It’s no secret that the minister and Pedal on Parliament haven’t always seen eye to eye. We’re intent on getting our manifesto implemented and it contains some ambitious and challenging targets that no UK government has come close to reaching. We’re passionate about making Scotland safe for everyone to cycle, and that can mean we’re not always as grateful as the government might like us to be for small changes. We’re not doing this to be unpleasant – we’re actually trying to open the government’s eyes to the fact that by investing in cycling, and by creating the conditions on the road to make it safe and inviting for everyone, be they primary-school children or government ministers, to cycle, the Scottish government will actually reap huge benefits in terms of health, clean air, economic development, and general wellbeing. So sometimes we have expressed ourselves in robust terms, and sometimes our supporters have gone further in their criticism of government policy and individual ministers.
It takes a big man (or woman) to face their critics directly. By agreeing to attend Pedal on Parliament today, Transport Minister Keith Brown has shown himself to be someone who will stand by his own policies in person, and we salute him for that. We’re delighted to have him come and hear for himself what PoP supporters want and what will make them and their families feel safe cycling on Scotland’s roads. And, while we welcome the fact that more money will be announced today for cycling – we would contend that educating children to cycle on the road is not the best use of money, compared with starting to invest in a cycling network where they can actually be safe, and more importantly feel safe, as they get around on two wheels. There’s no training in the world that will guarantee a child’s safety around HGVs and fast-moving cars – and as long as children need to mix in traffic to ride their bikes, then parents will be reluctant to give them the freedom to ride.
Pedal on Parliament is not going away. This is our third PoP, and every time we’re bigger and louder and more determined. By joining us today, we feel that the minister recognises that fact, and even embraces it. We genuinely want to work with him to make the changes we need as a nation to make cycling accessible to everyone not just on one day of the year, but every day. It may not be the cosiest of relationships – but every government needs its critical friends. Together we can make Scotland a cycle friendly country.