Alan Munro and Dave du Feu from PoP attended the new Cross Party Cycling Group at Holyrood yesterday. This is a new group, and the impetus behind it was those MSPs who came to Pedal on Parliament. The group has many people involved who have supported the campaign, such as Alison Johnstone, Jim Eadie, Sarah Boyack, and others. So far we have a small number of MSPs showing interest but we hope this will grow. The group hopes not only to be a place for free exchange of ideas but also action. It can not be a talking shop. The urgency of what needs to happen was underlined by Ian McNicoll of the Andrew Cyclist charity, set up in memory of Andrew McNicoll who died on the roads of Edinburgh last year. It was a good, constructive meeting, with a lot of agreement of the need to move forward, and a general acceptance of the PoP manifesto. Hopefully these meeting can help us navigate just how we can bring our manifesto into reality. What’s good is the support from nearly all the parties.
As well as representatives of cycling organisations there were sport cycling groups there. The Scottish Cycling representative made the point that all sports need a healthy population from which they can take their pick of the best. If you don’t have a healthy population (and the UK as a whole is in the bottom 3 for physical activity in the EU), then you have less of a pool to pick from – and so much fewer people who have explored their physical potential. We note that there was no one there connected with health – perhaps this is something that can be worked on. More people cycling will have direct positive effects on health. Just remember – even now, the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by 20-1. Time the NHS took a little notice of us?
Despite the general support which is being widely expressed it was clear that the major changes needed in funding and policy are not yet here and will not come easily. Elaine Murray MSP made the point that the real test comes in the autumn when the government publishes the draft budget for 2013/14. She was not hopeful that it would include any major shift towards cycling, and said that the Cross Party Cycling Group would need to work hard at that stage. Quite a few of the people present also appeared to feel that all the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) requires is the promised ‘refresh’ rather than the evidence-based, costed and funded complete rewrite that we know is essential if there is to be any hope of meeting the 2020 10% cycle use target.
What’s interesting is how this has moved on. We have a mandate, this is recognised, thanks to all those who got up and rode for future Scotland that will be a beacon for cycling friendliness; thanks to all those who leafleted, hectored their pals, took their kids, and got on their bikes. Now is the tricky business of navigating the corridors of power in the aim of getting real change.