Monday 15 December 2014

Losing and Regaining Faith

It's been a while, hasn't it?

What you haven't noticed!?

Yes, its been just over a month since I last posted a blog and even then, that blog was not my own words, but the words of Frank MacAveety. It's not like me to stop posting blogs, I normally have plenty to say, and if I'm honest, I haven't actually ran out of things to say.

So why the silence?

Good question. I certainly have been busy over the last month. There are things going on at work that are keeping me busy, I've been busy spending time and doing stuff with my wife and kids, I've had bits and pieces on my bikes that have needed fixed, I've had to look for tiles for a new bathroom....blah, blah blah...

Yes, I've been busy and I've managed to find many excuses for not writing. Each time I considered writing something I had an excuse not to.....or so I thought.

It's was only now, with things quieting down a little bit as the year draws to a close, that I realised that even when I had time in an evening to put down some words, I wasn't. I started to wonder more deeply why that was. Then a couple of days ago I realised what had happened.

I'd lost faith.

Anyone who has read my blog over the years will know I'm not the quiet and unassuming type. In fact my blogs can often come across as angry/passionate/frustrated and perhaps a little shouty. This style of writing/campaigning doesn't though, actually reflect my personal attitude to life and to cycle campaigning.

To be a cycle campaigner you have to be optimistic. 

I am at heart an optimistic person, and that is exactly why I got involved in campaigning. I got involved because I saw a problem, I realised there was a solution and.....and this is the important part....I felt that with the right amount of pressure things could change. I believed that logic, sense, and ethics would win the day, and that the government and councils would see fit to invest in active travel.

Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't wearing rose tinted specs, and I knew that change took time, but I felt that progress, even if slow could be made.

Unfortunately a few things happened recently that shook my faith. It felt that things were moving backwards rather than forwards.

The first was my discussions with my local MSP. I laid a case before her, backed it up with hard facts and figures and asked that she take this information to he superiors. It was dismissed outright. When I questioned this, I was dismissed once again, this time in one line. I certainly didn't and don't take these things personally, and that was not the issue. The issue was that this particular MSP has in the past suggested that she was cycling friendly, and had even become a member of the All Party Cycling Group in Holyrood.

She has never attended any of those meetings.

How could she get away with such dismissals? Well, she is an SNP MSP, and the SNP are now riding on the crest of the 'post independence vote' wave. What does she have to fear from some irritating local cyclist?! Seriously!?!?

Then I got this letter from Frank which was a follow on from the Cycle Friendly Glasgow Petition and from the resulting meeting. It's a letter that says, well, it says......hmmm....nothing really. It says, yeah we get it, cycling's good 'n stuff, and yeah we should be doing more.....and we will think about that and we might consider doing stuff and some later date...perhaps...maybe.....but it was good to meet you, really it was.

It was....bleh.

Unfortunately.....bleh.... was the last thing that we needed after the meeting I had had with them. At that meeting it was stated that Glasgow would not set aside any money to invest in active travel, that it was impossible, and that ....and this is what Alistair Watson actually said.....

'we will not be setting aside money for cycling whilst I am here'.

This was the same meeting where the cycling officers admitted that they couldn't plan ahead properly or run consultations because there was no funding, and thus no ongoing planning for future projects. They did stuff piecemeal and in reaction to small pots of cash becoming available. Cycling infrastructure had to be planned and implemented in a rush.

But!!!! Glasgow has spent more on cycling than Edinburgh....said Frank!

Ohh....pi$$ off!!

Glasgow really could look like this!

The truth is that Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games. Glasgow should have been shoveling in huge amounts of investment in the health and well-being of its citizens as part of the 'legacy'. The truth is for a couple of years it beat Edinburgh, a bit....oh and big chuck of the money spent wasn't even Glasgow's money at all. Don't get me wrong, in the odd place here and there Glasgow is improving things but there is no coherent plan, there is no commitment to ongoing funding, and there no political will to bring about change.

Glasgow shouldn't be extolling its virtues, it should be embarrassed!

The camels back was finally broken by the straw....or something like that....

I didn't realise it but having fought these two battles and to a great extent lost them, I felt deflated and defeated. Sure I wasn't expecting an instant agreement for 5% transport budget spending, but in both cases to make no progress at all and to feel like things were moving backwards......what was the point?!

I'd lost faith.

I'm back though, did I have an epiphany?!

Not really. Just like progress in cycle campaigning, my faith in a Glasgow and Scotland that can be cycling friendly has returned, slowly. I wish there had been some wonderful moment, perhaps cycling to work, seeing a mother and her children cycling happily to school, demonstrating that there is demand for safe cycling, rekindled my fire......but that didn't happen. Not many mothers cycle with their kids to school in Glasgow and I don't blame them.

No. I think just letting the frustration wash over me for a wee while has just allowed my energy levels to rise again. I think I've just come to terms with quite how big the mountain is to climb and how much work.....and that is combined work with many other like mind campaigners... it will take to move forward.

I'm just one of many people working towards better conditions for cycling and walking, but we do need more people and more noise to be made. I have some ideas about things that can be done, and I'll keep pushing in any way I can, but I need your help to.

If you have something to say, write a blog. If you want safer cycling, tell your MSP. If you think roads should be for all, and not just those in a car, tell your councillors. Most importantly of all, follow, spread the word and come along to Pedal on Parliament 2015.

My loss of faith was only a temporary blip. I feel reinvigorated by it. I am more determined than ever to do whatever I can to push for change, and if you join us, we CAN make it happen.


  1. It is tough being someone paid to design stuff, so how campaigners do it I don't know. Little wins keep us all going!

  2. It's tough sometimes, especially with a government that simply doesn't give a damn and actively blocks you.

    But there's nothing wrong with being cynical. If anything, it can help you see the truth clearly. Use it to be brutally honest, and call out the authorities for what they are!

    But most of all, even if you feel you're having no effect on those in power, you do have an effect on the people who read your blog. We're all part of a bigger movement, pushing a concept which really is pretty alien to the UK.