The 21st of June is the longest day, with the potential for the most sunlight. However, in Scotland that day was a misnomer – it became the day which was a definition of ‘dreich’ – grey skies and rain. However, the sun shone in another way: Scotland’s political establishment took its first tentative steps towards making Scotland a cycle friendly nation.
POP had been invited to three separate events that afternoon. The first was a lunchtime seminar run by SPICe (Scottish Government Information Centre) in the Scottish Parliament. We were asked to give a talk which was loosely about CAPS (the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland) and how we thought it should be ‘refreshed’. The second was a handover of our petition and the petition comments to the transport minister Keith Brown. And the final event was the first official meeting of the Cross Party Cycling Group (CPCG), to which we were invited.
Four members of POP attended the events that day: David Brennan, Sara Dorman, Alan Munro (also for Go-Bike) and Dave du Feu (also for Spokes). Unfortunately due to the weather, and the fact that two of us were coming over from Glasgow, and the fact that we had to be togged up, only one of us came by bike. Sara did look dapper riding her tandem in heels.
At the SPICe seminar there were three presentations from ourselves, Cycling Scotland and Sustrans with ten minutes per presentation. We kicked off with Dr Brennan doing the talking (he does a lot of that), starting with a quick introduction of who we are and what Pedal on Parliament was. We then focused on our main message: Funded, Designed, Connected. Rather than trying to squeeze our whole manifesto into 10 minutes, we wanted to focus on what we think will make the biggest difference: cycle infrastructure. We wanted to show the politicians that to get people out on their bikes, we need the infrastructure to make them feel safe (and actually be safer). To work though, it has to be properly funded, properly designed, and fully connected. Miss out one of these requirements and projects are doomed to fail. We also pointed out that we need leadership at both national and local level if we are to succeed.
Then Dave Brennan was literally grabbed by Jim Eadie to do the petition handover and to get some publicity photos. It was all a bit rushed and in the end it was just Dave that ended up in the photo with the three MSPs: Jim Eadie (SNP), Keith Brown (SNP) and Patrick Harvie (Green). Cheesy grins all around. We did manage to have a quick word with Keith Brown and we reminded him of the need for a step change in funding if there is any chance of reaching the governments own pledge of 10% cycling by 2020.
Then it was onto the CPCG meeting. This was a well attended event. There were representatives from many of the national cycling organisations. However, the turn out from MSPs was disappointing. There were only two attending, Jim Eadie and Alison Johnstone (Green). Claudia Beamish (Lab) did send a representative and sent apologies for not being able to attend. For a meeting that is supposed to be cross party and is supposed to be about politicians discussing with experts how to make progress we would have expected better attendance. We will ensure that we lobby MSPs to attend all future meetings.
The meeting itself was very productive with interesting discussions from all around the table. There were two items on the agenda, suggestions for any future rewrites of CAPS, and discussions about how this year’s budget is likely to affect cycling, and how cycling can affect this year’s budget. As the minutes from the meeting have yet to be released it would be improper for us to divulge too much information about the meeting (we will share the minutes when they are made public). Everyone agreed that a substantial change to CAPS was required if there was any hope of reaching 10% of cycling in 2020 and that funding from the budget was critical.
The day ended with all present agreeing that we had made an important, if small, first step. Much, MUCH more work is needed and we will definitely need your help in the coming months to help press home to our politicians, national and local, just how important cycling is to a richer, smarter, greener, healthier Scotland.