Two weeks ago at Pedal on Parliament in Edinburgh, cycle campaigner extraordinaire Sally Hinchcliffe shouted from the grassy knoll in front of the parliament building with a challenge for us all. Find one thing she said, one thing that makes it harder to cycle, something that you’d like to change in your local streets. And fight for it. See if you can change that one thing. And if we can all do that, she said, we can all make a big difference together.
That’s what we at GoBike aspire to. We are a collective of hundreds of members who all want to do something to change things for the better. Here is one of our members Steph, on what brought her to trying to make a difference.
“I started cycling on roads for commuting when I was in my mid-to-late teens in Singapore – then a city of over 3 million people. I must have had the nerve and ignorance and blind faith of the very young and naive, because I don’t remember feeling especially nervous of the traffic whizzing around me, even though when I think about it now, I was sometimes in really busy traffic with NO cycling infrastructure whatsoever.
I then didn’t cycle again for around twenty-five years, believing it to be too dangerous to do so on UK roads, until I took up cycling to and from work in around 2012. I was on a low wage and super-motivated to make cycling for commuting work for me, even though it was often pretty scary. Since 2016 I have cycled to work as much as possible, and due to a running injury I now also see it as my sport.
More recently I have become involved in cycle campaigning for a number of reasons:
1) I am passionate about the global imperative to reduce carbon emissions
2) I am passionate about contributing in whatever small way I can to improving air quality globally
3) I love cycling as a physical activity, and because of the opportunities it offers to explore the natural world around me
I’d love to encourage more people to cycle so that they can also experience the thrill of it themselves. Previously, I’d simply complained inwardly about the inadequate cycling infrastructure around me, but had not actually done anything about it. I would say that coming across Sally Hinchcliffe’s blog was definitely seminal in my decision to start “putting my money where my mouth is” and actually try to constructively influence cycling policy. So I started getting more involved in cycle campaigning. I joined GoBike and also got involved by marshalling at the Pedal on Parliament campaigns, at my first ever one in Glasgow last year, and again this year, in Edinburgh.
I really enjoyed feeling useful as a marshall at this year’s PoP. I was impressed, moved and especially inspired by the high numbers of young families there, because these will be the cyclists and (hopefully) cycle campaigners of the future. I was especially stirred by Sally Hinchcliffe’s closing speech and Lesley Riddoch eulogising about the joy of cycling. I loved the atmosphere on the day, and being a part of it with my role made that all the better.”
Thank you Steph – already you’ve made a difference. So what else can we do? One of the most effective ways that you can make a change is to engage with your local councillors. Go to visit them, email them, respond to consultations, let them know about the things you see in your area that you know should be better. You’d be amazed at how directly your councillors can effect your suggested changes.
Talk positively about cycling to the people around you – help people to see that cycling can be a normal mode of transport for everyone. If you’re outraged about something, write a letter to the press. Write a blog. Join in on the terrible comments threads on social media to educate the naysayers, but do remember that action is bigger than the bubble of social media. Write to your MSPs. Join your community council. Use your local bike shop.
And like Steph, get involved. If you haven’t already joined GoBike, please do so – the more members we have, the more powerful our voice will be. Join one of our events and have your head counted as a supporter of active travel. Drop us an email to ask to join Slack – that’s where all the action happens. Help us out with our action and plans and consultations. Help us make all the small things we do, work together to make a really really big difference.