Since going live with our Candidate Information base we’ve had a busy couple of weeks and we’ve now had responses from 272 candidates – that’s more than 10% of the total of 2,569 people who are standing in these elections
So what do the figures tell us so far?
First, we’ve had responses from 31 out of the 32 local authority areas (if there’s anyone here from Shetland, do please get in touch with your candidates because that’s the one that’s missing) and it’s not all concentrated in the cities, as you might have expected:
% of all candidates
Argyll and Bute
City of Edinburgh
Dumfries and Galloway
Na h-Eileanan Siar
Perth and Kinross
Edinburgh comes top, with over a quarter of all candidates responding so far, but followed by Perth and Kinross, East Dunbartonshire, with East Lothian and the predominantly rural Dumfries and Galloway tied in fourth place.
How about the parties? Well, perhaps not surprisingly , the Greens are doing well. Their manifesto for the local elections has made a strong commitment to our three asks, and that’s reflected in individual candidates’ responses.
Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Scottish Green Party
Scottish Labour Party
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Scottish National Party (SNP)
Tommy Sheridan – Solidarity – Hope Over Fear
But it might surprise some to see the Conservatives in second place – perhaps David Cameron’s cycling legacy hasn’t been as quickly shaken off as it has in Westminster!
We’ll look at what the responses are in more detail in a few days, but we need more responses to get an accurate picture. Please take a moment to find your candidates and ask them to let you – and us – know where they stand on our three asks. All they have to do is email us on email@example.com and we’ll do the rest.
The Glasgow Centre for Population Health has done a lot of useful research into the importance of active travel (indeed we’ve quoted some of it in our briefing notes). In a guest post here, Bruce Whyte, one of their Public Health Programme Managers, provides some Friday afternoon thoughts on the importance of active travel and the case for more investment.
As sometimes happens I start thinking about work on my cycle into work! My commute takes me across Glasgow from west to east, along the Broomielaw path on the north side of the river Clyde, past the Squiggly (or Tradeston) Bridge. With the completion of the South West City Way between Tradeston and Pollokshields, the relatively new West City Way connecting the city centre with the west of the city (and rising usage on both routes), work starting on a South City Way and proposals for a ‘mini-Holland’ style development in Woodlands, it feels like there is real progress being made toward providing a good quality cycling and walking environment in Glasgow.
The area around the Squiggly Bridge is busy with walkers and cyclists and there is a buzz about the place – the good weather also helps. As I continue along the river past the Briggait I come to a stop at a crossing of a busy road leading to Glasgow Green. Although by no means perfect, this route feels safe because of the separation of cyclists and pedestrians from cars, lorries and buses. It is also sociable. I enjoy it for the people you meet on it and for those you don’t know, like the family that transports their very small children on two cargo bikes. This social aspect is not something that can be enjoyed by drivers and not something we would see without safe infrastructure separated from motorised traffic.
Into Glasgow Green, on a wide path which follows the river. I pass swans, geese, black-headed gulls and the odd cormorant, while rowers scull up and down the river. I leave the park heading to Bridgeton. At Bridgeton Cross you get the sense of a busy local hub for shopping and travel which has benefited from renovations to the built environment around the cross, including the repurposing of historic structures such as the Olympia building. At one side of the cross, there is a bike hire station. The scheme, established just prior to the Commonwealth Games, has been a great success with increasing numbers of hires and plans for expansion. It is arguably one of the few lasting health legacies of the Games.
But Bridgeton is also where the case for simply building new infrastructure starts to hit problems. Leaving Bridgeton Cross, a segregated cycle lane runs on one side of London Road and there is further segregated infrastructure around the Emirates arena. However I suspect a cycle counter on many of these routes would struggle to hit double figures on most days. This is where culture, preference and necessity become important. Glasgow has a growing ‘car dependency’ culture. Despite only 49% of households having access to a car in the city, car ownership continues to rise – in some Glasgow neighbourhoods over 75% of households have a car and across Scotland, over 25% of households have two cars. 50% of Glasgow’s school children currently walk to school, but 28% are driven to school – a much higher proportion than in other Scottish cities. In some of the more disadvantaged communities in Glasgow the issue of ‘forced car ownership’ has been identified. This is the notion that a small but growing proportion of poorer families despite financial difficulties see a car as a necessity to gain and maintain employment and to transport their children, perhaps in situations where public transport is lacking or expensive.
