10 years ago, Pedal on Parliament started out as a Twitter conversation between a few friends including Sally Hinchcliffe, David Brennan and Kim Harding. The idea was to have a one-off flash mob. We weren’t expecting many people to turn up, maybe fifty to a hundred. However, on the day, there were an estimated 3,000 people there.
This Saturday, 23 April 2022, we will do it again. 10 years on, what makes us continue to Pedal on Parliament? More than anything, all of us see the potential for cycling as the answer to so many problems we have – from reducing inactivity and air pollution to reconnecting with our local communities. One of our slogans is This Machine Fights Climate Change, and we know the bike can be a key solution to reducing transport emissions.
During the pandemic, we saw lots of people on their bikes, including families with young kids and older people. The reason is obvious – they felt safe with very little traffic around. Unlocking this demand will see benefits not just for the individuals who cycle, who see improved physical and mental health, but for everyone who would see reductions in air and noise pollution, congestion and emissions.
We want to take our message to the Scottish Parliament, because our politicians are the ones who decide on the policies that affect our streets. Our ride passes the City Chambers, where local politicians in Edinburgh make important decisions that influence cycling in the capital.
Are we closer to our goal of a cycle-friendly Scotland? To an extent, yes. When PoP started, the Scottish Government’s Active Travel budget was being cut. As a direct result of the first PoP ride, that cut was reversed. Since then, Active Travel budgets in Scotland have gone up considerably, and we have seen policies like 20mph limits become much more common and more people understand the need for safe separated infrastructure.
However, the reality is that there are far too many roads and junctions that the average person just wouldn’t dream of cycling on – and that needs to be changed. Compared to other countries, we have a long way to go. It isn’t only the Netherlands that is cycle-friendly, particularly since the start of the pandemic; we are seeing countries across the world investing in greater cycle infrastructure, in both urban and rural areas.
Our key message this year is that it’s ‘Time to Deliver’ – we’ve heard lots of warm words and commitments from the budget-deciders, but now is the time to make real changes to enable cycling as a realistic option for everyone.
How can you help? With less than a week to go, there are two big things we are asking of all our supporters. The first, and the most important, is to turn up on Saturday! The second is to invite as many people as you can and spread the word – from your friends and colleagues to your MP, MSP and those who want your vote in next month’s council elections. Let’s show the politicians that we have an important message that they must hear – it’s time to deliver safe cycling across Scotland.