So I learned yesterday that 350 people on bikes and on foot on a rawish January Wednesday lunchtime is enough to winkle a transport minister out of his office … but not really enough to make him change his mind. From what I could hear of Keith Brown’s response it was along the lines of ‘well it’s nice to see lots of people passionate about their little single issue, and we’d love to give you more money but we grown up politicians have to make difficult decisions and besides those bastards at Westminster have cut our funding but never mind there’s lots of other sources of money that may help encourage cycling (if we’re not squandering it all on electric cars) if you don’t mind a pig in a poke and besides, you never know, the councils may step into the breach…’ (I may have paraphrased a little).
So was it a waste of time? Well, the BBC covered it reasonably well, these things have to start small, and if what’s going on in London is anything to go by they can grow until they’re unignorable. As with so many of these things, aside from posing for the cheesy photos (‘can everyone hold their helmet up in the air please’ … er…), most people spent their time catching up with other bikey people and meeting new ones. It’s out of that kind of networking that real movements can grow up, if people are angry enough. Watch this space.
The other thing I learned yesterday was as I stood outside Laid Back Bikes in Marchmont Crescent, waiting to mount my lovely borrowed Paper Bike (more on this tomorrow) to ride it down to the demonstration. A car roared past, there was a shout and an egg came flying past to break against the glass of the shop window – missing me, fortunately, as I was in my grey wool cycle chic coat, not my everything-bar-the-apocalypse jacket. Now Laid Back Bikes, as its name suggests, specialises mainly in recumbents, the Paper Bike being a bit of a new direction. I knew that some people find recumbents and their wee flags a little odd, but I didn’t realise the hostility had grown to the point of drive-by eggings. And in Edinburgh, too! What would they do to them in Glasgow?
Oh, and if anyone’s wondering, there were no Socialist Worker placards, although there were some lovely pre-prepared ones for the disorganised all the same. It looks like the end times really are upon us…