Scotland’s new transport minister, Derek Mackay, has told thousands of cyclist attending the fourth annual Pedal on Parliament ride on Saturday that the country’s government will increase its spend n cycling in the coming year.
Around 4,000 people of all ages took part in the event in Edinburgh, some on foot, most on bicycles, with everything from road bikes, folders and adaptive bikes represented.
They included co-founder Dave Brennan who rode on the same bike Andrew McNicoll was riding when he was killed while commuting to work in the city in early 2012, donated by the cyclist’s parents, who have supported Pedal on Parliament from the outset.
Speaking before a minute’s silence was held for people who have lost their lives while cycling, he said: “The fact that there are so few scratches on this bike, shows just how vulnerable we are on the road. We need to see conditions where everyone can ride and families do not suffer the tragedies the McNicoll family have.”
As in previous years, the ride began in the Meadows and made its way, via the Royal Mile, to the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood, with some riding from as far away as Elgin, 175 miles away.
Meanwhile, a separate event in Aberdeen attracted 150 cyclists, the first time a parallel ride to Pedal on Parliament has been held elsewhere in Scotland.
People addressing the crowd in Edinburgh included Briana Pegado, president of Edinburgh University Students' Association, who said: "The student movement is totally behind cycling. The number one reason our first year students don't cycle is lack of confidence to cycle on the roads.
“Cycling is one of the most affordable transport options but we can't cycle without infrastructure to support us to cycle safely.”
“We're here to tell the government that we have the right to cycle safely – without being knocked down but also without being suffocated by pollution from too much traffic,” said Emilia Hanna of Friends of the Earth.
“Air pollution alone in Scotland is costing 2,000 lives this year and air quality is breaching legal levels in Edinburgh, Glasgow Aberdeen and Dundee.
“It doesn't have to be this way.
“Imagine a city where polluting vehicles are banned and cyclists get traffic lights timed for them – it exists, it's Copenhagen, where more people cycle than drive. It's our right to cycle safely,” she added.
As Spokes, the cycling campaign group for Edinburgh and the Lothians, notes, the Scottish Government doubled spending on cycling to 2 per cent for 2014/15, and it is hopeful for more money to be made available in the coming year following Mr McKay’s remarks.
The SNP politician, who succeeded Keith Brown as transport minister last November, said: “I can assure you that I hear your message that every politician should do more for cycling.
“There's a long way to go but my assurance to you is that as the new minister for transport is that I will do everything I can to support cycling as much as I can.
“My commitment for 2015/16 is the government will spend more on cycling than the record breaking previous year.
“We'll put our money where our mouth is to invest in infrastructure so that cycling is seen as a proper mode of transport – across a range of policies.
“There's consensus across the political parties to invest in cycling, and at local level. I commend Edinburgh council for leading the way on 20mph limits and I will make it as easy as possible for other councils to follow suit."
But Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone said: “How many more POPs are we going to have to have?
“By the time of POP40 will we be coming together to celebrate the fact that we've cut deaths, cut health problems and met our climate targets?
“This is a transport justice issue – 40% of households don't have access to a car, 60% of the poorest households.
“Our roads budget is £695 million – spot the difference with the cycling budget.
“This fantastic grass-roots movement means the message is getting through – we can get that budget up year on year until we see the transformative change we need.”
She added: “I want to see an end to fatalities but also an increase in our healthy active population - not a vision, but a target.”
All of the speeches made at Pedal on Parliament 4 on Saturday have been uploaded to YouTube.
The country’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was elsewhere on the general election campaign trail for the SNP, but a picture posted to her Twitter feed the previous day showed her being interviewed – on a bike.
— The SNP (@theSNP) April 24, 2015
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.