cities and villages and the lives of the people who live in them.

The Scottish government has already made a start. It led the world in signing up to a low-carbon future, part of which will include much higher levels of cycling. The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) set the target of having 10% of all journeys in Scotland made by bike by 2020.

Whilst many of the individual points in CAPS are welcome, CAPS does not add up to a coherent, researched and costed path to reach the 2020 target - and nor has it received anything like the necessary funding. Furthermore, even the existing funding levels are under threat. The history of UK cycling policy is full of strategies which have been quietly shelved when it becomes clear that their targets are not going to be met. We hope the Scottish government will not join Westminster in this hall of shame.

We call on all Scotland’s politicians, of all parties, to sign up to the following eight point manifesto in order to make cycling a realistic choice for everyone, from eight to eighty – and show the rest of the UK that cycling doesn’t just belong on continental Europe, but in the country where it all began:

1) Proper funding for cycling.
2) Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
3) Safer speeds where people live, work and play
4) Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
5) Sensible road traffic law and enforcement
6) Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
7) A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
8) Solid research on cycling to support policy-making

1. Proper funding for cycling, with a high and rising share of the transport budget committed to cycling nationally, and locally

If cycling is to reach 10% of all trips then there needs be serious investment. We ask the Scottish government to join Edinburgh City Council and commit 5% of transport revenue and capital budgets to cycling. Further, local authorities should also commit a share of their transport revenue and capital budgets to cycling at least in proportion with the percentage of people cycling to work or school in their area until in total, spending on cycling from all sources reaches a target of £25 per head per year.

To put this into perspective, 5% of the £2bn annual Scottish transport budget equates roughly to £100m, or £20 per head, which is comparable to the £1.32bn over 11 years that the Low Carbon Scotland report proposed spending on active travel (including walking). At the moment in Scotland actual spending is nearer £2-£3 per head. In contrast, in 2010, the Netherlands spent €30 per head
(around £25) on installing and upgrading its cycling infrastructure which is already streets ahead of anything found here. Cycling England’s 2005-2011 Cycling City and Towns project invested around £10 per head and achieved significant growth in everyday cycle use, saving around £2.5 for every £1 spent, principally in reduced congestion. Other studies have shown that money invested on
cycling and walking networks can pay back up to four to five times the amount spent, a better rate of return than any other transport investment. If cycling levels rise to 13%, the benefit to Scotland would be between £1-2bn.

2. Design cycling into all of Scotland’s roads and junctions, with improved and strengthened national design guidelines in line with best practice internationally.

Improved provision for cycling must include a commitment to transforming Scotland’s roads and junctions. The existing design guidelines, Cycling by Design, should be revised in line with best practice internationally – particularly drawing on the experience of the Netherlands where 25% of trips are by bike. These standards should be incorporated into the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges and local authority road design guidance and should form minimum national standards for any new road or any road being substantially maintained or upgraded, whether local or trunk road. In addition, the Scottish Government should investigate whether it is possible for these standards to be made binding on roads authorities. Each local authority should commit to creating a dense network of direct and dedicated cycling routes with separation from traffic where needed, particularly on busy roads. Cycling infrastructure should be suitable for cyclists of all kinds, whether fast commuters or children on their way to school. Importantly, it should not bring cyclists into conflict with either pedestrians or heavy traffic. Such designs don’t just benefit cyclists, they benefit everyone who uses the roads.

3. Safer speeds where people live, work and play

There are significant road safety benefits to a 20 mph speed limit. In residential areas, the presumption should be that roads authorities should apply 20mph speed limits as the norm in these areas. Lower speed limits should also be considered for unclassified rural roads where all road traffic faces a completely unacceptable risk of accident.

4. Build increased cycling into local transport strategies

Local councils are best placed to know how cycling and active travel can be improved in its own area. Each local authority should be required produce its own local cycling action plan with clear targets to increase cycling levels in line with the national target of 10%, using the existing cycling levels as a guideline. Funding to support this should be ring-fenced and councils required to report against their progress every year. As well as working towards a coherent joined up network (see point 2), plans should include integration with public transport, including buses and trains, making cycling a seamless and practical part of even longer journeys. Local authorities should take cyclists into account when drawing up their maintenance plans, with a duty to give equal consideration to off-road tracks and infrastructure when planning gritting, road cleaning and repairs. Resurfacing roads and fixing potholes should take cyclists’ needs into consideration as well as motorists.

