The bicycle army is growing. The third annual “Pedal on Parliament” attracted its biggest turnout ever on Saturday. About 4,500 cyclists gathered at the Meadows and rode in a colourful, bell-ringing convoy down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament to call for “safer cycling” and a larger share of the transport budget.
There were tiny children on chunky little bikes, Dads with children on tandems, Mums in bright jackets, middle aged men on folding bikes, old men on recliners, lycra-clad teams on racing bikes, commuters on sensible town-bikes and one gentleman on a penny-farthing.
Outside the parliament there were speeches calling for more funding for cycling, separate cycling lanes, more safety awareness campaigns and presumed liability for vehicle drivers in all accidents.
The mass-cycle began with a minute’s silence for those who have been killed in cycling accidents across Scotland – 12 were killed last year and another 4 so far this year.
Politicians from all parties spoke warmly in favour of cycling, though only 1.3 per cent of journeys are undertaken by bicycle at the moment making the government’s target of 10 per by 2020 look challenging.
The transport minister Keith Brown told the crowd the government was spending over £40m a year on cycling infrastructure and he had just announced the biggest grant so far to Cycling Scotland, £4.5m for cycle training programmes. Currently 1.1 per cent of the transport budget is spent on cycling, though that is planned to increase to 1.5 per cent next year.
He called on local authorities to make cycling more of a priority. He praised Edinburgh Council for planning to spend up to 7 per cent of its transport budget on cycling. “We need to see more local authorities across the country doing the same,” he said. There was a cheer and much bell-ringing, but the minister didn’t respond with a promise to spent 7 per cent of his budget on cycling. So it looks like there will be another pedal on parliament next year.