When Melanie Newbould tweeted that she was planning to cycle 192 miles to POP we were impressed – and immediately wanted to know more. Here is her story about why she feels so strongly that she’s planning this epic ride:

Melanie and group
Melanie (centre front row, in blue) enjoying some typical Scottish cycling weather

At the end of the month, I’m planning to cycle 192 miles to join Pedal on Parliament. But shhh! Don’t tell my mother! She worries about me cycling to work and back – a measly 5.8 miles each way – which pales in comparison to this epic adventure! She banned me from winter commuting last year after I came off on ice, with no injuries. I can only imagine her response to my latest harebrained scheme!

As much as I hate to admit it, she’s right to worry! As cautious a cyclist as I am, with helmet and hi-vis, and having attended my Essential Cycling Skills instructor training, it could take only one altercation with a car to stop me taking part in the hobby I love. It could even end my life.

Yes, cycling could injure me or cause my death, but inactivity will most certainly make me ill and kill me. For me, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Cycling wakes me up in the morning and encourages the stress of the working day to ebb away in the evening. Cycling has improved my health, my fitness, and my general well-being.  Cycling lets me see much more of the country I love and has introduced me to a lot of lovely people (shout out to all the lovely Belles on Bikes across the country). Cycling lets me eat a lot of carbohydrates and cake, with not even the slightest worry of putting on weight. Most importantly, cycling makes me happy!

Unfortunately, for the majority of the population of Scotland, the risks put them off getting on a bike and enjoying the freedom it brings. People worry about there being too many cars on the road; the traffic travelling too fast; their personal safety on dark and lonely roads; inconsiderate drivers; and road surfaces being dangerous. Other reasons people have given for not cycling, I believe would disappear, if we were to sort out their fear of the roads. People claiming it is too far, too cold and wet, or that they prefer to drive, that they have no way to carry their luggage or don’t have time to cycle. This cannot be true every single day – if you want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Why people don't cycle
Graphic: Cycling Scotland’s Annual Cycling Monitoring Report 2015 – Reasons for not cycling to work.

Proper funding for active travel (10% of the transport budget); proper infrastructure for cyclists (not just a white line at the side of the road); and improved road traffic law and enforcement (presumed liability so the person creating the biggest threat to the situation has to prove their innocence, rather than the other way around) are just the three biggest reasons that I’m pedalling on parliament. I’m also cycling 192 miles to make the point that you can cycle even if it is far, even if it is cold and wet, and even when carrying luggage. Yes, it would be quicker for me to drive (4 hours instead of 4 days), but I wouldn’t see as much of our beautiful country, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much, and I wouldn’t feel as great a sense of achievement.

Do I trust my bike to get me there? Most definitely, she is my trusty steed. My legs, I’m less confident in. The infrastructure? Well I’m following parts of National Cycling Network Route 1, Route 7 and Route 77… what state of repair they’ll be in after a tough winter I don’t know, so I’m slightly worried about that! But my biggest fear would have to be the motorists I’m going to encounter along the way. If there was more money spent on active travel from the transport budget; if cycling was properly designed into Scotland’s roads; if cycling was integrated into local transport strategies; and if we had presumed liability, my confidence in making this journey would not be in question. The cycle routes would be in great condition, having just been resurfaced after a harsh winter; I would be able to follow an almost completely traffic-free route; and any motorists I did interact with would give me the correct amount of space. People would not look at me in utter shock, but might consider joining me in a fantastic adventure.

I’m not cycling 192 miles to raise money for charity (although do feel free to donate to CTC Scotland, Sustrans, Pedal on Parliament itself or any local charities trying to make cycling safer – Bike Revolution in Moray, for example). I’m cycling 192 miles to pedal on parliament, to tell the Scottish Government that I want a cycle friendly Scotland so that more people might be confident enough to cycle 5 miles to their work.
If you’re free on Saturday the 25th of April and can make it to Edinburgh, then why not join me?

Melanie Newbould is a 25 year old Marketing Co-ordinator for Bike Revolution in Moray in the North East of Scotland. She commutes by bike and leads Belles on Bikes Moray rides. You can follow her adventures on Twitter on @MelJayNew – including, no doubt, her ride down to Holyrood to POP

Why I’m pedalling 192 miles to parliament