On Saturday (April 22, 2017) I’ll be joining Inverness’s first Pedal on Parliament event, calling on politicians at Highland Council and in the Scottish Government to fund cycling and design our streets to make the city a safer, healthier and happier place to live and work.
The benefits of cycling are well documented – both for the cyclists in terms of health and for the wider community by cutting congestion, improving air quality and, in the longer term, saving money for the NHS.
Yet it has not been taken seriously as a transport option for too long. We are starting to see signs of change in the Highlands, with the council bidding to build the city’s first segregated cycle road as part of a Sustrans-backed and Scottish Government-funded Community Links project.
But schemes like this should not need to be subject to competitions between councils across the country – they should be part and parcel of the wider transport investment.
That’s why Pedal on Parliament is calling on funding to match the ambition of the Scottish Government, which wants to see 10 per cent of all journeys in Scotland made by bike by 2020. That’s less than three years away, yet investment in active travel – for cycling and walking – only reaches around 1.9 per cent of the overall transport budget.
There are many reasons people do not cycle regularly, and the fact is that safety is among the main considerations. Despite evidence to the contrary, it is perceived as risky.
We want to make cycling feel safe in Inverness and around Scotland, so that those who wouldn’t cycle today will be able to roam around the city on a connected network of safe, pleasant cycling routes – whether they are three years old or 93.
Holland is often cited as the Mecca for cycle infrastructure, and it is true that there are some wonderful examples of what a real cycle network can be, and what it can achieve.
It is not impossible to make this happen here, and really make Scotland a cycle-friendly country. In Inverness we already have relatively high levels of cycling but we are still a long way off the 10 per cent goal.
Tomorrow’s event is about saying to our elected representatives – and those we are about to elect on May 4 – that we want cycling to be high on the agenda because it will make our city a better place for everyone, not least for children.
The Pedal on Parliament ride begins at Bellfield Park in Inverness, meeting at 11.15am for an 11.30am start, and will travel to Highland Council headquarters on Glenurquhart Road. Over the weekend there are also PoP rides in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
For more information, visit pedalonparliament.org