The invitations have gone out to our parliamentary representatives to join us again this year for Pedal on Parliament. Last year, quite a few came along and made themselves available to constituents for a bit of light lobbying outside Holyrood. This year, with a general election coming up and campaigning to be done, we’re not expecting so many MSPs to show up, especially those outside Edinburgh. But that doesn’t mean we’re letting them off the hook. If your politicians can’t come to POP – how about you take POP to them?
We’re not talking about arranging a whole mass bike ride of your own – unless you want to. We’re just proposing that you contact your MSPs – and your local parliamentary candidate – and not only invite them to POP, but ask them to ride a mile, or two, or five in your shoes. Take them on your daily commute, your school run, your regular route. Show them how decades of under-investment and poor design have made what should be the simplest form of transport harder, slower and more frightening than it needs to be. That bike lane that vanishes just as you get to the junction. The shared use path that causes conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. The ASL that leaves you slap bang in a lorry’s blind spot. The cycle track that isn’t cleared of leaves or gritted and ends in a barrier you can’t get your kids’ cycle trailer through. The massive detour you have to take to avoid the roundabout where that lorry almost took you out. The five minute wait for the lights to change on the crossing while cars sweep through without delay. Anyone who cycles regularly anywhere in Scotland will know at least one of these, if not all of them. Anyone who doesn’t cycle won’t get it – unless you show them.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few years, it’s that what really changes politicians’ minds is knowing that their constituents care about a particular issue. We have a few cycling MSPs – including at least one who has taken it up since attending POP – but most of them rarely trouble their bicycles outwith the odd photo opportunity at Pedal for Scotland. If they’re not hearing from you – their bosses – why should they take the effort to discover what the issues are and how (and why) they can help make cycling something anyone in Scotland can do. We know that politicians reckon that for every person who gets in touch with them about something, 20 more are thinking it. The proportion is even higher for those who show up in person. So here’s a way to make your voice not just heard but many times louder.
This is our challenge to you. Before the election campaign gets going in earnest, get in touch with your MSPs, your MP, your councillors, and invite them to ride with you. You could get together with other cyclists you know in the area, even make it a public event if they’re willing. Or keep it simple, just a quiet invitation to sample the delights of cycling on Scotland’s roads and cycle paths with you. It doesn’t have to be on a bike, either – invite them to walk along if they don’t feel comfortable cycling. Tell them why you’re going to POP or why you would go to POP if you could. And why you’re taking POP to them instead. Whether they can come or not, follow it up with a detailed list of issues – things that they can actually do something about. Together with our elected politicians, we can make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.