Monday 30 April 2012

Pedal on Parliament: A Thank You

I've just about settled down after Pedal on Parliament (POP). I'm not the first to say it, but I feel I need to say it to...


Cyclists as far as the eye can see

Yup. that just about sums up my feelings about POP. It was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Just over a couple of months ago, myself and a group of cyclists got together online and thought, why not. Why not see if we can do something. Let's see if we can get a few hundred cyclists together to put some pressure on our MSPs and councillors to take cycling more seriously. We didn't have any experience of organising an event, but we had lots of enthusiasm, so we ploughed in head first and did what we could.

Here I am now, literally gob-smacked by what happened. We didn't have a few hundred cyclists, we had a few thousand! Not only that, but we had bikes of all shapes and sizes, we had cyclists of all shapes and sizes, and most importantly we had families and young children.  The message is quite clear. Our politicians, local and national need to listen to what we have to say. We, and by we I mean you the cyclists of Scotland, now have a strong voice that can't be ignored.

It's going to take me a good few blogs to say everything I want to say about this event. However, the most important thing just now is for me to to say thank you. Quite a few folk have personally said well done to me. I've had a few comments from people along the lines of, 'this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't started this back in February.' They may well be correct. However, there is a huge long list of people, groups and institutions whom, without their support and help, this wouldn't have happened.

Firstly, it wouldn't have happened without the core POP team. It happened because of (in no particular order!) Sally Hinchliffe, Kim Harding, Andy Arthur, Anthony Robson, Sara Dorman, Dave du Feu, and Alan Munro.We have been so lucky to have such a diverse team. Not only are we all different types of cyclists, we have different skill sets and different ideas. It shouldn't have worked but it did. That's what happens when everyone has a clear goal and an excellent manifesto to work towards. I'll write more about the core team when the dust settles a bit more.

It wouldn't have happened without the army of helpers, online and offline. We have had tremendous support from volunteers who have done jobs varying from bike flyering (often in the cold and wet) to supplying equipment, offering advice etc. We have also had significant support online, with many people blogging about us, tweeting about us, facebooking about us and generally getting the message out in any way they could. If they hadn't done that it might just have been the core POP members who turned up! A special thanks also goes to the members of the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum. Right from the start they have offered sound advice and opinion. They even helped us shape our manifesto and at the very, VERY last minute got hold of a PA system at Holyrood! Thanks Ruggtomcat.

We have also had significant support from various organisations without which this wouldn't have happened. Two deserve a special mention CTC Scotland and Spokes. Not only did they both support us, but they provided us with our leaflets and spoke cards that helped spread the word. It is very much appreciated. We also had the official support of Go-Bike, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Transform Scotland and citycycling.We had the unofficial support of many others.

It might not have happened had Mark Beaumont not believed in what we are doing. He hasn't supported a campaign like ours before, but he like our positive approach. Something that we hope to continue. We also had support from Sir Chris Hoy and Graeme Obree. Having three such incredible ambassadors for cycling on our side was a major boost to the campaign. Many thanks!

Doing what I enjoy the most! (Courtesy of Richard Pelling, rxpell on flickr)

It might have been a local Edinburgh event, had we not had the feeder rides from all around the country. This demonstrated that this was a national issue and not a local issue. Thank you to all those who organised these rides led them and came on them! I hear the headwind was a killer on the Glasgow ride. Glad I came by car the day before!

It wouldn't have happened if the media had not taken an interest. Yes we had social media covered, but a lot of people still live in the real world, and we needed to get the message out to them. In fact a large part of the success of this event stems from a significant change in the media's approach to cycling. We have supporters in many media outlets. They did a great job of spreading the word.

This wouldn't have happened had the council not let it happen! I have to thank them for their help, even when it looked as if there might be some difficulties with the date. They helped us through that and did all they could to smooth the journey. Many thanks!

