Thousands of cyclists pedal on parliament

Thousands of cyclists have taken part in a large bike ride and rally to campaign for a better and safer cycling network across Scotland.

Sunday, 24th April 2016, 10:32 am
Updated Monday, 25th April 2016, 10:44 am
Thousands of cyclists took part. Pic: Ian Georgeson

The annual Pedal on Parliament (PoP) event, which saw cyclists converge in the sunshine outside the Holyrood building in Edinburgh on Saturday, has been hailed by organisers as the biggest demonstration yet.

Cyclists have also been taking part in a similar event in Aberdeen.

Organisers of the event are calling for 10% of the Scottish Government’s transport budget to be invested in active travel, and they also want to see improved safety and access for cyclists.

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The Edinburgh part of the demonstration was led by a tandem club from Fife that pairs visually-impaired stokers with sighted captains.

They left the Meadows around midday to cycle to the Scottish Parliament to call for an investment boost.

Political party leaders Kezia Dugdale, Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie, as well as Transport Minister Derek Mackay, all took part in the event.

Among those addressing the gathering was Alison Johnstone for the Scottish Greens.

She said: “It’s absolutely fabulous to see such numbers here today. It’s clear the appetite for, and the demand for, safer cycling is growing.

“But isn’t it so frustrating that we’re having to carry on campaigning for what should be obviously invested in?

“I’m grateful that the minister is here today, I think it’s heartening that he’s willing to come along and hear from you, but I would just like to say, ‘Minister, your record-high investment is too low: 1.9% of a £2.2 billion budget being spent on walking and cycling, the most affordable, the most democratic forms of transport we have’.

“Scotland can and Scotland must do better.”

She also called for 20mph zones in all residential streets and announced that her party would invest 10% of the transport budget on cycling and walking.

“Our roads and streets must be safe for all users,” she added.

The mass ride - which saw thousands of cyclists of all ages in brightly coloured clothing taking part - is now in its fifth year.

It has encouraged the Scottish Government to reverse planned cuts and increase investment in infrastructure for safe cycling, organisers say.

The 2016 event was the “busiest by far,” they added.

Mies Knottenbelt, of Lothians cycle campaign group Spokes, said: “Many different kinds of cyclists come together to make it known that cyclists need some space on the roads to be able to cycle safely.

“There are lots of kids here and lots of parents who feel strongly that unless we make the roads a bit safer we can’t cycle.”

One of the PoP organisers, Denise Marshall, said: “PoP is a fun, family-friendly event but with a serious purpose. When PoP started, cycling and active travel were barely on the agenda, with regular cuts to funding.

“Now, the Scottish Government likes to boast that it’s spending record amounts on active travel - whilst cutting funding for local authorities to spend on cycling and walking.

“Without proper investment, cycling will never reach the levels set by the Scottish Government’s own Cycling Action Plan of 10% of journeys by bike.”

The Transport Minister said “record” funding in active travel seen in recent years would be protected by a future SNP government.

Mr Mackay said: “The SNP have put in place record investment in cycling and walking - and if re-elected we will continue to do so over the life of the next Parliament.

“We’re determined to meet our vision of 10% of everyday journeys being made by bike by 2020 - in doing so, we need to explore what more we can do to improve the integration between active and public transport, and to make cycling more appealing to certain groups.”