Last week more than a dozen D&G cyclists joined an estimated 4,000 cyclists to gather in Edinburgh and pedal on the Scottish Parliament in support of the Pedal on Parliament cycling manifesto. We’d hoped to have a bigger photo – but such was the crowd at the parliament building that, despite Rhian’s cunningly designed Belted Galloway, we weren’t able to all find each other in the throng. Nor were we able to meet up with on of our MSPs, Claudia Beamish, as she was recovering from flu, although she has been fully supportive of the event.
Holyrood and Edinburgh might seem a long way away from Dumfries, both literally and actually. Most of the roads we cycle on around here are built and maintained by the council – so why did people take the time and effort (Paul Buxton actually cycled all the way from Moffat – in the pouring rain – on Saturday. Chapeau!) to attend?
The POP manifesto in brief has 8 points:
1) Proper funding for cycling.
2) Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
3) Safer speeds where people live, work and play
4) Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
5) Sensible road traffic law and enforcement
6) Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
7) A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
8) Solid research on cycling to support policy-making
We believe these are as important for cyclists in our corner of Scotland as those on Edinburgh’s roads, perhaps more so. Where you’ve got a council that essentially doesn’t ‘get’ cycling, having real leadership nationally will do more than in places like Edinburgh where cycling is a key part of the council’s strategy.
For instance, Edinburgh council has already pledged to spend a rising percentage of its transport budget on cycling – from 5% to 10% over the next few years – including on maintenance (which means their cycle paths get cleared and gritted in the winter, compared to the skating rinks we have to cope with. In contrast, the council here only spends money on cycling infrastructure if it’s part of a national programme – such as the Smarter Choices towns – or if it’s got match funding from schemes like the Sustrans Connect2 funding (and even then it comes out of the ringfenced Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets money). So the more funding there is nationally, the more investment we’ll see in Dumfries. National design standards will also see an end to some of the mad cycle paths we’ve got, like the shared pavement on Hardthorn Road that jumps from one side of the road to the other halfway along. Lower speeds – not just in towns, but on rural unclassified roads – will do a lot to make cycling AND walking safer, and so on.
Of course pedalling on parliament alone is not enough. Last year we invited our council candidates to cycle with us in the town to see some of the problems we encounter daily at first hand, and we think it opened a few eyes. We’ll need to consider how best to keep the pressure up on both our local and our national politicians – and keep up the campaigning momentum. Any suggestions?