It might have happened, but it would have been a disaster without Lothian and Borders finest. The police which were faced with a significantly larger number of cyclists than any of us imagined, did themselves proud. They coped admirably under pressure and kept their sense of humour throughout. I tip my helmet to you, well done!

It might not have happened if we had not gained support of politicians. This was and remains the whole point. It is the politicians who have the actual power to effect the changes we are looking for. We have a number of supporters in most of the main parties. However, we still need to work to increase our support especially with regards to investment. Special thanks must got to Alison Johnstone and Marco Biagi for publishing supportive motions. Alison also used one of the green parties precious debates to discuss cycling. The first time a debate had focussed on cycling in Holyrood. Lets hope it's not the last.

Only two more two go and in my mind they are the most important.

I wish that Lynne and Ian McNicoll weren't at POP. I wish they hadn't even heard about it, perhaps they might have heard about it, but only because Andrew told them about it. Unfortunately, that is not the case as Lynne's step son, Ian's son, Andrew was killed earlier this year whilst cycling on the road. A tragic loss of life. They decided that to honour Andrew, they would campaign for safer cycling for everyone. An amazing approach to their grief. They have been inspirational to the POP team and have done a huge amount to spread the word about us. For that we are truly grateful.
I had the honour of cycling next to Lynne and Ian and was with them during the moments silence and the following bell ringing. It was a very emotional and powerful moment that I will never forget. Thank you for that.

Finally, this would never have happened if it wasn't for you. For the 3000 or so men, women, children and occasional lobsters that turned up to Pedal on Parliament. Thank you all. You came in large numbers you had fun and behaved impeccably. You were an amazing advert for cycling as well as a wake up call for Scotland's politicians.

Starting from an e-mail on the 24th February and ending up with 3000+ cyclists on the streets of Edinburgh on the 28th April has been an extraordinary journey, but unlike the epic journey that Mark Beaumont took around the world it is not the journey that is most important, it is the destination.

One day I do believe we will get there and Scotland will be a a cycle friendly nation.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Pedalling with One Voice

It started back in February, only about 2 months ago. I realised that there was an opportunity to do something. Possibly something significant.

I had an idea.

OK, it wasn't particularly original to organise a ride on parliament. In fact it was very much inspired by The Big Ride, but it still felt that I was sticking my neck out a bit. I made a 'call to arms' that could very well have been laughed at and ignored. Amazingly it wasn't and from very early on, everyone who I mentioned it to thought, 'yeah, that's a good idea', 'why not', I'm up for that'.

So Pedal on Parliament was born.

Once it is all over there is a lot I'll want to share with you all about the journey from start to finish. It's been an amazing journey. However, it is worth recapping now, where we are.

We have an excellent organising team, a website, a twitter account with plenty of followers, excellent posters and leaflets, a growing petition, a band of enthusiastic organisers, a poem, a song, the support of Mark Beaumont, Sir Chris Hoy, and Graeme Obree. We have had lots of press coverage, we have MSP supporters, we have been mentioned positively in a parliamentary debate, we have two separate supporting motions in parliament....and we have an event in Edinburgh on the 28th of April.

It has been amazing.

However, what does it all mean? Will it make a difference?

I think it can, but, we still need your help. The parliamentary motions have good intentions and are certainly welcomed, but as yet, we do not have anything new. There is no new funding. Without funding for cycle infrastructure, we will never truly have roads safe for everyone.

We NEED as many people to sign our petition and turn up on the day, come rain or shine. Politicians listen to numbers. They listen when large groups of people, from different walks of life come together with one voice, and that is what Pedal on Parliament is all about.

Pedal on Parliament is giving power to your voice. If you believe in what we are saying, if you believe in our manifesto, if you believe that Scotland can indeed become a 'Cycle Friendly Nation' then join us on Saturday and your voice will be heard.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Open Letter to Nicola Sturgeon

What follows is a letter I have just sent to Nicola Sturgeon about Pedal on Parliament

Dear Nicola,

As a cyclist who sometimes passes through your constituency on the way to and from work and as an organiser of Pedal On Parliament (, I wanted to contact you to ask if you to ask if you are aware of our ongoing campaign.

