Changing cycling for the better in Scotland is about so much more than practical, physical, ‘tangible’ changes. In tandem, there’s a shift in attitude that we’re aiming for with Pedal on Parliament. Even in the best cycling cities at some point cyclists will have to interact with traffic, so what’s the difference in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, or even Paris? Quite simply drivers take notice of you. A lot of that comes from the fact that they themselves will most likely be cyclists; perhaps some comes from strict liability laws; and it all forms a completely different attitude.
I’ve ridden in all three, and my Scottish experiences lead me to cover the brakes whenever a car past and then started indicating to pull in to a road ahead of me. Yet the only thing that actually struck me was the realisation that the driver then waited for me to pass inside before they made the turn. It comes as something of a (good) shock to the system. The Scottish attitude? It can be summed up thus: Must. Pass. The. Cyclist.
No matter what. I’ve been passed while cruising downhill at 30 in a 30 zone when if I’d been a car doing that same speed the driver going by would never have even contemplated the manoeuvre. But it was all the more ironic that, as filming Andy Arthur (our poster designer) riding a section of the route of the ride for a video previously published here, he would be cut-up by just such an attitude. Never mind that there was a stopped truck on the opposite side of the road narrowing the road; that Andy was keeping a good pace without even pedalling; that the car in front of him was travelling at a modest pace that Andy was keeping up with; or that there was a car coming in the opposite direction.
Cue revs, pass, cut in, forcing the car coming the other way to stop. And for what? Around half a second gain as Andy (and I behind him) kept pace with the cars ahead without a single further pedal stroke being applied. Okay, so Andy adopted an aero tuck at one point (quite a sight in jeans and stripy socks), but the point was proved. ‘Attitude’ in a microcosm.
And that’s what Pedal on Parliament is seeking to help change. All eight points of our manifesto intertwine to produce one whole. Attitude is part of the whole that, when you reach a true cycling society, is so much greater than the sum of those parts. It’s not asking much when you think about it. Just look out for me and take notice of where and how I am travelling. We’re all just trying to get somewhere, let’s do it as safely as possible. Let’s Pedal on Parliament to show that we care.