Candidate info base is now live!

We’re delighted to announce that our ‘find your candidate’ system is now up and running – just enter your constituency or your postcode to get a list of all your candidates running for Holyrood – and their position on our three asks.

Andrew Burns and Cara Hilton
With Andrew Burns and Cara Hilton at the Labour Party conference last year – Cara Hilton was coincidentally the first of our MSP candidates to respond

We’ve also added contact details for them so you can get in touch directly. If they haven’t responded to us yet, please ask them to do so and invite them to Pedal on Parliament (especially if you’re going to be there too). If they have responded – thank them for doing so and let them know what you think, whether it’s congratulations if they have supported us or (politely) taking issue if they aren’t on board.

Our list isn’t exhaustive – so if you spot a candidate who’s missing or any other mistake then please let us know by emailing contact@walkcyclevote.scot. Nor have we been able to contact all of the candidates directly yet, although we’ll be working on that as the campaign wears on. And finally, if you get a response from them, please do pass it on so we can keep our database up to date.

A few stats as of 28th March 2016 (not all the candidates fully answered all of the questions …):

Number of candidates identified: 516
Number contacted: 292
Number responded: 19
Number fully or partially supporting us on investment: 11
Number fully or partially supporting us on infrastructure: 11
Number fully or partially supporting us on road safety: 7

As the number of responses increase, we’ll provide a party breakdown

Have a go now and find out where your candidates stand!

Get your Selfie On!

Suzanne selfie
Suzanne would vote for safe routes to pre-schools

Because no self-respecting social media campaign is complete without a ‘selfie’ element – and more seriously because we want to show candidates in this election that there’s a huge variety of people out there who want to see better conditions for walking and cycling – we’re looking for your ‘we’d vote for’ selfies …

Just get yourself (by bike or by foot) to a recognisable spot in your constituency somewhere, write a sign saying what you’d vote for, take a selfie (or more realistically unless you have three arms, get someone else to take your photo), and post it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (or wherever the cool people post their pictures these days …) using the hashtag #walkcyclevote.

But don’t stop there – make sure your candidates can see it too! You can find out who your Holyrood candidates are using our candidate information search [] which includes their twitter and other social media accounts, so you can tag them or post it up on their page. It’s a great, positive way of interacting with our politicians – and they’d probably welcome a change from arguing about the EU referendum or tax policies.

We’ll be adding to the gallery here as people take their selfies – let’s show our politicians who we are and what we want to see to transform Scotland!

 

Battling the Backlash: Lessons from London’s Mini Hollands

For those of you who missed our Campaigners’ Day – or who couldn’t get to all the workshops they wanted – we’ll be getting the presentations online and/or asking our workshop leaders to give us a blog post summarising what they said. First off the mark is Clare Rogers from the We Support Enfield MiniHolland campaign

The first thing to say is: backlash is a good thing.

As Mark Treasure pointed out in one of his blog posts, if no one’s objecting, the proposed changes are probably not “reallocating road space in any meaningful sense”. We are lucky to have a councillor in charge of Enfield’s Mini Holland scheme who calls the opposition “a badge of honour” – pointing out that every significant social change in history has been opposed.

What’s a Mini Holland?

The Mayor of London’s Vision for Cycling allocated £100 million to transform outer London boroughs into Dutch-style oases for cycling. Three boroughs bid successfully for £30 million each: Kingston on Thames, Waltham Forest and Enfield. I’m in Enfield, so most of what I’m going to say is about our Mini Holland.

The plans submitted for Enfield’s bid represented some decent infrastructure, including wide semi-segregated cycle lanes on five A-roads, better junctions for bikes, and transformed town centres. The flagship plans for Enfield Town high street propose taking out three lanes of traffic to make way for bike and bus lanes only. This historic market town has a business vacancy rate of 20% – one of the highest in the country – and 700 cars an hour pass through it, mostly on their way to somewhere else. Plenty of people we spoke to on the high street during the consultation (especially parents) welcomed the proposals. Yet the plan has been vigorously opposed.

