Monday 28 April 2014

Furious Enough to POP

I am furious.

Absolutely furious.

What?!? Yesterday was Pedal on Parliament! It was a great success with thousands of cyclists of every shape and size coming along showing support for safer cycling. It was a culmination of the tireless work of many, and it succeeded in demonstrating to a record number of attendiing MSPs, MPs and councillors that cycling safety is a serious issue.

Yes, I am furious.

But your son and other children did an absolutely fabulous job of giving speeches in front of thousands of people. How could you not be the proudest dad on the planet?

I am. Daniel (my son), Kyle and Katherine did an absolutely fabulous job of making their views known in front of a large crowd, but I am still furious.

But Keith Brown actually came along to the protest, and the day before he came he publicised some new money for cycling. An extra £4.5m to be exact. Ok, it's being spent on education, but at least it shows that the government is listening and it is the first time (apparently) that they have got money like this from different depertmants.



NO. The above statement is apparently not true. Yes, Keith came along. Tick. Yes, Keith has found extra money from across departments. Tick. Yes Keith has found an extra £4.5m...........and that is where things fall appart.

Keith has not found £4.5m extra to spend.

This thread is worth a look. I know the main people in this discussion and I can vouch for the fact that they know what they are talking about. These are not internet trolls.

In the discussion, you will notice (and it might move on a bit so apologies if this ever goes out of date...), that it becomes very, very clear the £4.5m actually consists almost entirely of money that was going to be spent anyway. It is the standard funding of Cycling Scotland. About £2m a year. So the reality is, and I am coming to realise that there are different levels of reality in government, that the real announcement was not for £4.5m, but for at best about £600k.

£600,000. That's it. 

As a percentage of the transport budget this would be approximately 0.03% of the transport budget. It isn't of course 0.03% of the transport budget. It isn't actuallyfrom the transport budget. So not one penny extra is being spent from the transport budget and about £3.9m of that announcement was going to be spent anyway.

My son was talking before Keith. Two other children were talking before Keith. Lynne McNicoll, who lost her son back on 2012 was talking after Keith. Whilst it would be wrong of me to suggest that Keith lied to them, he didn't, it's called spin, he completely misled them. He stood up and told them that he did care and led them to think that £4.5m demonstrated how he cared.

What should have happened is that Keith should have been honest. He could have told us that money was tight, and that he was hoping things would improve in the future. He could have said that despite this, he had found some money, a small amount of money, yes, but a start. Had he done this, I would have respected him for it. Instead he played politics and misled us all.

If I misled a patient at my work in a similar manner I would rightly loose my job.

I loved POP 3. I had a fantastic day and I am so, SO grateful for everything that everyone has done to make it such a success. I'm just really really furious that Keith Brown and his government only care, about 0.03%.

Friday 25 April 2014

We Don't Need No Education

Yesterday I posted about a proposal from the Scottish Government for a new roundabout near Aberdeen. I suggested that this gave us a peek into the thinking oft he government, and how cycling was still an afterthought....

Fast forward to today and we have an announcement from the governments Transport Minister, Keith Brown that they have found a further £4.5m to spend on cycling.

You were wrong, Brennan. See, the government does care. Cycling isn't an after thought, after all...

Well......that's sort of true. Yes, the fact that the government has found this money and has announced it the day before POP does show that cycling matters. It shows that we and more importantly YOU are getting heard. All the more reason to come to POP. knew that was coming didn't need to look at the detail.

Here is the press release

Firstly the £4.5m isn't for this year only. It is spread over two years. So that is £2.25m this year and the same next. Announcing it as £4.5m makes it a better headline figure though. Remember we are asking for £100m per year, so this really is a drop in the ocean.

Secondly the money is going to Cycling Scotland to administer two different education programmes. One is Bikeability.  What is Bikeability? Effectively, it is teaching kids to become vehicular cyclists. It teaches kids how to ride on the roads, just as they are right now. The second is a Cycle Friendly Campus....

A what? Is that building infrastructure at one of the universities?

No. It's more education. This time aimed at slightly older kids and at young adults. Once again, teaching them to become vehicular cyclists.

At this point it is worth reading what I wrote recently on the POP website. It explains why I helped set up POP. It tells how I was a vehicular cyclist, I had kids and then realised that the last thing I wanted, was for them to ever have to become vehicular cyclists.

They should not have to learn the skills I have had to develop to keep me safe, cycling should BE safe!

The government has once again completely missed the point. We don't need our children educated. I am more than capable of teaching my kids to ride a bike safely, I am also incredibly keen to get them out on their bikes, and yet even I am reluctant to take them on the roads.


Well, look at this blog here. Of course, not every ride is like that, but it would only take one bad driver and my kids could be scared off cycling for life.

We don't need to teach kids how to deal with the traffic, we need to deal with the traffic!

The Transport Minister is going to attend tomorrow's event. For that we I am very grateful. This is a sign that the government is taking cycling a bit more seriously. However, this also gives us an opportunity to demonstrate to Keith how strongly we feel about the need for infrastructure, not education (of course we need education, but not as urgently as we need infrastructure!). We should be grateful and polite, but we also need to be firm. Small gestures do not help.

