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


  1. I'd like to give you the reason for my lack of optimism. It's not your numbers, it's the strategy. You can have 20,000 vs 1,000 faces in a crowd and I don't see it making 200x the difference. You can say what you like but the majority of the country is wedded psychologically to the car and all they hear from you is "I'm a freeloader, I don't pay road tax, but I want your road tax to pay for my cycle lanes." And I'm willing to bet the designers of the cycle lanes are the very same people, as evidenced by how poor they are.

    I know this to be true because I'm pretty sure it was you on TV morning news (didn't watch it myself) a while back asking for cycle lanes and a member of my family pretty much expressed the view that basically you don't pay road tax so either shut up and be happy with what you've got, choose quieter roads, or don't cycle. I don't have the energy to argue with my family, I'm too busy cycling places :D.

    You can "educate" people all you like, but seeing as you don't have the money to launch a propaganda campaign it'll be tiny tiny victories. There are a large number of reasons why I believe cycle lanes are for the benefit of everyone but they are long term solutions to problems and the reasoning behind them can be counter-intuitive to the status quo.

    What I think you really need on your side in pedal on parliament is kids. The problem with kids is they're very accepting of whatever the status quo is. But to get the average guy/gal to sit up when he/she watches and tv and think damn we should change something, he/she needs to see kids sitting in the road holding up traffic. And when they ask them why they say, "I just want to cycle to school, my friend X was injured by a car and it's ruined his life." It's much easier to get mad at a 20-something dude on a bike going "we can all save money on fuel etc" vs a kid who just wants to actually experience life.

    If we were the motoring lobby I'm sure we'd be willing to pay for footage like that ;). Let's face it that's one of the reasons everyone is in a car today. The biggest advertisers and propagandists have merely proved advertising works to the detriment of everything and everyone but it makes a ton of money. I think there's strong evidence they crossed a line quite a few times too in pursuit of what we have today. I certainly don't think anyone rips existing and functional tram lines out of a city without a strong push.

  2. @ Harry. You're right, children are so important, and that is something PoP is all about.

    A major reason the Netherlands had a cycling revoluton in the 1970s was because of the Stop de Kindermoord campaign.

    Sure there is a huge amount of ignorance, but don't give up hope. Look at the civil rights movement or woman's suffrage as examples of overcoming ignorance and prejudice.