Ask a Busy Woman*

March 12, 2017

Finally, after a week in which I’ve almost had to schedule every waking hour to get everything done, I have managed to hit my last deadline, and now only have a small three-city mass bike demonstration to organise plus another active travel campaign for the local elections and the small matter of everything that’s been piling up while I’ve been too busy to do it.

Pedal on Parliament

BTW we’re crowdfunding POP this year, in case you missed it on Facebook, Twitter, my emails … click picture for more details

This has meant compressing the whole of potato day into half an hour (a post in itself), not nearly enough cycling, and spending six hours on various trains on Friday working solidly on my laptop as some of Scotland’s finest scenery passed unnoticed beside me. I was putting the final finishing touches to a piece of editing as the train pulled in to Inverness, and then it was only a small matter of getting a response in to the minister’s Active Travel Task Force about why local authorities might not be putting in ambitious cycling infrastructure (am I the only person who’s a little disappointed that this doesn’t seem to involve nearly enough gunboats? Sometimes talking softly and carrying a big stick is the way to go when it comes to some coonsils. Still, hard to get a battleship right up to East Dunbartonshire, I suppose).

scenery from the train

It’s a mug’s game trying to take photographs through the train window.

As I got back on the train again yesterday, I discovered that the Glasgow train doesn’t seem to come with power sockets, meaning all my plans for another productive session on the laptop came to naught. Fortunately, by then there was only the small matter of a crowdfunding campaign to launch – and there were others who were perfectly capable of getting everything done in my absence. It was no bad thing, in the end, to be forced to spend a few hours actually appreciating the scenery, and reading the weekend papers. Luxury.

Inverness – what little I managed to see of it – seemed really nice. One day I will return and check it out properly. Apart from anything else, it’s full of bikes…

Inverness bikes

* If she’d like to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and a biscuit, while you do one of the million things she’s taken on because people keep asking her to do them because she’s a busy woman who gets things done. It’s really the least you can do.

A Vision Thing

February 17, 2017

Fog ahead

On a foggy cycle ride back from my second Coonsil meeting in two days, I was feeling the usual frustration: they’re planning some route changes which will be an improvement on what is there now, but still nothing like what they could be. The problem is that bikes are squeezed to the margins: once the cars have got all the space they need, then if there’s anything left over, the cyclists can have what’s left. I do understand that the coonsil are constrained by the realities of Bigtown life – even reprioritising a single road is causing people to be up in arms because it will be slightly harder for them to turn right even though it means the road they live on will see slightly less traffic (personally I’d close the road to traffic at one end to make it a lovely quiet bikeable street – after all if they’re going to be incandescent at a priority change, they can’t actually get any crosser, so might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb and create a route worth detouring for, seeing as that is what the bikes are going to have to do anyway. This is undoubtedly why I’m not running the coonsil in Bigtown)

Anyway, I got home to find that we had the dates confirmed for not one but three Pedal on Parliament rides this year (or should that be Pedals on Parliaments?). This time, we’re targeting the local elections (so yes, technically, they’re Pedals on Councils) in the hope that, at least in some parts of Scotland, cycle campaigners don’t have to keep banging on and on and on just to get a slightly more sensibly positioned crossing – but can actually start to work towards the sort of wide, smooth, safe, joined up routes that would make a real difference. It will be a long time before that trickles down to Bigtown, perhaps, but it will come. I hope.

Meanwhile mark your diaries for the 22nd April (Edinburgh or Aberdeen) or the 23rd (Glasgow) and help to bring about that change. Bring a bike and a banner and all of your friends. It won’t make the wider world much less of a scary place, but it could at least make Scotland a little bit more cycle friendly. And we need all the good news we can get, these days.

101 Uses for a Brompton: Giving evidence

February 9, 2017

Brompton at Parliament

“Brompton bike, Brompton bike, where have you been?”

“I’ve been to London Edinburgh to visit the Queen Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee”

“Brompton bike, Brompton bike, what did you there?*”

“Banged on about bikes as much as I could to try and counter the narrative that electric cars would save us all, mostly”

Possibly, catching mice would have been as effective, but I tried. The evidence we submitted is here, if you’re a real glutton for punishment.