The stalling of the Bears Way cycle route in Bearsden and Milngavie and the removal of a new segregated cycle route on Holmston Road in Ayr are manifestations of the strength of our car dependency culture. The completion of the Bear’s Way will depend on changing people’s minds in the local community and in part this comes down to challenging a culture that puts car use above all. But why should we challenge this? Well there are many good reasons…
Getting more children and adults travelling actively for short journeys will help to address these ‘lifestyle’ challenges. Declining functional active travel has been associated with population-level decreases in physical activity[i] and countries with the lowest levels of active travel generally have the highest obesity rates[ii]. In contrast, lower levels of BMI and fat have been associated with active commuting.
We also need to think about what kind of communities we want to live in? The pedestrianisation of Buchanan Street in Glasgow and the centre of Milngavie in the 1970s were no doubt controversial at the time but would anyone propose reintroducing cars to these streets now? Sometimes brave decisions are needed. The creation of better cycling and walking routes in our cities and towns, more pedestrianised areas and addressing parking blight would help transform local travel, and not only contribute to better physical and mental health but more vibrant local economies and more liveable communities.
Many European cities have invested in active travel and have been transformed from places that were car dependent, car dominated and congested, to places in which a variety of modes of travel are used, with public transport, walking and cycling much more prominent.
At a political level, we need to change mindsets. There is evidence from Europe that leadership, longterm commitment and sustained increased investment in active and sustainable travel, particularly infrastructure, can benefit public health and increase public support for such measures. There are signs of such positive developments in Scotland: Edinburgh’s commitment to increasing the share of the transport budget spent on cycling (currently 9% in 2016/17); and, Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling over the next 10 years, which aims to create an integrated network of cycling routes. But we need more and we need to shift investment toward more active and sutainable modes of transport. Part of this includes investment in public transport, particularly buses where passenger numbers have been in long term decline. This will enable more walking journeys and if the right regulatory conditions are in place, could provide cleaner, less polluting travel. Edinburgh has shown that a high quality bus franchise can increase bus use (slide 11) and start to address environmental issues.
I have tried to be positive in this piece about developments to support active and sustainable travel but I am also under no illusions that much, much more needs done. Nationally and locally, we need much greater investment in new active travel infrastructure, integrated with public transport, at a level sufficient to enable significant modal shifts towards more active and sustainable modes of transport to be achieved.
I cycle to and for work. Why? Because it is the easiest and the quickest way for me to get around the city, gives me flexibility, is inexpensive, gives me a bit of exercise and I have a pleasant journey to work. As we plan for the future, we need to create active, sustainable and integrated transport networks in our towns and cities that take into account people’s needs, preferences and motivations, so that more people choose to travel actively.
At a recent seminar we played a film showing how Glasgow gets to work from 1935. A lot has changed in 80 years, but is it so hard to imagine a film of Glasgow in the 2020s, where commuters on the Glasgow Bridge (crossing the river Clyde at Jamaica St) are travelling in low emission buses rather than trams, what was the horse and cart lane is now a segregated cycle route, many people are walking and the level of cars on the bridge has dropped to that seen in 1935?
[i] Pucher J, Buehler R, Bassett D, Dannenberg A. Walking and cycling to health: a comparative analysis of city, state, and international data. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100:986-1992.
[ii] Bassett DR Jr, Pucher J, Buehler R. Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2008;5(6):795-814.
There’s no shortage of evidence for the benefits that investing in active travel can bring – so much, indeed, it’s hard to take it all in. So we’ve been through the latest reports and boiled some of the key points down for you, in a handy two-page document which you can print out to take to meetings, or easily share.
