Wednesday 24 April 2013

A Cycle Friendly Nation!?

Today is a big day in cycle campaigning. Westminster has released the conclusions of the cycling cross party enquiry today. It's a big day because the ambitions are big, as they should be. Asking for significant funding to build the infrastructure that is desperately needed.

Hold on a minute! That's Westminster. Here in Scotland we need to have action from Holyrood!

Correct. Westminster can do nothing directly to improve conditions for cyclists in Scotland. However, indirectly what is happening down in Westminster could have a big effect up here. Let's imagine that the politicians in Westminster have the political will to drive the recommendations through. Imagine the truly huge benefits for our southerly neighbours. Increased numbers cycling, improved health, reductions in congestion, economic benefits etc.

Now imagine Scotland (independent or not) sitting there with it's neighbour flourishing and watching from afar as the health of it's own people continues to suffer, congestion continues to get worse, it continues to miss it's environmental targets.....

It's not going to happen is it? Surely if politicians south of the border are seen to invest in cycling, surely Scotland won't continue to suggest that a modern Scotland is one that doesn't invest in cycling, but invests in more motorways!?!

So please, PLEASE, sign the petition set up by The Times, asking Westminster to implement the reports recommendations. It will have a very big effect up here as well.

In fact we at Pedal on Parliament have evidence that the Scottish Government is listening. Back in the early days of POP, when we were just starting to publicise the original demonstration, we came up with the slogan:

Let's Make Scotland a Cycle friendly Nation!

We've used variations of this over time, but the general gist has remained. Google suggests that this phrase hadn't been used before we used it. Now in the last week I've heard it used twice, once at the Cross Party Cycling Group, and once in a letter from a representative of John Swinney (he passed the buck on to his sustainable transport officer). It was in reply to our letter asking Mr Swinney to spend some of the Barnet Consequentials on cycling (Money that came from Westminster, interestingly). The answer was no...unsurprisingly. However, the real revelation, which came after the letter remind us of the crumbs that the government intends to spend on cycling, was the use of the following sentence:

I hope this reassures you that this Scottish Government is committed to investing in Scotland's cycling infrastructure, to make this country a cycle friendly nation.

Whilst it is interesting that this sentence suggests that 'this Scottish Government' is committed, as opposed to any other Scottish Government (possibly one in the future?!) it is the use of the 'cycle friendly nation' phrase that is most interesting.

The Scottish government has definitely been listening, as demonstrated by the fact that they now use our language. So that's s step in the right direction. They also agree that spending money on cycling is an investment. Another step in the right direction. Now they just have to take that final step and as well as talking the talk they need to walk the walk...

...or cycle the cycle....infrastructure.

Supporting the Times campaign might just help us get there.

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