*Oh okay, the Brompton just stayed outside while I gave evidence. But it did it in style

We Came, We PoPped, I’m Pooped

April 23, 2016

What you want words? How about some tweets instead (the ultimate in lazy blogging, I know)

The problem is, I never get a chance to look around and actually take it in on the day, I’m just too busy and too worried and then when the speeches start I’m crouched under a banner so I can see the screen of the laptop trying to extract actual sentences out of a politicians’ speech for the press release.

The Pedal on Parliament media centre at work

But here is the assembled crowd cheering as the last riders arrived at the Parliament building – 50 minutes after the first ones set off.

POP CheerAnd for those of you who don’t give a stuff about cycling or campaigning – the end is in sight. We’ll be back to gardening and swallows and imprecations towards the weather gods soon …


It Begins. Again

February 8, 2016

Actually it began a while back, but there’s nothing like getting a large box full of flyers and posters to make Pedal on Parliament (now in its fifth incarnation…) feel like it’s way too close for comfort … and there’s way too much to be done

On the plus side, those posters and flyers aren’t going to distribute themselves, and this might be the excuse I need to get out and about on my bike beyond my usual haunts, weather gods and named storms permitting

Anybody fancy giving me a hand? We can use all the help we can get.

Pedal on Parliament poster

And you have to admit, it’s a cracking poster design

The Weather Gods Giveth…

April 27, 2015

So you’ve invited several thousand people to Edinburgh on their bikes to tell their politicians they want to see a cycle friendly country. And come Friday evening the forecast is for heavy rain, and on Saturday morning the actuality is heavy rain, and you’re busy rewriting an expectations-managing press release …

and then something odd happens.

The sun came out

The rain stops. And the sun comes out.

bikes at POP on the Royal Mile

And so did all the cyclists.

and now it's snowing

Nothing is free in this world, however. So I suppose I should not have been startled to look up this afternoon and discover that it was snowing.

bamboo on a bike

Oh, and for those wondering how you carry bamboo on a bike? You ask a nice man to do it for you. Either that, or our head marshal is trying out for the Edinburgh University Quidditch team.

A Bike as Lovely as a Tree…

April 24, 2015

As I was cycling into Bigtown yesterday I noticed ahead of me a cyclist who appeared to be carrying a fishing rod (this is not that unusual a sight – there’s a chap who regularly cycles along that road in full fishing gear, including thigh length waders). As I slowly caught up with him, though, I realised it wasn’t a fishing rod that was sticking out over his handlebars, but in fact a tree – a ten foot sapling which, as he told me when I finally drew level with him (it’s embarrassing, actually, how long it took me to catch up with someone who was cycling along on an ancient mountain bike carrying a tree), he had dug out of the river to replace some trees he’d bought in an auction which had died, due to an infestation of coral spot and that he wanted the tree so the birds would have somewhere to land, and he needed a big one so he’d get some enjoyment out of it while he was still around. I further learned, as we pedalled into town, that he had retired from his job in the quarry, but still cycled out along the road and back every day because he enjoyed it so much. And that two of his grandchildren had never ridden a bike (we agreed what a terrible shame that was). We then chatted more generally about bikes, and the fact that there were no decent jobs in the area for young people these days, and I offered him some of the birch saplings that I’m digging out of the garden, and generally we passed the time very pleasantly until we were in Bigtown itself and parted ways.

I’m enough of a recovering Londoner to find the fact that we fell into conversation as naturally as we did much stranger than the fact that he was cycling along carrying a tree – although now I think about it, we have exchanged nods many times as we’ve passed each other on the road, so we’re practically old friends. And I was so caught up in the conversation, I never even thought to ask how he was carrying the tree, as the bike he was riding had no rack or basket or pannier or any carrying capacity whatsoever.

This last is a bit of a shame, because it turns out that tomorrow (as well as many other things) I am going to have to work out how to get a longish bundle of bamboo – shaped, as it happens, very much like a small tree – across Edinburgh on a bicycle by some means. But at least I know that, theoretically, it can be done …

Oh and talking of bikes as lovely as a tree, if you’re in Edinburgh tomorrow and want to come to Pedal on Parliament but don’t have a bike, there are a couple of glorious Paper Bikes available for loan.

You know you want to.