A question via Twitter the other day got us thinking: what concrete effects can we say that Pedal on Parliament has actually had? It’s a good question. After all, this is PoP’s third year, and the feeling is growing that we’re in it for the long haul. We’re asking people to give up their Saturday and get themselves and their bikes into the centre of Edinburgh – and for what? What exactly has PoP achieved so far?
Well, it’s hard to know for sure – governments don’t like to come out and say that this or that campaign has directly changed their policies. But there are indications that our voices are being heard:
- When we started PoP, spending on active travel was budgeted to fall. Not only has that proposed cut been reversed, but – with the odd million pounds here and there that Keith Brown keeps finding down the back of the sofa – it’s risen and spending on cycling per head is now higher than the rest of the UK. It’s generally last-minute, one-off spending, rather than the sustained investment that Scotland needs, but it’s an improvement. Most important of all, we’ve been told that when budgets are discussed, cycling is now always on the agenda, rather than being an afterthought.
- Councils are flocking to apply to Sustrans for the most recent tranche of money; unlike London, Scotland won’t be looking at a massive underspend of its cycling budget. That means that people all around Scotland will be seeing improvements in their area that make cycling and walking easier
- Cycling is now on the agenda politically, with cross party support for active travel. We have a Cross-Party Cycling Group that meets regularly and there have been debates in Parliament about spending and strict liability.
- The recent CAPS revision has encouraged councils to create cycling strategies (one of our manifesto points) and more and more councils are appointing cycling or active travel champions
We also feel that we’re part of a bigger wave. Cycling campaigners – indeed cyclists generally – are more active, more ambitious and more articulate than ever before (the response to the Nice Way Code was a prime example). Perhaps some of that has come from the effects of PoP, of having a national movement beholden to nobody except its own supporters. People who’ve been to PoP tell us that they’ve got involved in campaigning locally, that they’ve lobbied their local politicians, things they weren’t doing before. If we achieve nothing else, that makes a huge difference.
And yet, it’s not enough. Real investment can’t be reliant on money – even substantial sums of money – doled out at short notice. Poor standards of design mean that a lot of the spending is being wasted on poor-quality schemes. There still isn’t the will to take space away from cars, meaning that cyclists are either given bike lanes that run under parked cars, or are told to share the pavement with pedestrians, to the benefit of neither. That sort of fiddling around in the margins is not enough to create the transformation in transport that we’re hoping to achieve. Meanwhile, cyclists are still being killed on the roads, and everyone else is still stuck in their cars, because they haven’t been given the space they need to cycle free from fear. For all the recent progress, Scotland is still a long long way away from being a cycle friendly country.
And that’s why we still need to Pedal on Parliament. We need to show politicians that we still care and that we’re not going anywhere until they see reason. We need you.