Look at the Innertube map and you’ll see that most of the paths seem to lead towards the Meadows, which has always been Ground Zero for cycling in Edinburgh. This Sunday gone, Middle Meadow Walk became Ground Zero for cycling in Scotland when 4,000 cyclists converged for the second Pedal on Parliament – a mass show of strength demanding action from the Scottish Government to support cycling as a means of transport via a proper share of the transport budget, and proper, joined-up policies for cycling infrastructure, promotion and support.
The numbers themselves were striking – 4,000 people from all walks of life, of all ages and from all over Scotland. Not that long ago, we would have been hard pushed to get a fraction of that number – and whilst in the past the demands were for measures to increase the numbers of cyclists, now the demands are for spending and action that matches the fact that significant number of people now already travel by bike, and that things need to reflect this reality. This is especially the case in Edinburgh, where on some streets over ten percent of vehicles are bicycles.
If you were on any of the off-street paths on Sunday, in amongst the Kiltwalkers (out walking to raise money for CHAS) you will have seen groups and individuals all headed towards the Meadows. But what struck many on the feeder ride from Fiveways was that we were far outnumbered by the sheer number of cyclists not going to POP2 – in other words, even with 4,000 cyclists coverging on the Meadows, there were still plenty left over to fill the cycle paths: further evidence of the place that cycling now plays in the lives of many.
The event was a celebration of cycling, and a fantastic experience, but few forgot that beneath the sheer joy of being surrounded by so many fellow cyclists was the memory that we were also there to remember those who have lost their lives on our roads. As their families told us, they would have been at the event had they been able to. Pedal on Parliament had a serious message.
There were many fine words spoken at the rally outside Holyrood, including from the environment minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, but what is needed is for a sea-change in the planning approach to cycling – proper, dedicated and comprehensive cycle infrastructure so that cycling everywhere is as easy, safe and convenient as it is in growing numbers of European countries.