Kezia Dugdale – a serial attender at POP – was elected leader of the Scottish Labour party this week. We hope she will bring some of her commitment to cycling into her new job…
First, congratulations on your election to leader of the Scottish Labour party – it just shows what turning up at POP on a tandem can do!
More seriously, we hope that you will bring your commitment to cycling and the aims of Pedal on Parliament to your leadership of your party. We know that work will be underway to start developing the Labour manifesto for the 2016 elections, and hope that it will contain strong commitments to the policies we have laid out in our own manifesto. Cycling, and active travel more generally, might seem at first glance to be a niche policy area – something to be considered after the important issues of the economy, education and health have been settled. But as you will know from our manifesto, in fact it is part of the solution to many of the intractable problems of modern life. In particular, it can help underpin an affordable health service (particularly in light of recent reports on the impact of diabetes on the NHS for instance). Enabling people to cycle will have to be a key part of Scotland’s response to the threat of climate change. And, by cutting congestion, helping build strong local economies (people who shop on foot and by bike spend more in their local communities, for example), and providing an easily affordable means of transport, especially for shift workers, can help to build a stronger and fairer economy in Scotland
As someone who has returned to cycling in recent years you have already experienced how it takes more than just motivation to build cycling into your everyday life. While Edinburgh benefits from a good off-road network, that still leaves barriers like Easter Road – we entirely sympathise with your reluctance to cycle up a street like that. In other towns and cities across Scotland there are many Easter Roads – and far too few Portobello Proms. Until that changes, we know that you understand that cycling will not become a practical means of transport for the people who will benefit the most. In particular, it will continue to be harder for women, older people, those with disabilities and children to enjoy the benefits of cycling.
We have already written to the minister about the Scottish government’s commitment to investment and infrastructure – you can see his reply here. Over the next few weeks, we will be writing to all the parties to encourage them to include our manifesto points – and particularly a commitment on investment in cycling and to safe infrastructure that can be used by people of all ages and all abilities. We hope that Labour will be able to make this commitment.
Finally, we would like to extend an early invitation to you to join us for our fifth Pedal on Parliament, which will be in April next year. Obviously, it will be a busy time during the Holyrood election campaign – but where better to reach out to a mass of committed and passionate voters and make the case to them in person how you will help to make Scotland a cycle friendly country