Sunday 14 October 2012

Someone elses problem

10% of journeys will be by cyclists by 2020.

That's quite a target. It's not a target set by me. It's not a target set by Pedal on Parliament. In fact it wasn't a target set by a cycling organisation or campaign group. It is a target set by our current government.

All the more impressive when you consider that John Swinney in his latest budget speech specifically pointed out that the current government hits its targets. So we should expect that the current government will do everything in its power to hit the 10% by 2020 target.

There is a problem though. The time scale.

Politics works within relatively short time scales as generally there are elections every 4 or so years. In fact on this occasion it will be 5 years, and the next Scottish election is to be held in 2016. In fact the issue is further complicated by the likely independence election in 2014. So we have a target that is 8 years away which will only be reached after a vote for independence and an election (or possibly a election of the first independent Scottish government). 

Imagine now that you are a politician in the current government......

You have heard that cyclists are asking for more money to make the roads safer, however, it's a difficult time and there are many other pressures on money. Of course the case for investing in cycling is very strong, it could help Scotland in so many ways, health, socially, economically, and environmentally.

Mmmm. You look at the date that the target is set for, 2020. You do a quick bit of arithmetic and work out that there is eight years until you reach that target date.  Eight years is a very, VERY long time in politics. Mmmm. You don't know too much about what is actually needed to get 10% of people in Scotland cycling, but you can't be that hard. Surely it won't need 8 years worth of significant funding. 

You like cycling, you support cycling, but it's far enough away and costs too much that it is probably better to leave it until after, at the very least, the independence election. Let's give cycling a small pot of cash, say £6m to show that we like the idea and to keep the cycling 'noise level' to manageable levels.

So we are at a loss aren't we? We are doomed to have small pots of cash?


The fact is that 8 years is not long at all. To get 10% of cyclists cycling by 2020, we need a step change in attitude and funding, not in a few years time, but now. It takes a lot of planning, building, publicising, designing and consultation to build the infrastructure that will get more than a few percent cycling. Effectively if the government doesn't take action NOW, John Swinney is admitting that they are a government that hits targets, unless the target is far off enough that it will become someone else's problem.

Effectively cycling is or will be someone else's problem. So how do we make it the current governments problem?

Noise. Governments don't like noise. Running government successfully is all about keeping the noise level as low as possible. So quite simply we need to make as much noise as we can possibly make. We've had a successful demonstration, now we need you to write to your MSP. Tell them that cycling is not a problem that needs to be solved in eight years time, it needs to be solved now.

Health is a problem now.
The environment is a problem now.
Pollution is a problem now. 
Congestion is a problem now.

Please write to your MSP (click here). It really is incredibly easy to do, and only takes a few minutes. It is incredibly powerful. Politicians do pay attention to their mailbags (or inboxes).

Without your help we won't be able to make Scotland a cycle friendly country!

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