Last April, 3000 cyclists took part in Pedal on Parliament. I love the story of how it all started – a couple of people were discussing a big cycling demonstration that was due to take place in London, and someone suggested that something similar should happen in Scotland. They initially thought that a couple of hundred people might come along. Then they thought it might be more. But I don’t think anyone dreamed that 3000 people might appear. (You have to have sympathy (and a lot of respect) for the police – the organisers had given them an initial estimate of 300 people, and although they’d later increased that, the police certainly were not expecting 3000.) Politicians turned up and said nice things, but in the year that followed, not much has changed.
The Pedal on Parliament manifesto has eight points:
- Proper funding for cycling
- Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
- Slower speeds where people live, work and play
- Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
- Improved road traffic law and enforcement
- Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
- A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
- Improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy
I think points 2 and 4 are particluarly important. In the end, too many people are put off cycling because they think that it is dangerous. Certainly, sharing roads with fast-moving traffic (the drivers of which may be thoughtless, careless, distracted, or even occasionally downright hostile) is unpleasant – I think those of us who cycle regularly forget just how unpleasant it is, until you get some really poor driving. Just this morning I’ve had a couple of passes from LGVs that felt quite close – in neither case do I think that it is worth making any kind of fuss or comment, but I’m supposed to be “used to this” and I didn’t like it – how would that feel to someone who was not “used to it”? And better, properly segregated infrastructure, that takes cyclists where they want to go by sensible, direct routes, costs money, so point 1 is important too.
But changes in the way roads are designed and used don’t just need money, they need political will, and that seems to be the hardest thing to find. That is why it is important that people who cycle lots, and people who cycle a bit or not at all and who would like to cycle more, stand up and make a noise and be counted; not just for themselves, but for others who don’t even think that they could cycle – and especially for children, who are often effectively imprisoned by their parents’ fear of the roads, leading to a vicious circle where parents feel they have to take thier children everywhere by car, and so the roads are busy and dangerous because they are full of people transporting children by car because all the cars make it dangerous…
So, this year POP is on Sunday 19th May. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to POP last year, because my Wonderful Boyfriend was running an ultramarathon. And I can’t go this year, because my Wonderful Boyfriend is running a different ultramarathon. But if you can go, you should. And, knowing the way things are, I guess there will be another POP next year, and I really will manage to go to that (even if it means sending the W.B. to do his ultramarathon without me…)