Edinburgh’s Old Town filled with families and others on bikes and on foot today demanding safer streets for all. Bells rang and flags waved as the good-natured but serious protest rode, walked, wheeled and scooted through the city to the Scottish Parliament.
The seventh annual Pedal on Parliament also saw a sister ride in Inverness, with another planned for Aberdeen on Sunday. Once again, thousands flocked to the Meadows in Edinburgh, despite the morning’s heavy rain, where long-time Pedal on Parliament supporter Mark Beaumont, best known for his record-breaking ride around the world, led off with his daughters in a cargo bike.
Following a minute’s silence to remember those who die unnecessarily on our roads, Mark Beaumont was very straightforward – he wants to talk directly to the people with the imagination and vision to make the changes we all need for the future: investment in safer infrastructure, safer speed limits and better traffic laws. He just has to look at his kids to know why this matters. “Our MSPs and other representatives must understand just how vital this is if we want more adults and children to feel safe enough to cycle as part of their everyday lives.” He called on everyone to go home and raise these issues in their community.
Writer and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch had some challenging words for our politicians: “Scotland has become far too sedentary – we a serious transformation, not just incremental change! Thirty years ago Copenhagen was as bad as Edinburgh – it can be done! Spending money on infrastructure that isn’t good enough has to stop. We don’t need paint, we need lanes that separate cyclists from pedestrians and cars. No half measures! We are being asked to individually compensate for the failings of street design. We must demand that safety be designed and built in to our travel networks, and Edinburgh should be at the forefront of this change. Make that your call – Edinburgh should become Copenhagen Next – the best cycling city in Europe!”
Organiser Sally Hinchcliffe closed with a call to action: “We want nothing less than to transform Scotland. That is our goal! It’s a hard change to make. We do have more money from government – and we are grateful for the investment. But the money is not enough. We need space to cycle – and we need to take that space from cars. We – you – have a job to do! You have turned out to PoP in your thousands, year after year– so now, when you head home, find that one thing in your street, your road, your town or your village, and fight for the change that will let young people like our speakers Mhairi and Charlotte cycle safely. YOU are going to transform Scotland into a cycle friendly country!”
Other speakers included eight year old Charlotte Brennan, who made a passionate plea for change: “I really love cycling my bike, but I don’t feel safe riding my bike on busy roads. It feels like the roads are only for people who drive. It is time to change!” Seventeen year old Mhairi Gormley has heard politicians promise change at PoP after PoP then continue to prioritise cars. Just this last week she was reduced to tears by the way drivers treated her. She knows that fully segregated paths to protect us from drivers are the way to go!
Lizzie Rhoades, student, cyclist and activist was adamant that no-one should feel, as her friends do, that they would never let their children cycle in Edinburgh because it’s just too dangerous. Jean-Matthieu Gaunand from Communities for Conservation shared the story of how getting on person back on her bike after 20 years can make a huge difference to a family. He called for everyone to act as a community advocates so more families can benefit. Stephen McCluskey of Bikes for Refugees Scotland underlined how safer cycling conditions help our society become a happier, more welcoming place, helping refugees connect with communities, essential services and to meet new people and make new friends.