We need a fully planned and fully funded roadmap towards a safer cycling Scotland. That is exactly what POP are calling for.

Thursday 24 April 2014

The Mind of the Scottish Government

You may have noticed I haven't been my normal prolific self. Unfortunately POP and other things have been keeping me busy. POP is on Saturday (you are coming aren't you!?!) and there is lots to do. As a result this blog is a short, but important one.

The government is good with words, and visions. It is learning to say the right things. However, can we be sure that these good words will translate into good actions?

Today a 'prefered option' was released by Transport Scotland (Scottish Government) for a troublesome junction near Aberdeen. The A90/A96 junction. I don't know much about this area and what the problems are, but the document is worth a quick look. You can find it here. It's specifically worth looking at the Exhibition Panels.

Once again cycling is being shoehorned in. In fact looking at the plans it might not even fit cycling in, and if it does, at best it will be shared use paths. It once again proves the government hasn't learned anything.
Also interesting to note (on page 13) that providing for cycling and pedestrians is seen as a
'constraint' and not a major consideration. As detailed on page 12, it's all about reducing driving times, nothing else. Great. Rather than look at ways of reducing travel times by taking cars off the road, change the roads to take more cars. That'll solve it.

So there we have it. Has the government learned anything? Nope. Is cycling taken seriously yet? Nope.

We could just give up of course, but that's what they want. Please, PLEASE PLEASE, come along to POP on Saturday and make your voice heard. We hope that following POP we can move past the visions and produce a proper roadmap to a safer cycling Scotland, but we need your help!

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Our Greatest Battle

Cycling in Scotland has a huge battle on it's hands.

No, this isn't 'War on Britain's Road'. There is no war, as I have discussed on a number of occasions in the past. Yes, there is anger, but the anger is driven by ignorance and most often impatience. Nearly all of the incidents I have encountered from the very first day I sat astride my commuting bike back in 2005 have either been a result of ignorance, impatience or both.

How can you explain to a driver that you need more room, when they haven't felt what it is like to be passed at 30cm by a 40mph car?

How can you explain to a driver that you very rarely are the cause of them being late, and that instead it is the 300 other cars in front of them that are holding them up?

You rarely can, and I know this because I've tried.

I myself was probably ignorant and impatient around cyclists before I became a cyclist myself. I must admit I can't really remember if I drove well or not around cyclists. I suspect I probably didn't. It was only through experiencing first hand of what it is like to be surrounded by 1 tonne steel boxes, that you realise how much care you as a driver must take around them.

So we need more people cycling.

Yes, we do. But the huge battle isn't to convince people to cycle. People do want to cycle, they just don't feel it is safe. I'm sure I'm not the only person who gets a 'ooooh, you wouldn't catch me cycling on the roads....too dangerous...' type of reaction from people when I mention I cycle to work. I've even had several police officers react precisely that way.

So our biggest battle is to make the roads safe?


Making our roads safe is actually pretty straight forward. We don't have to invent anything new, we just have to take advice from cities and countries that have already being making their roads safe. It really isn't rocket science. Of course, making these changes takes money and political will.

Ah, so the biggest battle is convincing the politicians?

Nearly, but not quite.

Once again, there is a simple process to follow. We lobby our politicians, we write to them, we hold demonstrations, we fill in petitions, and we generally make a bit of a nuisance of ourselves. Politicians, despite what you might think, do actually listen to voters. Yes, they have their own agendas, but they also value their jobs. They understand that enough people don't like what they are doing then they are out of a job at the next election. Despite what some people might think, this process does actually work.

Ok! OK!! So what is the greatest battle?

It's the battle for you.


More accurately, it is the battle to convince you, that YOU can make a difference, and that coming along to something like POP is worthwhile.

Over the last few years I've been fortunate to meet many people though campaigning and one thing is obvious among cycle campaigners, we are a very optimistic bunch. We all BELIEVE that we can make a difference. I am absolutely convinced we will eventually make Scotland a cycle friendly nation. Understandably, not everyone is as optimistic as cycle campaigner (could that become a new simile?!).

I've also met people who are quite the opposite and I've been told by some that I really shouldn't bother as nothing will ever change.

This is the battle ground.

Have you read my blogs, or have you looked at the POP website and have you thought...

What's the point in going? Nothing ever changes.

The government never listen.

There's just too much to do, we'll never get there!

If this is what you are thinking about Pedal on Parliament on the 26th April, please, PLEASE, think again. Imagine if you did come. Now imagine if all the other people who thought the same way as you came. Now imagine you added all of those people on to all of the people who were going to go anyway.......

Suddenly 4000, becomes 5000, becomes, 6000.........

POP does make a differenc, but it can ONLY make a difference if you come to support us. Every single person, on a bike or on foot makes a difference.

So I beg you....and yes I've just got down on my knees as I type this.....please make every effort you can to come along to POP.

