Yesterday saw We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote reach right into the seat of power in Scotland (or rather an antechamber off to the side of the seat of power) as Suzanne Forup presented a whirlwind update on our campaign to last night’s Cross Party Group on Cycling at Holyrood. She was addressing MSPs Sarah Boyack, Alison Johnstone and Claudia Beamish, as well as representatives from Spokes, Cycling Scotland, Go Bike!, Sustrans, CTC Scotland and Pedal on Parliament. She joined Daisy Narayan of Sustrans talking about the Community Links Plus scheme, Chris Oliver talking about the Sit Less, Get Active online course and Dave de Feu of Spokes on their campaign to get 1% of the current trunk road budget transferred to walking and cycling.
— Cycling Surgeon (@CyclingSurgeon) January 26, 2016
Nor was the information flow all one way: Suzanne’s update was followed by a helpful discussion about how the campaign can engage more widely with people beyond the ‘usual suspects’. The MSPs emphasised the importance of campaigners attending local events and activities not connected to cycling, to spread the #walkcyclevote message outwith our own cycle-friendly circles. They also mentioned collaborating with environmental and social justice organisations to talk about the wider benefits of walking and cycling – to health, the environment and to transport equity. MSPs also urged us to reach out beyond the well-organised campaign networks in Edinburgh and Glasgow to our friends and colleagues elsewhere in Scotland.
This reflects comments we got from MSPs and councillors at the Women’s Cycle Forum: that issues like safer roads and active travel don’t come up at hustings or even much on the doorstep. That risks leaving politicians with the impression that active travel – and especially cycling – is a niche issue, with an active lobby but little wider political impact. It it perhaps telling that only a handful of MSPs ever regularly attend the Cross Party group (Jim Eadie sent his apologies), all those who are already quite committed to the cause.
The good news is, that this means if you want to make sure that walking and cycling are on the agenda for this year’s Holyrood elections, you don’t have to address any parliamentary groups or organise a campaign event. You could simply go to any hustings and raise the issues that matter to you – whether it’s drivers speeding past you on the school run, or a lack of safe cycle routes to the shops, or pavement parking blocking your buggy or wheelchair, or pollution from heavy traffic affecting your health. Or even easier, simply answer the door when the politicians come knocking, or go and talk to them if they are out campaigning in your high street this election instead of hurrying past averting your eyes. Or just tweet at them and let them know directly what concerns you. Invite them along to see the issues for themselves – or simply come and join us all at Pedal on Parliament so they can see how wide an issue active travel is. You may be surprised at how responsive they can be.