All of this evidence – which has links and references to the original sources – should give you the backing you need when you’re taking any of these simple actions to help our campaign.
Thank you to the families who took the time this Mothers’ Day to help us with our informal launch of this year’s campaign.
Despite a chilly start, the sun put in an appearance, and it was nice weather for a relaxed ride, photos, a bit of leafletting and a return to Bangholm for tea and (naturally) cake.
It’s paths like these that gives families the freedom to ride which is why we’re campaigning for more investment, in the sort of infrastructure that everyone can use, that goes everywhere that people need to go – not just for commuting to work, but the school run, shopping trips and visiting families and friends.
That means more freedom for children to get themselves around once they’re old enough to travel independently – and thus, mums might get a lie in more than just once a year …
The elections are approaching fast, and things get busy from here. Here’s a quick cut-out-and-keep guide to what happens over the next few weeks as the campaign gets into gear:
26th March (Mother’s Day! We kick off our campaign with a family photoshoot and leafletting extravagnza on the cycle paths of Edinburgh. Join Suzanne Forup and a crew of family cyclists at Bangholm Outdoors Centre 10-12. More details (Facebook event)
29th March: Nominations close for candidates for the local elections. We will take around 1 week to get all the details up on our find-a-candidate interactive map, so bear with us as we get this ready.
1st April Alyth Blairgowrie and Coupar Angus campaign cycle organised by Coupar Angus Cycling Hub 10-12. More details (Facebook event)
4th April Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland Hustings, 6-8pm at the Glasgow Women’s Library. Not your typical political event, but a friendly and constructive series of round table chats. More details
5th April Dunbar Candidate’s ride. Join the Dunbar Cycling Group and local council candidates at Bleachingfield Community Centre to look at the local issues acting as barriers to cycling in the town. 4-5:30pm. More details (Facebook event)
6th April. Spokes Lothian Hustings, Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. 6:45pm for a 7:30 start. More details
7th April (approx): Candidate info site goes live.
17th April Deadline to register to vote. Don’t miss out! Register here
19th April Friends of the Earth Glasgow Hustings, Adelaides, Glasgow, 7pm-9pm. More details (Facebook event)
19th April Go Bike Hustings, The Admiral Bar, Waterloo Street, Glasgow, 7:30 pm. More details (PDF flyer)
20th April Dundee Election Hustings with Dundee Cycling Forum and Friends of the Earth Tayside. Butterfly Cafe Dundee 7pm. More details
22nd April, Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh. Pedal on Parliament – join this mass family-friendly demonstration in three of Scotland’s cities. More details for Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness
23rd April Pedal on Parliament will also be in Glasgow! More details
24th April, St Andrews Space 4 Cycling 6.30 to 8.30pm (details coming soon!)
26th April Glasgow Public Transport Hustings hosted by Get Glasgow Moving at 7-9pm Renfield St Stephen’s Parish Church. More details (Facebook event)
26th April, Cycling Dumfries candidates’ ride – 4-5:30pm, Dock Park, Dumfries. More details
4th May Local elections held. Don’t forget to go to the polls!
What’s missing from this list? If you’re planning an election-related event – or are thinking of doing so – please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to list anything that’s at all relevant from a candidate’s cycle ride to a hustings on transport, public health, pollution, or the environmemt
As the local election campaign nears, things are starting to get busy! Not only has We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote been gaining new supporting organisations almost faster than we can keep up (see here for the full list – so far!), we’ve had people at the last three party conferences, spreading the word.
In Glasgow, we were grateful to GoBike for taking our message to the Green party last weekend
While most mothers will enjoy flowers, chocolate and breakfast in bed this Mothers’ Day, some of us will ditch the pampering to instead campaign for better walking and cycling provision for families across Scotland. Can you join us by taking to the paths of Edinburgh to kick off our local election campaign? From 10-12 on Sunday March 26th, when others might be enjoying breakfast in bed, a few of us plan to be cycling around the cycle paths of Edinburgh with children in tow handing out #walkcyclevote leaflets to families. There a good chance of cake too!