 

Enfield Town now
Enfield Town now
Mini Holland plans
… and how it could look

Enfield doesn’t do active travel

One reason Enfield won the bid was its potential for transformation. There isn’t really a culture of cycling in Enfield. Car ownership is high, and currently only 0.7% of journeys are by bike. The Enfield branch of London Cycling Campaign has only five or six active members. These stalwart members are excellent activists; though reflecting the kind of people who do cycle in Enfield, they are mostly male and somewhat older.

The backlash

We first noticed opposition to the Mini Holland scheme when a plague of horrible yellow anti-Mini Holland posters appeared in shop windows along Green Lanes (A105), the first part of the scheme to be consulted on in the autumn of 2015. (Some windows had so many posters you could barely see in). The posters yelled:Save our Green Lanes posters

  • Save our Green Lanes!
  • All parking to be removed!
  • Elderly or disabled? Council doesn’t care!
  • Watch out, there’s a bike about!
  • And: “Send the money back to the mayor!”

This was the work of Save our Green Lanes, a group backed by the local business association. The chair of the association is a big landlord on Green Lanes and many of the posters had appeared in the shop windows purely because he told the shopkeepers to put them there. Allied to them was a local MP, David Burrowes. While the Mini Holland bid originally had cross-party support, the conservative minority in the council later turned against it, no doubt because of the opposition from business owners and local Conservative voters.

David Burrowes held four public meetings, claiming to be neutral – yet all had panels skewed in favour of the antis, or no pro-Mini Holland representation at all. There was no attempt to engage people with the council consultation process. They were nasty, shouty meetings that merely reinforced the antis’ point of view. Burrowes followed this with a “referendum” of households in his constituency, and when 75% of the pre-paid postcards which were returned said “no”, he claimed this represented “a clear majority of my constituents”. (We looked at the numbers and worked out that they actually represented 3%.)

Anti- poster

The opposition’s current plan is an attempt to take Enfield Counci to court on the grounds that their consultation process was inadequate. This was tried in Waltham Forest and failed – the judge found no grounds whatsoever for the antis’ claims and ordered them to pay £12,000 in costs. So good luck to them.

Responding to the backlash

Those nasty yellow posters did us a favour. Many locals found them offensive, including Guardian journalist Nick Mead, who wrote about Enfield’s “Bike lane blues” in the Guardian bike blog. As a result people suddenly found our Facebook group, We Support Enfield Mini Holland, which grew to about 200 members almost overnight (there are now 300). Interestingly, those joining were mostly non-cyclists. They included people who would cycle if it were safe; architects; a shopping journalist with an interest in regenerating high streets; play street organisers;  town planners;  parents, and people who simpler wanted a cleaner, greener environment. They included a good proportion of women. We began to meet face to face, along with Enfield Cycling Campaign members. Among other things, we’ve designed our own posters and leaflets; talked to shopkeepers and shoppers; handed out flyers at school gates; written letters and articles for the local press; done battle on social media; attended the MP’s public meetings and spoken up from the floor and the panel; and attended council meetings.

The lessons

So here’s what we’ve learnt so far in our battle against the backlash:

  1. Counter the misinformation

The opponents fall into two categories. First, there are the committed activists against the scheme. Conversation with this group is almost impossible. Then there those with genuine concerns, who just need to hear the facts. Conversation with this group is worthwhile. The ‘anti’ activists rely on blatant misinformation, with no supporting evidence. So we spent some time myth-busting.

For instance, we produced a factsheet for local businesses, showing how cycle lanes are good for business. (If you’re having this conversation, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has some great evidence.) We were able to offer evidence countering all of the antis’ claims, such as 95% of customers come by car; most of the parking will be removed; congestion will be worse; and only current cyclists will benefit. Some people did listen; some shopkeepers even took their posters down.

Waltham Forest Mini Holland supporters did a much better job. They knocked on doors to speak to as many people as possible, and posted a great myth-busting page on their cycle campaign website.

  1. Reframe the debate – it’s not about bicycles

benefits of cyclingWe learned to turn the conversation to the bigger picture:

Cleaner air: This was the tipping point for me. After I heard in 2014 that 9,000 people die prematurely in London every year from air pollution, I stopped using the car for the school run. (We bought a tandem, which is MUCH more fun.) In Scotland, estimates for air pollution-related deaths are now around 4,000 a year.

