On Pedal on Parliament 2014

So, on Satureday, I went to the third Pedal on Parliament. I didn’t make it at all the first year, and last year I just turned up and went away again. This is the first year I’ve been able to take part properly, and as I said in my last post I’d volunteered to help out with the feeder ride from Harrison Park.
So I got to Harrison Park about half an hour before we were due to leave. I think I was the first PoP person there, so I busied myself with attaching balloons to the back rack of the Brompton. People soon started turning up, and I handed out spare balloons (I had a whole bag) to any child (and adult) who wanted one. After I bit I was asked to go and give SRD a hand as she had a rather heavily-laden tandem to manoeuvre. There was a jumble sale on at the church, so traffic was a bit mad and of course the dropped kerb was blocked – I just bumped down and pushed my way out into the traffic – but when the ride left we went the other way. 
We had two nice policemen on bicycles to look after us. They stopped the traffic at all the big junctions, so we could just go through and ignore the traffic lights. This was good, as they counted 98 people leaving Harrison Park (I’m not sure if that is people or bicycles as there were at least two tandems and people towing children in trailers as well). The thing that struck me was how slowly we went with all the children there – a child simply can’t sprint to keep up with traffic or push through a tight spot. It was nice to cycle along in the group and I chatted to an older lady about the gearing on my Brompton.
Anyway we got to The Meadows without incident and I joined the queue (handing out the rest of my balloons along the way. Next year I’ll take more balloons…) I spotted a couple of men in “Cyclechat” tops and as I post on those forums too I went over to say hello, and ended up joining the queue there. The last time I looked round, I thought that last year the queue had stretched further – but it is hard to tell, and I wasn’t at the back of the queue this year. Soon we were off, quite slowly up Middle Meadow Walk (past the bicycle counter they only put in on Friday), along George IV Bridge and more quickly down the nasty, bumpy cobbles on the Royal Mile. I did feel a bit sorry for people who were trying to cross the road – at one point I felt there was a bit of space so I slowed down and let a couple of people over! I wished I’d had a bigger and more visible poster to say what it was all about – to people just seeing us passing by, I don’t think it would have been obvious. So that’s my challenge for next year – work out how to transport a large poster on the Brompton.
Once we got down to Parliament, I went to look for my MSP, Marco Biagi. They had an area where all the MSPs and other types of representatives were (local councillors, and I think some MPs too). I don’t think there were that many people looking for their representative at that moment, which was a bit of a shame, but it did mean that I got some time to talk to Mr Biagi. I started off with my question about will politicians ever have the political courage to take road space away from cars – I don’t think I ever got a really clear answer to that (I am struggling to remember every detail of the conversation and I don’t want to misrepresent what was said). However what he did say is that he doesn’t have a car but walks or uses public transport, and that he would use a bicycle if he felt it was safe (he said this again on Twitter later). He also made the point that just as the Scottish Parliament would not be happy if the Westminster Parliament started trying to influence policy on devolved matters, the Scottish Parliament can only do so much to influence policy at a local level (I still think that they could do more, but it is a valid point). I asked what “we” as campaigners could do, then, and the interesting thing that he said was that I/we should try and get people who live in constituencies where the MSP is not “on side” to write to them. I will write to Mr Biagi anyway, because I guess it will be useful to keep up the contact, I might write to my list MSPs as well.
After a bit I went off and found a place to sit and listen to the speeches. I thought everyone did very well at not going on too long. I wanted to be able to boo Keith Brown, but he’s too good a politician to say something that people are going to boo. But he did say that he didn’t apologise for investing in education – but I wonder if he should apologise for wasting money on something that hasn’t been shown to make any difference… I have to confess that when the Conservative got started I decided that now was the time to go and get an ice cream – but he did make the point that one perhaps shouldn’t stereotype Tories (and I thought that as a member of another group that gets stereotyped, I will try and remember that not all Tories are clones of Margaret Thatcher…)
I was still eating my icecream when the speeches came to an end. I cycled part of the way home with two tandems (both with an adult pilot & a child stoker, and one also pulling a trailer) and a third adult towing two childern’s bikes. Again, it made me notice how much slower such combinations are than one adult on a bike. We made quite an obstacle, too, all those long bikes in a row.
Here are a few photos of the crowd outside the Parliament building:
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On Pedalling on Parliament

This year’s Pedal on Parliament is on Saturday 26th April, starting from the Meadows at 12 noon. I wasn’t able to go to the first PoP, but last year I did manage to attach myself to the end of the ride. This year, however, I’ve got involved with helping with the feeder ride from Harrison Park. (Indeed, the more observant among you will notice that I’ve got a page about it on here).

The fact that we need to have a feeder ride to help children and less confident adult cyclists get from Harrison Park to the Meadows says all you need to know about conditions for cyclists in Edinburgh today. If I had to cycle with a child from Harrison Park to the Meadows, we’d go along the canal. That’s fine for me and one hypothetical child, but not for a big group; and the canal doesn’t go all the way to the Meadows anyway. The official cycle route comes off before the end of the canal, and then goes along a road with narrow, potholed cycle lanes, to a very awkward junction at the King’s Theatre. Here, you have to turn right, and then there’s a left turn onto a quiet road that takes you to the Meadows. It is the right turn that is the problem, because the traffic coming the other way also has a green light and there’s a fault in the lights so that the oncoming traffic gets a longer green than the traffic coming from the direction I’m describing. So everyone, drivers and cyclists, is hurrying to get through the junction before the lights change again. Oh, and the road surface is terrible, just to add to the fun.

With my hypothetical child in tow, I’d probably pull up on the left, get off our bikes, wait for the pedestrian phase and then walk across. But we shouldn’t have to do that, and it isn’t going to work with (what we hope will be) a large group. We hope we’re going to get some police help. To be honest, if we don’t, I think we should just stop the traffic until everyone is through the junction anyway. What are the Powers That Be going to do about it if we do?

I’m pleased that my MSP, Marco Biagi, is among the politicians who are going to come and meet us at PoP this year. I need to think of a question to ask him if I get the chance. Maybe I’ll ask if politicians will ever have the courage to take road space away from cars…

On infrastructure “improvements”

 I went out on my Time Trial bike for the first time in a while recently. One of the things I don’t really like about the TT bike is how unstable it feels. It takes some getting used to. So I decided to go along the cycle path where it would be quiet and I wouldn’ t have to worry about traffic. Not perhaps what you would expect from someone on that kind of bike, you’d expect them to be confident. Not necessarily.

Anyway, the other reason for going that way was to have a look at some stuff they’re doing at a couple of places along the route. The first is a major path junction. I assume someone has been concerned about the speed some cyclists come through there, as they’re putting rumble strips in.

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They’re not very bumpy, really – no worse than some of Edinburgh’s roads… I’m not sure what I make of them – they’ll slow me down, but if you’re confident and don’t mind the rumble too much then you won’t slow down so much, and I guess it is the person who will try and take them fast who is exactly the person they want to slow down. Just like road humps, really…

Here are some more views of the junction works.

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The second photo shows some slightly random tactile paving for the visually impaired. I’m not sure what it is supposed to be warning of – I assume the road, though it is not that close to the road.

After that, I went on to look at the work they’re doing on the “Golf Course Path”. This path is closed while they’re working on it. To start with I understand the warnings of the diversion were not very good, but they’re improved that:

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It looks like a reasonably good path (though it isn’t that wide, for a busy shared-use path…), and they’ve got some serious machinery out…

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