I cycle daily to and from work, and I have, over the years learned to cope with the various issues that you face as a cyclist on Glasgow’s roads. Whislt the vast majority of drivers are excellent (and I am a driver myself) I have had to put up with some terrible driving in the past including this incident, which has been widely published in the media (

However, I am now the father of three children (6, 4 and 2) who are all starting to show an interest in cycling to different degrees. I would love to encourage my children to cycle as much as possible on their bikes, however, even I, a hardened commuter and cycle campaigner, feel that the roads are far to dangerous to allow my children to cycle on them.

This is wrong. There is absolutely no reason why this should be the case. It is entirely possible to build or redesign our roads such that they are safe and enjoyable for everyone to use, not just when we decide to surround ourselves in a protective metal shell. We don’t have to look far to see how it can be done, as many cities in Europe are building infrastructure that encourages active travel. Copenhagen, and Amsterdam are shining examples, however they are not alone. The likes of Berlin and Seville are working towards the goal of more active travel and succeeding in that aim. Even New York in the US, not a place you would associate with active travel is making excellent progress.

So can it be accomplished here? Is it too wet? Are there too many hills? None of these issues present any significant barrier. When people are asked what their reasons are for not cycling, it is almost always down to the roads being unsafe, or being perceived as unsafe.

The real barrier is political will and funding, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. If the government was willing to ring-fence just 5% of the overall transport budget, rather than have an extra mile or two of motorway along with similar commitments from local government, we could transform cycling and active travel throughout the whole of Scotland in a decade.

For this reason and for the other reasons described in our eight point manifesto (, a large number of cyclists and potential cyclists will be pedalling, walking, skating and scooting to Holyrood on the 28th of April to take our manifesto and petition to you and all of the MSPs and councillors of Scotland. Mark Beaumont will be cycling with us and although he can’t make it we also have the moral support of our one of our greatest athletes and cyclists Sir Chrs Hoy.

We understand that Keith Brown MSP will not be able to attend, however, due to the strength of feeling and the importance of this issue we ask that either yourself or someone senior from the government should be present to accept the documents from us and to address those that will be attending the event.

With your help we can bring cycling home to Scotland. With your help we can make Scotland a Cycle Friendly Nation.

Best regards

Dr David Brennan 

Saturday 14 April 2012

Pedalling away, furiously

You may have noticed my blog has been a little quiet lately. Don't panic, normal service will be resumed....after April the 28th. Yes, you may have noticed I've been a bit busy organising Pedal on Parliament.

It is going very well at the moment, with lots of expression of interest in the day itself. We are hoping for a good turn out on the day. Of course, hope on it's own
wont make POP successful. It's taking a lot of hard work from the POP team to spread the word!

Myself, Sally and Kim from team POP
Today we went to the Scottish Bike Show, expecting to leaflet outside. However, very kindly the organisers let us in and to set up a table. Many thanks! It turned out to be an excellent day with loads of people chatting to us and showing interest. What was most pleasing was that a lot of people had already heard about us. We must be doing something right! We also got about 200 signatures for our petition.

We also got support from a well know lady mountain biker (Hannah Barnes) who said:

The Pedal on Parliament manifesto HAS to happen! Making the road safe will get everyone out on their bikes.

Exactly. Our manifesto will definitely help encourage many people out on their bikes. We spoke to many people today who would like to cycle on the road, but felt it wasn't safe. Make it safe, and feel safe and people will take to their bikes.

I also got chatting to Michael MacLeod from STV Local. We chatted about the day and about POP and this is the result.  

We really do have a chance to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation. We just need to convince our politicians to take the leap of faith.

Help us to do that. Support Pedal on Parliament.