5. Improved road traffic law and enforcement

While acknowledging that road traffic law is effectively reserved to the UK Government, traffic law must do more to protect the most vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, children and older people. The CAPS already includes a commitment to investigate the feasibility of introducing ‘strict liability’ – we would reiterate that this must not be sidelined. Restrictions on parking in bike lanes and on pavements should be strictly enforced and, given a lack of police action on these issues, those local authorities that have not requested decriminalisation of parking enforcement should be encouraged to do so. Where 20mph zones have been brought in they should be properly policed and sentencing must be appropriate when drivers cause harm

6. A comprehensive package to eliminate the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians

This is a pressing problem. Heavy lorries are associated with a disproportionately high risk of death or very serious injury to cyclists and pedestrians. Despite being just 6% of road traffic, lorries are involved in around 20% of all cyclists’ fatalities. CAPS already has targets for reducing cycling casualties but the onus must not just be on the cyclists to keep themselves safe. The Scottish government should engage with the UK Department of Transport with a view to developing a comprehensive package of measures to reduce the risk to cyclists and pedestrians, based on up to date evidence of what works. These might include better training, mirrors, sensors and warnings, or limitations on movements of large freight vehicles during the morning and evening peaks. Equally they might include complete redesign of junctions to remove conflict between bikes and lorries.

7. A strategic and properly funded programme of road user training

Much is made of developing training for cyclists in the CAPS yet Bikeability is not fully funded, and Cycling Scotland is dependent on volunteers to carry out vital training in schools. But training should not be confined to children – nor even just to cyclists. All Scottish residents should have access to affordable cycle training, whether children, adult returning cyclists, and those in later life. Further, HGV
drivers, bus drivers and other professional drivers should be required to take an on-bike qualification (or a theoretical module if physically unable to cycle) as part of their licensing requirement and be made aware of the needs of both pedestrians and cyclists, and the Scottish government should press the UK government to introduce these measures.

8. Solid research and statistics on cycling

We can only improve decision-making and policy development with solid research. The information that records how many people are cycling is very poor at the national level and inconsistent at the local level. This makes it difficult to monitor what is happening and which interventions have greatest impact. At a minimum counts should be carried out twice a year using standardised protocols for data collection and handling, taking into account cyclists using off-road facilities as well as those on the public highway. Where possible electronic counters with public displays should be used, as in Copenhagen and other cities, which count the number of cyclists passing through certain areas as these can provide both feedback and encouragement. These would become a talking point and a public reminder to cyclists that they are part of a growing band taking control of their health – and their freedom.

There is all to play for and so little to lose. Proper investment in cycling is not a zero-sum game. It will bring so much more than the expenditure put in, benefits which will gradually be reflected in a changing, healthier population. We all know our natural resources are not infinite and we would irresponsible not to think of ways of making them last, but cycling is hardly a hair-shirt option. Rather it is a joyous way to get about - but one that has become confined to a hardy few because of the conditions on our roads. From Kirkpatrick MacMillan onwards, Scotland has a long history of popular cycling which has been all but forgotten. We believe these times can come
again and Scotland can once more be a beacon for the world.

Work as if you are in the early days of a better nation – Alistair Gray

2 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

There is certainly momentum building across the board, and across the UK.

The current Scottish government likes to see itself as both socially just and progressive - and I suspect they will, once we all cycle en mass to parliament AND bombard our MSPs, do what most popular (hard to imagine but they are!) administrations do and seize this opportunity to keep a high percentage of their voters happy.

Of course, the real work is making politicians KEEP their pledges and commitment! So it's important that we cyclists keep the pressure on and don't let the momentum built up to lessen.

posted by moonbucket [55 posts]
13th March 2012 - 13:42

1 Like

Even if you can't join us on the ride you can still show your support by signing the petition. Please help us a make Scotland a cycling nation again!

posted by Kim [132 posts]
16th March 2012 - 20:37

1 Like