I know it's not easy to get a bike through to Edinburgh, so instead just come on foot.

I know you could do with getting your hair cut that weekend, but be crazy and let it grow a little more.

I know you really should visit your family, but tell them you'll pop over next week and tell them that you are delaying because you are trying to make Scotland a better place for them.

I know there are probably 100 and 1 different things that you could be doing that Saturday, but this particular one could be the one that really makes a difference.

With you with us in the 26th April, we could start the journey to a safer, fitter, healthier, less polluted, and wealthier Scotland.

Thank you.

Pedal on Parliament: That's Mr Beaumont to you
Richard Cross

Friday 4 April 2014

End the silence


Actually, I'm not entirely sure what I am apologising for. The fact is that many people might have been pleased that I've been.....a little quiet recently. I am a whiny lil sh!t according to some YouTube commentators after all (whatever that means!).

Why have I been quiet?

A number of reasons really. I've certainly been busy. Busy with family and very busy with work. Oh and my home laptop decided to die on me as well, which didn't help. That's not the whole answer though.

The truth is that sometimes doing what I do, helmet camera vloging and cycle campaigning, is hard. It takes a bit out of you when you follow the links in your web statistics and read why some commentators are linking to your site. Sometimes people link here because they agree with me, sometimes because they find my arguments interesting, and sometimes because they disagree with me. That's all perfectly fine and part of healthy debate.

What I'm not always so happy about are the personal insults and the general hate that doing what I do sometimes stirs up.

...a prize prick who is only making things worse for all of us. Dooring is too good for him
 'Magnatom : Fannybaws' is a T Shirt I would definitely buy into.

Yes, I know...the bottom half of the internet is best ignored and 99% of the time I generally do ignore it. Just sometimes, if you've had a tough week for other reasons, coming across people talking about you like that.... just gets to you, especially when these people are cyclists from Glasgow. 

However, every cloud has a silver lining.

...he continues to paint Glasgow as a dangerous place to cycle in. Which is rubbish

The above comment from the same pages stuck in my mind for some reason and it was only a day later when commuting home and I saw a cyclist cycling on the pavement that it became clear to me that the above comment was, whilst not insulting in any way (a difference of opinion which is fine), just didn't make any sense.

If you have 22 minutes to spare you can actually hear me thinking about the logic I use in this post, in this video.

Oh, you don't have a spare 22 minutes?.....Oh, OK, read on......

Why, if the roads aren't dangerous (or perceived to be dangerous) in Glasgow, do people ride on the pavement?

I'm not the first person to come up with this insight, but it's power at that moment (see the video above) wasn't any less because of that. Sometimes an idea just slots into your head and it makes perfect sense. A moment of clarity.

If the roads were truly safe, and felt truly safe, then why would anyone want to cycle on a pavement, where you have to contend with pedestrians, kerbs, uneven surfaces (I think they are worse on the pavement than on the roads!), people walking dogs, lampposts, street signs, etc? Pavements, like everything else, are designed not for people, they are designed to not get in the way of the roads.

Cities are designed around roads, not roads around cities.

Therefore, if you want to cycle the quickest way from A to B then your first choice would be roads. Only very occasionally will a path be quicker than a road. Roads are designed for convenience, yet, many cyclists still chose to cycle on the pavement.


Well, the answer is obvious.

Yet, there are some cyclists who insist, just as the poster above did, that,

The roads are fine. I have no problem on the roads!

Yes Mr Poster but you and I have built up, over a long period of time, skill sets to deal with the conditions that we face on the roads. Even I, 'Magnatom: Fannybaws' took a long time to build up the courage to cycle on some of the roads that I routinely cycle on now, and I'm no shrinking violet. I certainly wouldn't have cycled on the roads on that video above when I first started.

So yes, the poster might be right, the roads might well be fine for him. It might well be fine for him and another 0.9% of the population who are willing to fit in around the motor car in far from ideal conditions.

Congratulations. I applaud you. Seriously.

I used to think like that to, until I had kids. As they grew older and they learned to ride their bikes, I realised that the only way they could ride anywhere except our cul-de-sac, a few quiet local country roads, and a canal path, was if I spent an awful lot of time teaching them the methods I have learned over the years.


Not acceptable.

That is the difference between me and the poster. I've chosen not to accept the status quo. I've chosen not to accept that we have to ride defensively everywhere we go. I've decided that cycling needs to be easy and to feel safe, and I'm sorry, to the overwhelming majority of people, IT DOES NOT!

That's why I ask drivers why they have driven too close to me. That's why I will not accept someone driving a bus too close behind me. Most importantly, that is why I am 100% determined to make our roads safer with the help of the other organisers of Pedal on Parliament and with your help.

Like me or loath me, it doesn't matter. What's not to like about a Scotland that is safe for all people on bikes, not just Lycra 'Fannybaws' warriors like me.

Join me and thousands of others on the 26th April at the Meadows in Edinburgh at 12pm.

Let's end the silence and lets make some noise.