Over the past year we have witnessed an escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria and the plight of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers has reminded us that for many families, fleeing their home is the only way to protect themselves.
Many of them have arrived here in Scotland and communities, charities and councils are all doing valuable work making them feel welcome. But they are also doing things for themselves.
Cycling is a relatively cheap and easy way of getting around the city and so I was inspired to learn of the Bikes for Refugees project which provides bicycles to refugees to help them get around and use local services. Volunteers work alongside refugees to service bikes and learn basic cycle maintenance.
I am delighted that this fantastic scheme is growing in popularity, and that the charity is keen to expand its operations in Edinburgh by opening a workshop here to match its facility in Glasgow. So if you know premises that could accommodate this worthwhile project then please get in touch with Bikes for Refugees or, if you have an old bike, donate it to Bikes for Refugees (Scotland) this Saturday at Bridge 8 Hub, Calder Crescent, from 12.30-1.30 pm.
As an efficient form of transport too, cycling is by far the best way to get around the city but much more needs to be done to improve infrastructure and encourage more people to get on a bike.
Where cycling is more attractive, congestion and pollution levels decrease. Here in Edinburgh, at the Royal Infirmary, Professor David Newby has proven the links between heart disease and air pollution and identified air pollution as one of the top avoidable causes of death in Scotland.
That’s why the decision being taken this week by the council on the Roseburn section of the cross-city cycle route is so important. There has been much controversy over the route choices here and a lot of misplaced fears have been put forward. But I hope councillors recognise the importance of prioritising cycling infrastructure and the health and environmental benefits that it can deliver. These benefits are proven in many cities across Europe.
If councillors take the brave decision to pursue Option A, then Edinburgh will take a significant step towards being a city that can be enjoyed by residents, visitors and, with your help, refugees and asylum-seekers.
Andy Wightman is a Scottish Green MSP for Lothian