Today we Pedalled on Parliament #POP28
Well, we did it. And boy did we do it. The police estimate is 2500; which means the actual figure is probably a bit over 3000. Three thousand. In two months we have organised 3000 cyclists to give up a huge chunk of their Saturday to ride a mile and a half. Astonishing. Emotional.
It feels like a tipping point, like we might actually be getting taken seriously. My day was mainly taken up with getting a few things from B&Q for the ride (batteries and gaffer tape mainly) and meeting with the rest of the committee at PoP HQ, before heading with a couple of others to set up the Meadows meeting point. And they came. In dribs and drabs initially. And then all of a sudden, 20 minutes or so before the ride, we were the length of the lower section of Middle Meadow Walk. We'd hoped for 1000. We were now living in our wildest dreams.
I was taking up the rear with a few other marshals, and picking up those marshals and police officers, who were blocking the junctions for us, as we passed them. I stood back as, after 15 minutes of starting the tail end hadn't even moved yet, drinking it all in. And all I could do was laugh. This was... Amazing.
The police were brilliant. 7 officers on bikes, who initially had expected 300 people (on the back of our initial estimate), who reacted well to us thinking we'd have 1000, and improvised beautifully to our actually 3000+. They are getting a huge thank you from us all. The whole ride passed by without a single fall or injury or (physical) altercation. And we even managed to organise the sun.
Once at Holyrood we had short speeches from Dave Brennan (whose initial idea this all was); Lynne McNicol (whose stepson was recently killed on Edinburgh roads, and seeing just how brave she was, faltering as she started at the emotion of it all, brought a genuine lump to the throat); Mark Beaumont of round-the-world-cycle fame; and a number of politicians (who mainly offered party-line flannel, except, perhaps, Alison Johnstone of the Greens, who was a very frank indeed, and Sarah Boyack who did a little 'when-I-was-transport-minister' but didn't sink too far into the party political fight, instead emphasising the cycling aspects). And that was it. A sit in the sun; then pints in the Pear Tree (where I finally properly met Mark Beaumont and what a lovely chap he is); food in the Mosque Kitchen, then a few more pints in the Southsider before home.
Shattered. My role has not been as big as others, who deserve immense credit. But I can honestly say I don't think I've been involved in something that could, potentially, have the impact of something like this. I've had my frustrations, as someone who likes to work to his own agenda, but our little team of 7 has pulled together remarkably well, and learned incredibly quickly. We've had amazing support, and played our role in creating something extraordinary.
But it's here that the work really starts. For this to be an actual tipping point we have to capitalise on this goodwill, we have to make sure the kids who were riding today (and there were loads) have reason and ability to carry on. It looks like our team of 7 is going to be transport-ministry-bothering for some time to come.
But none of this could have been possible, or as effective, without those who stuck flyers on bikes for us, who put posters up for us, who blogged and tweeted and wrote and petitioned, or who turned up on the day. The minute's silence was powerful and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end as I watched the stopwatch ready to blow the whistle to bring it to a close; the bell dinging that followed it replaced solemn thought with smiles.
This was big. This was the start of something. And I am so so proud of everyone who took part, no matter how they took part.
Thank you all.
The polis arrive
Me (and Bruce) HUBshotting while paddling on Parliament (p.s. he's a former weightlifter, hence the one-handedness
The man who started it all