An estimated 4,000 cyclists including former world champion Graeme Obree took to the streets of Edinburgh yesterday for the second Pedal on Parliament ride, some riding from as far afield as Aberdeen to help deliver the campaign’s eight-point manifesto to the Scottish Government’s Minister for climate change and the Environment, Paul Wheelhouse.
Organiser Dave Brennan told the crowd: “We aren’t ‘cyclists’, we’re everyone – from the mum taking her children to nursery to the road cyclist doing 100k at the weekend.
“But we’re also the kids in the back of the car looking wistfully out of the window because their parents can’t risk them riding to school, the people who drive to the gym to ride on stationary bikes because the roads are too fast and busy.
“There’s a real hunger out there for conditions where everyone can ride, from 8 to 80 and we’re calling on the Scottish government to make the investment to make that a reality. We need a step change in funding.”
The ride was preceded by a minute’s silence for cyclists who have lost their lives in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland, most recently a 21-year-old man killed last week near Loch Ness.
The families of two cyclists killed in Edinburgh in recent years, Audrey Fyfe and Andrew McNicoll, were at the start, with Lynne McNicoll saying: “There’s so many people here, but there’s one face in this crowd we’re not seeing who would have been here, and that’s my stepson, Andrew.
“We can’t change that but we can make a difference and thank you all for coming along and making that change.”
Graeme Obree added: “I come here to enlighten our politicians that we’re not asking for spending here, but an investment, where young people can cycle freely and without free. We want a network from our homes to our workplaces, our shops, and schools and everywhere we want to go.
“It’s an investment in the health of the nation – if you can spend £800 million
in one city on a tram then you can find £100 million for cycling.”
Pedal on Parliament’s eight-point manifesto – initially delivered at the inaugural ride in April last year, emphasising that the pace of change is slow and pressure needs to be maintained on politicians and other decision-makers – calls for:
1) proper funding for cycling
2) cycling to be designed into Scotland’s roads
3) slower speeds where people live, work and play
4) cycling to be integrated into local transport strategies
5) improved road traffic law and enforcement
6) the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians to be reduced
7) a strategic and joined-up programme of road user training and
8) improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy.
The campaign also urges that 5 per cent of the country’s transport budget to be spent on cycling as part of 10 per cent it says should go on active travel.
“This would equate to £100 million each year on cycling, or roughly £20 per head,” say campaigners.
“Even with increases announced after the last Pedal on Parliament, the government has allocated only £19 million a year for active travel over the next three years, including money spent on soft measures such as awareness campaigns and advertising.”
Receiving the petition yesterday, Mr Wheelhouse commented: “Active travel is an important part of Scotland’s climate change reduction targets.
“The Scottish government are committed to making cycling easier and have funded a mutual respect campaign for all road users and are refreshing the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland.
“We are meeting regularly with MSPs and councils. We would encourage community groups and schools to apply for funds to promote cycling.”
He added that the Scottish Government remained committed to its goal of 10 per cent of all journeys in the country being made by bicycle by 2020.
Some would argue that time is already running out to achieve that aim, with the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland formally unveiled three years ago now and the Pedal on Parliament manifesto highlighting just how much still needs to be done to encourage people onto bikes and improve their safety once they are on two wheels.
That lack of concrete progress was underlined by Labour MSP Sarah Boyack (Labour), who said: “It’s not that there’s nothing happening – but there’s not enough. We need to convince councillors across the country to do more and see sustained year on year investment so that people can cycle whatever their age.”
Another MSP, the Green Party’s Alison Johnstone, added: “This is not a political issue but pure common sense.
“We need 8 to 80 cycling for everyone. The time has come to invest in the kind of Scotland we want to see. £100 million is not enough because the benefits are immense. What are we waiting for?”
There was also support from Conservative Edinburgh city councillor Cameron Rose, who said: “I have cycled for the last 50 years because it’s cheap, fast and keeps me healthy. I’m here because I want more cycling in Edinburgh.”