April 28th 2012 was the most amazing day. I was there. One of around 3000 people who gathered at The Meadows in Edinburgh to cycle to Holyrood and hand in an 8 point manifesto that we believe will make cycling in Scotland safer, and encourage more people to choose cycling over less sustainable forms of transport. Yes, 3000. Seeing the line stretch back along the meadows was fantastic.
More information on Pedal On Parliament can be found at their website. Other people have done an excellent job of blogging about the day, so rather than repeating them, here is my story.
I drove to Edinburgh. I know, I’m sorry, but I live 35 miles from Edinburgh and had my young family with me. Three bikes on the rack and one in the boot, we drove to West Bryson Road where there is free parking on Saturday and it is just by Harrison Park where we met the feeder ride.
There we met Andy who had volunteered to ride my bike and tow my 5 year old son. Andy runs Story Bikes in Edinburgh. My boy really enjoyed riding with him.
I then met THE CONTRAPTION.
A Hase Pino semi-recumbent tandem had been borrowed in order that I might ride on the front playing my guitar. My pilot was Steven, whom I had never met before, and who had never ridden a Pino before that morning. When flung into a situation like this you have to bond and trust each other pretty quickly, and I think we managed it. Eventually. After we had sorted out how to pilot this thing the group set off for the meadows. At the first set of traffic lights the group turned left. All except myself and Steven who had not worked out how to do such a sharp turn and carried straight on. After jumping off and crossing the road on foot we managed to catch up with the group.
Photo by Neil McManus
The feeder ride was an opportunity to get to grips with the Pino, and grip was what I did. By the end of it Steven and I had sussed out how to work together and were a little less wobbly. I even managed to bang out a few chords on the guitar. The police guided us onto The Meadows where we stopped for a picnic and a sing-song.
Photo by Andy Hunter
People then started to move towards the path ready to start so we joined in. We were about 200 yards from the front. Before we headed off there was a minute’s silence in honour of those recently killed in cycling accidents on Scotland’s roads. The minute’s silence was followed by a mass ringing of bells to celebrate cycling in Scotland.
Then we were ready to go.
Waiting to leave The Meadows.
Photo by David Martin
By the time we left The Meadows I had got the hang of riding and strumming.
It’s just under a mile and a half to Holyrood from The Meadows and it is hoaching with tourists. A lot of photos were taken that I’ll never see. It’s not everyday you see a madman on a bike playing a guitar.
Stopped on the Royal Mile.
Photo by Richard McCaig
This video gives an excellent summary of the ride. Listen carefully at around 5:40 for a rendition of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” from a cyclist who makes a fleeting appearance at the right hand side of the picture.
My only regret is that it was after the event that I thought of doing a modified version of The Proclaimers’ “500 Miles”. I’ll stick it in my pocket for next time. Before we knew it we were at Holyrood.
It was only after my kids had been in the pool that I saw the sign advising against it. My wife looked after the kids so I could listen to the speeches.
I am left feeling optimistic after hearing the MSPs promise to present our manifesto to Parliament.
It was getting late and the family were tired so we decided to head home. Andy handed my bike back and went off with his wife. Steven headed off on his own with the pino, and I managed to sling the guitar round my shoulders and ride my own bike towing my boy. We followed a cyclist with “Harrison Park Feeder Ride” pennants but he shot off into the distance. I’d like to extend a massive thank you to the heroic Kevin who (despite not heading in our direction) guided us to the Union Canal and pointed us in the right direction along the tow path.
Thanks to Sara for organising the Pino, Robert for lending it to us, Steven for piloting me, and to Andy for taking Douglas and freeing me up to have one of the most fun bike rides ever.
In case you are interested here are a few links about the event.
Firstly is the Pedal On Parliament Flickr group.
David Brennan is the man who started it all. Here’s his blog.
Join our Facebook group if you have not yet done so.
Oh, and we got a beautiful write up from STV.