Thursday 23 October 2014

My Anger to Action Letter

Following on from my blog yesterday, I have turned my anger into action. The letter I sent is below. Please send a letter to your MSP. It does make a difference.

Dear Fiona McLeod,

Unfortunately I am writing to in an angry state of mind. The reasons I am angry are two-fold. Firstly I was shocked to hear yesterday about the following case (, of a lady who was knocked off her bike and killed. Only recently has this case came to court. The driver has been found guilty of death by careless driving. As I describe here in my latest blog ( this is terrible outcome.

It is absolutely preposterous that a driver who hits a cyclist, who is cycling entirely legitimately,  on a straight road, in good conditions, who was visible for at least 250m isn't charged with death by dangerous driving. How can driving like this only be designated to 'fall below' and not to 'fall far below.....what would be expected of a competent and careful driver'?

I understand that this particular case is outside your own constituency and that you cannot interfere with due process, however, with many, similar cases occurring every year, where the procurator fiscal decides to only prosecute on the lower charge, this is an issue that I think the Scottish government needs to look at with some urgency. As a cyclist myself who on a regular basis faces bad and often dangerous driving, I worry that the law offers scant protection for myself and other vulnerable road users. I urge you to write to the Kenny MacAskill to investigate this issue as soon as possible.

The second issue that has made me angry is the issue of funding for active travel and cycling infrastructure. As part of the recent budget announcement John Swinney stood up at parliament and told us that an extra £10m had be found for active travel for the next financial year. Whilst any announcement of new money is usually to be welcomed, that is only the case if it improves our position from where we are now. Unfortunately it does not. In fact as Spokes of Edinburgh have discovered ( £5m of the newly announced funding was not new at all and will be spent on 'behavioural changes' and the other £5m is Financial Transaction money and so, once again, cannot be spent on infrastructure. This compounds the overall situation such that in financial year 15-16 active travel will see a £4m actual drop in funding from 14-15.

At the start of the independence campaign I was quite a firm 'No' supporter. In the end I voted 'Yes'. I, like many other Scots who voted 'Yes', did so because of our belief in social justice, and in a better and different future for Scotland, one that could be healthier, less polluted, less congested and at the same time wealthier. However, with the recent budget demonstrating a drop in active travel funding at the same time as the trunk road budget is increasing from £639m to £695m, I have serious doubts about whether such a future is a possibility under its current governance. I know many people who have joined the membership ranks of the SNP recently who will feel the same.

Spending small amounts of money on campaigns asking us all to be nice to each other, does not make a difference and will not encourage me or anyone else to take their children cycling on the roads. Roads should be for everyone, not just everyone who drives a car.

Please can I ask you to lobby your fellow ministers to not only look at the issue with the justice system, but to also look at a significant step change in active travel funding. Without it, there is absolutely no chance of you reaching your governments 10% cycling modal share target (aspiration?) by 2020. Absolutely no chance.

Best regards

David Brennan


  1. I feel like every cycle campaigner massively underestimates how psychologically wedded adults are to their cars. London has had some successes with cycle campaigning but it took a lot of deaths to get there (about the only thing people seem to notice are highly graphic deaths where people's skulls explode under lorry tyres, and they can still rationalise that away), and still they lay down more roads for cars, time the lights for cars and produce infrastructure which sometimes outright kills more cyclists.

    It justs feels like all these campaigns are ultimately intended to reach traffic engineers, and those traffic engineers are mid 30's who just saved up for a nice car have never been poor, homeless, aren't old yet (and they think they'll still be able to afford fuel on their pension when they need it), and they've forgotten being a kid. They probably ferry their own kids everywhere and don't think of the impacts it may have on them. It's also been very untrendy to promote protection of the environment, just try it and notice how quick you get called a hippy. No doubt we'll ultimately screw ourselves by our collective blindness but I'll overlook that.

    I may be totally wrong and all the above is just my observations but I feel like cycle campaigners need to choose a better target. The Netherlands is the only country with decent infrastructure and it's also the only country that campaigned around kids. I think either that must be the 100% focus or cyclist campaigners need to train to become traffic engineers en masse, or campaign to include some well written piece as compulsory reading material for up and coming engineers.

    You've got to see the issue from traffic engineers point of view, they're afraid to ruffle too many feathers because they don't want to be responsible for damaging the economy. You need some seriously good reference studies at your disposal to start limiting car & truck traffic flow in favour of bikes, because the way our current society is set up the traffic is a fundamental part of our economy. It's estimated that traffic jams cost some $x billion or whatever number the government makes up, so I doubt you'd feel comfortable as an engineer purposely limiting non bicycle traffic flow.

    Traffic engineers do need to be told they can't build cycle infrastructure that doesn't meet x standards as a bottom line. Either build it to that standard or roll the money over year on year. That's another way I could see progress happening, albeit slowly, if they weren't under constant pressure to spend the money inside a year on whatever ridiculous scheme a bunch of car obsessed folks dream up in their meetings.

    I'd get behind a campaign if I believed it had some chance of long term success, but I recently saw a newspaper clipping from 1998 about the bicycle revolution that was taking over Britain.

  2. David, I admire your persistence. If Fiona Mcleod really thinks she has answered your questions then it seriously calls into question the calibre of our MSPs. She has totally missed the main points of your letter.

    I think however that your first letter to her, well written as it was, did not ask specific enough questions to generate specific responses. I think you should try again, sticking to the main points of your first letter.

    I will be writing to my own MSP to raise the following points, with a bit more background and with links to this blog.

    1. Justice system – inadequate charges and sentencing : does she agree that in the example you provided the charge was correct and the sentence adequately reflected the severity of the offence? Will she lobby Kenny MacAskill to investigate this issue and take steps to improve the protection provided by the justice system to vulnerable road users?
    2. Funding for active travel is actually declining (out of a transport budget of several billions) in spite of recent research demonstrating a return to the economy of between 2 and 5 times on spending on active travel. Does she understand the case for increasing spending on active travel and will she follow this up with colleagues responsible for transport spending?