As we have announced before, POP is supporting the umbrella campaign We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote which has been writing to all candidates standing for Holyrood in this year’s election, asking them to sign up to three fairly concrete pledges:

  • Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget
  • Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure, enabling people aged 8-80 to cycle
  • Safety: Promote and deliver safer roads for both walking and cycling

In the last week or so the replies have been coming in – you can see what your candidates have said here – but it’s clear from a lot of politicians’ responses that they still really don’t get it. Most of those who have replied (about 10% of the total – not all of whom have been contactable) have been reasonably positive, with about half of those willing to commit in some form or other to increased investment in active travel. But far too many of them are still missing the point – talking about their warm support for cycling and walking, without making any concrete promises at all about what they would do in office about it.

transport hierarchy graphic
The gap between the Scottish government’s aspirations for sustainable transport – and its actual investment in it

Scotland needs no more warm words on cycling. We’ve had quite enough grand-sounding plans which turn out not to be actual plans, ‘targets’ which turn out to be ‘visions’ which turn out to be ‘aspirations’ and trumpeting of ‘record investment‘ in active travel even as the government cuts the one fund which ensures all local authorities, not just the tiny handful that are starting to get it, spend money on cycling, walking and safer streets.

What Scotland needs is investment, in the sort of infrastructure that everyone can use. This isn’t a pipe dream – as Scottish cycling rates bump along the bottom, Seville has not just seen cycling levels soar but also motorised traffic fall, in just a few years. Proper investment in cycling infrastructure in London – real, safe, segregated routes right into the centre of the city – means that bikes may soon outnumber cars in the rush hour. This is what happens when the powers that be start to realise that cycling is part of the solution to their problems, not just something that a few cranks in lycra bang on about.

We have not reached that point yet in Scotland. Cycling, even walking, is still seen as something niche, as the politicians campaign on what they perceive to be the ‘real’ issues. Eventually they will have to listen, if not to us, then to the World Health Organization, the latest body to join the Directors of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and every other organisation that has been pleading for investment in active travel not because they love cycling and want it to be more pleasant, but because we need to tackle the problems of obesity, diabetes and air pollution. But we don’t have time to wait for them to see the light – Scotland has to start acting now if it is to turn the tanker around before it is too late. We need to get out there and tell them loud and clear.

The assembled crowd
The assembled crowd at Holyrood – image courtesy of Anthony Robson

April 23rd. 12 noon. The Meadows. Come and help us start to turn the political tide

Buttering no Parsnips