Attractive high streets:  People don’t like to shop on a high street clogged with traffic. Mini Holland offers greener, regenerated streets, and that has to be good for business.

Health and exercise. A shocking 24% of Enfield’s children are obese, and the whole country has an unhealthy level of physical inactivity. Rachel Aldred argues that Danish levels of cycling in the UK would save the NHS £17 billion over 20 years. If you travel actively to work or school, it’s very easy to get your recommended weekly exercise.

  1. Actually, it’s about children

Famously, it was the “Stop the Child Murder” Dutch campaign in the 1970s that won space in the Netherlands back from cars. When it’s about children, people pay attention. Another turning point for me was hearing that there’s a positive correlation between countries where children can travel independently and high levels of emotional well-being. No surprise then that the UK has some of the unhappiest kids in Europe. And given that one-fifth of traffic in London at peak times is school run traffic, how much better would it be for everyone if kids had another way to get to school? The fact is, a city that works for children works for everyone.

parade of lights tandem
Ready for the Parade of Lights

Children are great at advertising the benefits of Mini Holland. At last year’s Enfield Town Christmas Parade of Lights, Enfield Cycling Campaign (who take part every year) involved kids for the first time. We had about ten of them, and members of a local cycling charity for disabled adults, on an array of bikes – tandems, a cargo bike, tagalongs, adult trikes, and tiny children cycling on their own. Judging by the reaction from spectators, many of them had never seen a cargo bike before (it helped that this one contained two very cute sleeping toddlers dressed as reindeer.) We were able to show that it’s possible – and fun – to get around with children without getting in a car.

  1. Let the council feel the love

We are very fortunate to have a council whose resolve strengthened in the face of all that opposition. But we’ve done our best to act as cheerleaders. It must be stressful for council members and officers to encounter the depth of feeling that Mini Holland has generated (although at least they haven’t had death threats, unlike East Dunbartonshire Council for the Bears Way scheme). So we’ve celebrated them whenever we can, on social media and in public debates. Even though we don’t support every aspect of the plans, we’ve kept any criticism to meetings behind closed doors – and even then we’re careful to say, “Overall this scheme is great! We just have concerns about this bit…”

mini holland supporters at the council
Enfield Council vote through the first part of the Mini Holland scheme – with Andrew Gilligan, councillors, us campaigners – and an unborn child

The first part of the scheme, the A105, has now been voted through by the council; but there are three more consultations to go, and none of the roadworks have actually started. The battle is definitely not over yet.

 

 

Active Travel, Active Lungs

cid:image001.jpg@01D1155C.55159F70Air pollution is increasingly  – and rightly – in the news these days as doctors and scientists are revealing just how dangerous it is for our health. So we’re delighted to add the British Lung Foundation Scotland to our list of supporters. In this guest blog, Vicky Glen, policy and communications officer, explains why they support We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote.

family cycling in the countryside
Active travel is particularly important for children with their growing lungs (Image courtesy of Thinkstock)

Ditching the car, bus or train and choosing to walk or cycle instead is one of the best things we can do for our health. Not only does active travel support our muscles and increase our energy, but it keeps our lungs active.

By choosing to walk or cycle, we can reduce our risk of infections (lung or otherwise), any stress or anxiety we may be feeling and, above all, increase our happiness levels.

Our lungs are incredibly powerful. They produce oxygen, something that we need in every part of our body. While the lungs are responsible for filtering the air that we breathe and helping to protect the body from dangers, they are also very delicate.

Regular exercise is vital for keeping our lungs strong and safe. It helps our lungs to produce more oxygen, keeping our blood pumping and our bodies fit.

It is also important to think about our children. As they grow and develop, their immune systems can be weaker and their lungs more prone to infection. For them, choosing to travel more actively not only encourages regular exercise, but helps their lungs grow stronger for life.

The British Lung Foundation are proud to support ‘We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote’. Choosing to walk and cycle more often will improve Scotland’s health and wellbeing, and give our children the chance to live with healthy lungs.