Why my family will be pedalling on Parliament

On 26 April you’ll find us on the Meadows in Edinburgh with thousands of others, demonstrating to our politicians that we want to live in a cycle-friendly country.

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We aren’t ‘fanatics’ and many of us will have little in common apart from our chosen mode of transport. There will be lycra and helmets, but there will also be flowery dresses, jeans, bicycle baskets and baby trailers (and babies). Quite a few people won’t even have a bike, as Pedal on Parliament is promoting the needs of pedestrians too.

The Pedal on Parliament committee have a detailed manifesto where you can find some sensible arguments about what needs to be done and why. But here is why you’ll find my family in the Meadows on 26 April:

Cycling – it’s good for everyone, even if you don’t cycle yourself.

Cycling is awesome!* It reduces congestion and pollution, it helps you maintain a healthy weight and improves your mental health. It makes you more effective at school, and reduces days off on sick leave. It can bring you freedom, it can even bring you love.

*cycling can also make you follow Americans on Twitter, which can lead to vocabulary irregularities..

Cycling – we can’t afford not to do it

In Scotland teenage girls have frighteningly low levels of physical activity, and apparently ‘overweight’ is becoming the new ‘normal’. Obesity could cost the NHS in Scotland £3 billion by 2030; I’m sure everyone can think of something better we could do with that money. In human terms, that’s 200 lives that are lost each year and families that are unnecessarily bereaved.

If we want to be more Nordic, we need to make some Nordic choices

I’m delighted that, for once in my life, I was ahead of a trend. I fell in love with Denmark over 15 years ago when I fell in love with a Dane. It’s evident that the Danes know something about getting people on bikes (they also think they know everything else, but that’s a different matter) and last summer we cycled round Copenhagen to try out how it feels in cycletopia.

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But cycling in Denmark isn’t restricted to the cities. These are my nieces just outside their house, about an hour or so from Copenhagen.

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They choose to cycle because it’s easy, safe and normal. These two beautiful teenage girls travel actively because they have a network of protected cycle lanes that keep them separate from motorised traffic. And where there aren’t protected lanes they share the roads with motorists who also have children that cycle regularly, and are probably regular bike users themselves.

I want my son to have the same freedom as his cousins. I want him to be able to cycle safety to school, to see his friends, to the woods and beyond. But I’m faced with large trucks and no separate cycle path outside our house so I know I’ll be reluctant to let him cycle onto it alone.

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Cycling should mean life, not loss

I don’t want to see any more of these.

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These sombre white bicycles each represent a cyclist that has been killed on their bike. They fill me with sorrow, as I know each one represents a grieving family that will be struggling with a loss that had probably been labelled as ‘an accident’. Overall cycling is as safe as walking, mile for mile, apparently. But it often doesn’t feel like that when you have a lorry brushing past you on Princes Street. I can’t protect my son from everything, but I don’t want him to lose his mother because I don’t have protected space on the road when I’m just trying to get to work.

For me, cycling is like love – it’s worth it despite the risks.

If you are a cyclist, or if you love one, please join us on 26 April.

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