We’ve booked a photographer so any families that come and join us should be able to get a good photo of themselves! Please come along and invite others – with or without mums. We’re meeting at 10am at Bangholm Outdoor Centre, close to Victoria Park. We’ll be back at Bangholm by 12ish so you can still do Mother’s Day activities. There’s a Facebook event here if you want to let us know you’re coming – or just email email@example.com
So if you can spare us a couple of hours, please come along!
Thanks to Esmond and Emilia who gave up a Saturday lunchtime to talk to Labour Party members at their spring conference.
Armed with our postcards, and our fabulous new banner, they had some good chats and met a mostly enthusiastic reception from most of the people they chatted to.
These kind of events really help raise the campaign’s profile – so can you join us at one or other of the coming conferences this month? You can join GoBike members in Glasgow for the Greens and Conservatives’ events, or join Emilia again in Perth to meet the Lib Dems, or some of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum to meet the SNP in Aberdeen on the 18th March.
Alternatively, if you are attending as a delegate yourself, why not pop out and say hello?
In this guest blog from Walk Cycle Vote supporter Cycling Dumfries, Convenor Sally Hinchcliffe explains how to run a candidates’ cycle ride (and why you should):
Getting your local council candidates onto bikes to see for themselves a local barrier is a really powerful way of getting your point across – and it’s not that difficult to organise either.
Cycling Dumfries have now run candidates’ rides for local authority, Westminster, and Holyrood elections in Dumfries and we’ve always had a reasonable turnout across parties. The candidates seem to enjoy it as well as getting a real insight into problems that you may have struggled to get across in emails or in meetings.
How to organise one
1. Choose your route
You’ll need a clear idea of what the problems are that you want them to look at and design a route accordingly. Don’t be too ambitious – some candidates won’t have ridden a bike for a while, and even if they are regular cyclists, you will want to stop and talk about the problems en route. The general rule of thumb is, take whatever you think you can manage in the time available and then halve it. Even then, have a contingency plan to cut out part of the ride in case you overrun – it’s only polite to get the candidates back when you have said you would, as they will likely have other events to go to.
Don’t make the route too challenging, either. You don’t need to ride them along the verge of a busy A road to show them how dangerous it is – just looking at it will be enough. Similarly, don’t include too many hills as that will just reinforce the idea that cycling is difficult! Ideally, part of the ride will be quite pleasant so that they understand what works as well as what doesn’t.
2. Set a date and time
We’ve had good success running rides just after school run time – meeting up at around 4 or 4:30. This allows families to take part (it’s really effective to have kids along although this will affect your route choice) and it also neatly slots in between daytime canvassing and evening hustings events for the politicians. Make sure you will be finished before it gets dark, especially if you’re running it before the clocks go forward. We tend to allow around an hour and a half – an hour for the ride itself and any discussions, and half an hour getting everyone ready, doing a photocall, fixing bikes etc.
3. Invite the candidates
Details will be on the Walk Cycle Vote website “find a candidate” page, but your council website should have all of the official nominations for each constituency. To avoid any suspicion of bias, you need to invite everyone who is standing in the relevant area (which might cover two or three constituencies) – even parties you don’t think will be interested or ones you find abhorrent. You can drop off invitations at the local constituency office, email them, or tweet, or ideally a combination of all three. Local media will be reluctant to cover the event if you don’t have candidates from all of the major parties attending as they also have to be even handed in their coverage. If you’re not having any luck getting anyone from a particular party, a few strategic tweets can work wonders, especially if you can get two or three other constituents to join in. It may be helpful if you can provide loan bikes for the candidates – let them know if that’s an option, especially if they are making excuses!
