There’s nothing like writing to your elected representative to give you that sneaking sensation that you’re stepping over some crucial line – somewhere between nipping down to the shops in your slippers and finding yourself standing on Oxford Street with a placard declaiming the perils of eating protein. Despite this, I still do it, although I refrain from doing so in green ink, partly because it’s hard to get that in an email. Everything that I hear from politicians is that it is an effective way of getting through to them (of course they may just be saying that, to prevent you from turning up to make your point in person, with or without your placard or, indeed, your slippers) although I suspect that the law of diminishing returns kicks in quite early. Accordingly, I limit the number of visits I make to Write to Them to about once a week* and stick to things I feel most strongly about, which (none of you will be surprised to hear) is mainly about cycling.
This week, with much fanfare, the Scottish Government announced an extra £6 million to be spent on cycling over two years (while sort of not really mentioning the extra £35 million it was spending on trunk roads and motorways). As I have said elsewhere, this is just crumbs from the table. Pedal on Parliament will clearly need to pedal on parliament again next year, but for now we’re restricting ourselves to urging folk to write to their MSPs. And I thought I’d better lead from the front on this one:
You may remember that I wrote to you before, prior to the mass Pedal on Parliament protest, asking you to sign up to the PoP manifesto for safer cycling (which can be found here http://pedalonparliament.org/the-manifesto/). Since our protest, although we have had plenty of warm words from politicians on the importance of cycling – including from the Minister, Keith Brown – but the recent draft budget suggests that the message about the importance of cycling as a means of transport is not getting through. I was disappointed to hear that cycling had been offered only an extra £6 million – spread over two years – out of an overall rise in the budget of over £100 million. At the recent committee hearing into cycling and the budget, every witness agreed that without a significant change to the budget, then there is no chance of the government meeting its own target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020. They agreed that 10% of transport spending should be on active travel, rather than the less than 1% there is today.
I know that some of you are cyclists yourselves, and generally sympathetic to the idea of cycling, so I hope that you will press for this draft budget to be radically modified. However, whether cyclists or not, improving spending on active travel, especially cycling, should be a priority for all Scottish politicians. As the Pedal on Parliament submission to the recent transport and infrastructure committee shows (http://pedalonparliament.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Transport_and_Infrastructure_committee_final.pdf) investment in cycling offers far higher returns than other transport spending, and pound for pound is likely to create more jobs. As well as improving the economy and improving health, it is necessary to help meet the government’s climate change targets. The benefits are enormous and the cost, compared to building a motorway or a massive trunk road upgrade, is minimal. I can’t understand why politicians aren’t falling over themselves to invest in this way.
Thank you for your attention. I hope you will read the documents I have linked to as they provide a lot more detailed evidence than I can fit into an email. I hope too that you will be able to bring your influence to bear to make sure this budget doesn’t throw away Scotland’s last chance to put cycling at the heart of its transport policy.
Yours sincerely, etc. etc.
I’d urge anyone who’s interested in the future of cycling in Scotland (or just wants to see the country be richer, healthier, and a tad slimmer) to do the same, although obviously you should use your own words.
Oh, and I’m now officially an ‘elected’ representative myself, aka ‘the lowest form of political life’ – a member of the community council. I may be fielding green ink letters of my own shortly…
* just kidding! It’s more like once a year. ish. Well, I mean unless it’s really pressing…