I really enjoyed Saturday’s 2015 Pedal on Parliament rally. Over 4000 people joined the event with the feeder rides coming from Inverkeithing, Moffat and some cycling from Glasgow.
Against expectations the weather was great which led to an upbeat atmosphere, with commitments across the political spectrum to support increasing investment in cycling.
In my speech I argued for more and sustained national investment and better integration between cycling and public transport, with more dedicated, segregated routes in our cities, towns and villages to encourage more people to cycle on a regular basis. We need to make safer cycling more accessible for all.
We need to make it easier and safer for people to cycle in their daily trips to work, school, college or university, and for leisure and shopping trips. That means better routes, decent parking options and better integration with our rail network.
But we don’t just need investment national projects – we need investment in every local authority and community. That means better Scottish Government financial support for locals authorities and clarity on the money which is allocated. Edinburgh Council has now allocated 8% of the transport budget this year to cycle investment and the aim is to build up to 10% by 2016/17.
I asked the Transport Minister who was present to support the proposal from my colleague Claudia Beamish MSP for funding for a national award to the local authority with the best proposal for cycle investment in segregated route – investment which would promote innovation and lead to an uplift in the number of people cycling. The idea is supported by the Cross Party Group on Cycling.
I called on those attending the POP rally to make their voices heard throughout the year. Change can be controversial and can take time. In Edinburgh alone there are plans for a roll out of 20mph streets, and decisions to be made on whether cycle routes will be retained on George Street, on a proposed reduction in the hours of operation of bus lanes, and on new segregated route investment on Leith Walk between Pilrig Street and Macdonald Road. Next month a trial of off peak travel with bikes on trams will start. I am particularly pleased to hear this news as I have long supported this proposal.
In the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow has started to put in place significant new investment. There are new dedicated cycle routes in the city and Glasgow’s bike hire scheme is now up and running.
Speakers at the weekend’s rally made the point that at cycling is good for people’s health, will reduce congestion and will lead to better air quality. The point was also made that cycling is a very affordable means of travel. However studies show that many people are still reluctant to cycle even when they own bikes because of safety fears. In addition to more on the road investment I believe we need to see proper analysis of the circumstances leading to crashes involving cyclists. There have been several deaths in London and the Edinburgh region and we need a better understanding of the circumstances so that lessons can be learned by all road users to increase safety.
Finally, I encouraged people to send in their ideas to me as I am keen that we have strong policies in Labour’s manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. There’s a lot we can learn from other countries and with the growing network of cycling groups across Scotland there is more we can do to build on the health, environmental and social justice opportunities from more effective promotion of cycling.