Pedal on Parliament attracts thousands of cyclists to Edinburgh
The second Pedal on Parliament #POP2 took place last Sunday in Edinburgh. If you don’t know what that is – it is roughly 4000 people on bicycles cycling in a slow and peaceful protest down the royal mile in Edinburgh to arrive in front of the Scottish Parliament with one simple message to the Scottish government: “we are everyone.” Speaking to the crowd, one of the organisers David Brennan said:
“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.”
I agree, one of the brilliant things about the ride on Sunday was that there was such a diverse mix of people out on their bikes. From very tall to pretty small, from young to old and everything in between. In fact, when I got into work on Monday and said what I was doing on Sunday. One of the first things that someone said jokingly in response, was “ooh so you are a hippy.” Which is funny, as it just shows the stereotype for the type of person that would be out protesting about cycling. But actually, as with all stereotypes the joke is often on the person making it. The fact was, from what I could see (and hear) the crowd was made up of a diverse group of people, who simply share a common value and ability to see that adding a bike to your life (in some little or big way) makes sense.
As I cycled down the mile, a few tourists stopped me to ask why we were doing this – I gave them a short response at the time to say simply we were asking the government to invest more funding into developing cycling infrastructure in Scotland. In fact, it is a little more than that and these have been outlined in the points below and you can read more on the manifesto Pedal on Parliament website. The people cycling at Pedal on Parliament would like:
• 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
There was slight differences to the slow pedal down the royal mile this year… the roads were closed and we had a police escort! Pretty fancy! It was quite glorious knowing that you had the right to take over the whole road and you didn’t have to keep an eye out for cars. Although you did have to keep an eye out for people. As ever, the royal mile was packed with pedestrians and it certainly gave a vision for how more shared pedestrian & cycle friendly space could/should look like in the future.
I stopped to take a few quick photos (I actually wish I had stopped for a longer photo stint), then I started again and amusingly I found myself in behind these two children. Now the one on the left wasn’t wearing a lobster suit this year – but I am pretty sure this is the same child I saw last year, as she had the same ‘Cycling is good’ poster on her back. It was actually this incredibly simple slogan that inspired my own makeshift flag this year – which you may be able to spot in a few photos.
Then another coincidence – out of the few thousand people – I ended up cycling right next to a chap that I had spoken to quite a lot last year. He commented on my lack of balloons this year and I pointed out that this year I had made a slightly more sensible (and easy to transport) flag on a bamboo stick.
After arriving at Parliament, I also bumped into a chum who had cycled over with a group from Glasgow. We shared a quick drink before some of them headed towards the train and others to cycle the 50 odd miles back to Glasgow, making their round-trip to the Scottish Parliament & home that day in excess of 100 miles. I know that if anyone had cycled 100 miles to tell me something – I would definitely take the time to listen to what they had to say – so I hope the parliament took notice. As I know that my chums weren’t the only ones to travel such distances to visit the Scottish Parliament that day.
I also managed to say a quick hello some of the organisers. A very friendly bunch, who are an inspiration for what they managed to achieve this weekend and the constant attention that they devote to this cause. They said that they are hoping to try and map some of the GPS routes that people took to get to the event and show the extent that people pedalled geographically to make their way to parliament. That sounds awesome and I would love to see it. They also managed to get the mighty Graeme Obree to lead the protest on Sunday and when Graeme spoke at the Parliament he said:
“I come here to enlighten our politicians that we’re not asking for spending here, but an investment, where young people can cycle freely. 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.”
I cycle regularly (almost everyday to work), I walk regularly (when I am not cycling), I drive occasionally, I sporadically blog about cycling and I follow developments in cycling in general. I regularly read about or encounter incidents that make me understand the intrinsic need for improving conditions for cyclists in Scotland. For example in the last year I have been a victim of someone’s lack of judgement as they drove out of a junction & right into me on my bike (broad daylight and I was on the main road) and just today I saw a girl get ‘doored’ whilst cycling down a city centre road across from my work. If you have never witnessed it – it is quite horrific to watch someone be flung off their bike and end up bleeding because someone forgot to look before they opened their door or forgot to look before they started driving.
So, although I wouldn’t say I was particularly active in cycle campaigning before joining PoP in 2012, then again in 2013. It is definitely inspiring to see the amount of work that has been completed by what seems to be a relatively small organising group and the resulting reaction and support that exists from people in Scotland. So yes, this event has opened my eyes to a number of key issues and made me realise the great injustice that the Scottish Government is doing to the people of Scotland by deciding to spend just 0.7% of the transport budget on cycling and walking initiatives. I can only hope they open their eyes sometime soon too.
This post is a bit of a random babble and just a taster of the event, but I recommend that you take a look at all the Pedal on Parliament group photos on Flickr and check out the Pedal on Parliament website. If you fancy reading about my experiences of it last year you can read here.
Filed under: Bikes, Cycling | 2 Comments
Tags: 2013, Art Bikes, Bikes, Cycling protest, edinburgh, graeme obree, Pedal on parliament, pop2, scotland, scottish parliament