Bike bells ring out in Edinburgh
If organisers were worried the second Pedal on Parliament would fail to live up to the hype of last year’s the crowd that stretched round the Meadows in Edinburgh would be enough to reassure them.
Official estimates varied from 2,500 to as much as 4,000, as cyclists young and old gathered from the four corners of Scotland to descend on parliament demanding an eight-point manifesto on how to make cycling safer and easier.
Carnival atmosphere it may have been, but there was a serious message behind it, with a minute silence among the cyclists taking part in memory of those who have been killed on the roads, before a minutes ringing of bike bells heralded the start of the short journey to the Royal Mile and then Holyrood itself.
Last year’s event, the 3,000 or so cyclists took everyone by surprise – but this year roads had been closed in advance and there was a steady stream of luminous yellow as cyclists freewheeled down the cobbled streets – watched on by police who were manning the event from their own mountain bikes.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse was one of the speakers and was there to accept the manifesto on behalf of the Scottish Government – but the crowd were in no mood for platitudes – heckling him as he set out what the government is doing to encourage Active Transport, refreshing its Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and investment in cycle routes.
The manifesto has called for more funding for cycling – a minimum spend of 5 per cent of the annual transport budget or £100m – and lower speed limits on the road.
Perhaps the most moving comment was from Lynne McNicoll, whose stepson Andrew was killed after a cycling incident in Edinburgh and who set up the Andrew Cyclist Charitable Trust with her husband Ian in his memory.
She said: “I was looking around the crowd. There are the serious lycra-clad cyclists, there are the middle-aged ladies a bit like me who could do with a bit more exercise. there are the mum taking their kids to school and the dad, doing the same thing, people who just want to cycle out for a pint of milk and the papers, who want to use their car less, saving money and the planet at the same time – there’s so many of you here it’s fantastic.
“But there’s one face in this crowd who I’m not seeing, who I want to see and who I’ll never see again. He would have been here and he would’ve been proud of what we’re trying to do and that is my step son Andrew.”
She added: “I want to get out on my bike and cycle the roads, but the state of these roads is absolutely appalling It’s just not safe enough for people like me.”