4. Spread the word
Now you need to spread the word about the ride – posters, social media, blog posts, emails to supporters and so on. Posting on local party facebook pages might also be helpful, as they’ll want to put up a show of strength. Once you are confident that you will get a good spread of candidates, send out a media release. Emphasise the photo opportunity aspect of it and say when and where you expect the candidates to gather. Let the local police know, and invite them to send an officer if you have any cycle police in your area – they can be brilliant and they can bring their own perspective to some of the issues you’re talking about.
5. On the day
It might be helpful to send your candidates a briefing and reminder a day or two beforehand, letting them know how the event will happen and what they’ll need to be prepared for. Remind them it’s not a race, won’t be difficult or dangerous, and that they won’t need to dress up in lycra to come. It may be helpful to bring spare gloves, helmets (whatever your opinion on the topic, some politicians may be wary of being photographed on a bike without one).
Make sure you organise your own photocall, even if the press are there taking photos, so you have something to put on your website (and write down everyone’s names!). Brief them about the ride, and the issue(s) you’ll be looking at and why they’re important. Try and greet all of the candidates and introduce yourself and have a friendly word with all of them – these days you never know who’s going to get elected.
During the ride, you’ll need a ride leader and ‘tail end charlie’ to make sure nobody gets left behind. If some of the candidates are on a tight schedule, arrange to have someone guide them back to the start if they need to leave early. Again, try and chat to all of the candidates during the ride, and keep it friendly.
At each point where there’s an issue you want to discuss, stop, explain briefly what the problem is and how it could be fixed, and leave a bit of time for discussion. It might be helpful to have other members of the group chip in as well, if they’ve got a particular issue such as a disability, cycling with children, or working shifts.
At the end, thank them all for coming, take them to the pub or a cafe if they have time, and make sure they have your contact details for any follow up.
6. Follow up
Email each candidate afterwards thanking them for coming, wishing them luck in their campaign, reminding them of the points you raised, and maybe picking up on anything they said during the ride (good or bad – but be tactful). Send them any nice pictures pf them on a bike they might want to use in their literature and a link to your own website or social media posts about the event, and also tweet your thanks to each one for coming (they love retweeting that sort of thing) or post it on their FB page, and on your own.
After the election, email to congratulate the winners, and perhaps asking for a meeting to talk further about some of the issues you raised on the ride. A few congratulatory tweets with pictures from the ride also helps remind people of any promises they may have made. Even if they haven’t been particularly forthcoming with policy pledges, a friendly congratulations email helps build bridges for later.
If you or your group are planning doing something similar – or even just taking a local politician or official out on to the streets to show them a particular issue whether its for cyclists or pedestrians, let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do what we can to help and spread the word.
It’s fair to say that 2016 has been an interesting year, in all senses of the word. In a scary and uncertain world, it can be hard to look forward and consider what might change it for the better, even in small ways. But hope springs eternal – and sometimes it’s the apparently small things that can make a real difference to people’s lives, even if they don’t always make the headlines. The thirty-plus groups behind We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote believe that making changes to enable people to walk or cycle are exactly the kind of thing that, while small in themselves, add up to a big change, and one that is ultimately for the better.
That’s why we want to hear your wishes for 2017. Large or small, we want to know what you’d like to see change next year, that would make it easier for you or your family or friends to walk or cycle. It could be a new footbridge, or a cycle path, or a road closed to rat-running traffic. It could be a route to your children’s school or your place of work or your nearest shops. It could be as small as a dropped kerb or as large as a cycle superhighway – or a whole network of them.
Together, large and small, these wishes could add up – maybe not to world peace, or global harmony, but at least to a healthier, happier country.
Let us know – either by email, twitter, or on our Facebook page – what you would wish for in 2017. But don’t just stop there. With local elections coming up in May, it’s your chance to influence the people who can make this happen. Let your existing local councillors know where your priorities lie, and tell your candidates as well when the time comes.
And be ambitious. Some of your wishes may seem unlikely to come true, especially if your current council seems to be more interested in easing the flow of motorised traffic than in walking or cycling. But you never know. If we have learned anything at all from 2016 it is that when it comes to elections, anything can happen. Perhaps it’s time to harness that for the good in 2017…