On Saturday 28th April 2012 along with thousands of fellow cyclists I pedalled on Parliament. I haven’t ventured down to Edinburgh since 2008, so a trip to the Capital is a big occasion for me but I felt that I really had to be there to show my support for the aims of the Pedal on Parliament movement.
Its taken me a couple of days to sit down and write this and I’m sure it will all be a bit confused but I thought it worth jotting down some things about the day, why I did the ride and the effect it has had.
I’ve always loved and enjoyed cycling, but haven’t really been on the bike much for the past few years. That all changed last year when I started bike commuting again and I’ve got right back into it. Its fun, its healthy, its faster, cheaper and more predictable than the bus and the weather isn’t really that bad once you are out in it.
One thing that’s changed a lot is that with the advent of the Internet, its possible to find out a lot more about cycling issues and to see what facilities are like in other places and compare them to our own so I started reading lots of blogs about cycling – Copenhagnize, As Easy As Riding a Bike etc. – and got more and more aware of how dire the cycle infrastructure in Scotland is.
Now all those blogs are great and inspirational, but if there is one single thing that sums up what motivates me to strive for a better deal for cyclists its this “Letter from trauma surgeons demanding action on cycling deaths in London” published in the London Evening Standard. This one is not for the feint hearted but reading it really made me think, enough is enough.
So having driven about 140 miles (I know Boo! Hiss! etc.) down from Aberdeenshire with the bike in the car I joined the Fife Feeder Ride at Inverkeithing and then rode across the Forth Bridge and on to The Meadows in the heart of Edinburgh. The ride in via roads and bike tracks was interesting as it was a chance to see what things were like down in the big City, and it was also good to be discussing cycling issues with my fellow riders and commenting on how the infrastructure we were using compared to that on our home patches.
After a final bit of on street cycling we were there at The Meadows and I couldn’t believe how many bikes were there already. Bikes of every shape and form – Unicycles, Tandems, Racers, Choppers, Tourers, Hybrids, Mountain Bikes, Folders, Fixers, Recumbents … and the ridership was as diverse as the bikes – young children and their parents, vetran riders, club riders, students, commuters – all gathered with a single purpose – to show our politicians that we want to make Scotland a safer place to cycle. The atmosphere was electric – and so very positive.
We were marshalled onto the Middle Meadows walk and formed a queue ready to start. I thought I was near the end of the queue then I looked behind and saw that the entire road was filled to the end of the park and round the corner – this was going to be immense. After a minute silence for the fallen then a mass ringing of bike bells – and 3,000 bike bells certainly make a lot of noise – we were off – well sort of. It takes a long time to get a peloton of 3,000 bikes moving through traffic 🙂 and it was ages before the bikes where I was finally got rolling and we inched our way forward then up George IV Bridge and onto the Royal Mile then down the Cannongate to Parliament. Along the way I found it really surreal to look about and see iconic images of Edinburgh from my bike seat (its not every day I ride past Greyfriars Bobby 😉 ) while among a sea of cycles that stretched as far as the eye could see – both in front and behind of me. The memory will stay with me for a very long time.
We got to Parliament – elated – and rallied and heard speeches all set against the stunning backdrop of the crags and the Parliament building. I listened, I took some photos but most of all I was inspired to go home and campaign even more to try and get our politicians – local and national – to deliver the cycling infrastucture that we require. Other countries have managed to embrace cycling, and I have a feeling that we can – and will – be able to make something big happen now.
After all that there was the small matter of the ride back to Inverkeithing which, under the expert guidance of Michael from Sustrans was done via quiet routes and was very enjoyable – reminding me just how much fun cycling for the sake of cycling as opposed to commuting can be. Even on that journey, we encountered some very poorly implemeneted cycle infrastructure – the bike path from Edinburgh to the Forth Bridge (part on National Route 1) is so narrow in places that bikes travelling in opposite directions can’t pass. Surely this should be a flagship cycle route capable of making the journey of commuter cyclists from Fife to Edinburgh easier and encouraging tourists to head to the Kingdom to see its hidden gems?
I’ll wrap up by saying a big thanks to the dedicated group of folks who did such an amazing job in organising the POP event and to the Fife Feeder Ride for guiding an out of towner safely into and out of Edinburgh. POP28 isnt the end of the story – its where we go from here that is the exciting part 🙂