A MASS cycle to Highland Council HQ in Inverness is to take place with walking and cycling enthusiasts demanding more action to improve active travel facilities in the city.
And they are calling on anybody who wants to live in a city where people of all ages and abilities are able to walk and cycle easily and safely to join them.
The Pedal on Parliament (POP) Inverness ride will ask council candidates to pledge to commit to its aims to improve facilities for walking and cycling in their council wards ahead of local elections on 4 May.
Organised by local cyclist Mark Falconer, POP Inverness is a group of clubs, organisations and individuals committed to making Inverness a safer and happier place to walk, cycle and live.
The mass ride will take place next month, with two route options – one for experienced cyclists and one for novices and families – going from Bellfield Park to the council’s Glenurquhart Road headquarters.
Pedal on Parliament rides have taken place in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen over the last few years and Mr Falconer explained what drove him to set up a similar event in the Highland capital.
He said: “I’ve attended a previous Pedal on Parliament so was always commited to its aims and was impressed by the wide range of people taking part.
“Inverness is a great city and deserves a great active travel infrastructure and I hope by staging an event we can persuade all the prospective councillors and the Scottish Government to make the small investment required to reap the great rewards it would bring.”
He added: “The benefits of walking and cycling are extremely well researched and documented, and backed up by a variety of Scottish Government policies and targets.
“Cycling and walking for short journeys in local communities help provide an answer to pressing issues faced in Scotland, including air pollution, town and city congestion, ill health, obesity and the rising cost of physical inactivity to the NHS.
“Walking and cycling are also a cost effective method of transport for short journeys, and can be an enjoyable and fun way of travelling if the environment is safe and accessible. POP Inverness wants children and families, older people, disabled people and everyone else to be able to walk and cycle easily and safely and will be asking council candidates if they agree.”
The group has joined forces with We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote to ask candidates to pledge their support for more financial investment in Highland for cycling and walking to 10 per cent of the transport budget, improved infrastructure to enable everyone to cycle and walk safely and conveniently, and to tackle local barriers to increased walking and cycling in their council wards.
Despite some high-profile cycle route developments in recent years, including the Millburn Road shared-use path and the Golden Bridge, campaigners remain concerned about poor cycling and walking provision, which includes indirect and inconvenient routes, barriers such as bollards and chicanes, shared space for pedestrians and cyclists which causes conflict, and poor on-road cycling facilities.
Residents are also concerned with inconsiderate parking, badly surfaced pavements and high levels of traffic, which contributes towards air pollution, noise pollution, congestion, low levels of physical activity and health concerns, and more dangerous streets for people who want to walk and ride a bike for short journeys from A to B.
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A spokesman added: “Pedal on Parliament Inverness is campaigning for all candidates in the 2017 local elections to help turn Inverness into a healthier, wealthier, happier place and help transform our lives and the lives of our children.
“Our three asks for the local elections are - Investment: provide sustained, long-term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10 per cent of the transport budget; Infrastructure: build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure suitable for people of all ages and abilities; local action: to solve the main local barriers to active travel, as identified by residents and businesses.”
Stuart Black, Highland Council’s director of development and planning, said: “The Council is supportive of initiatives to raise levels of active travel in Inverness and throughout the region. In recent years, the Council has invested in improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure across the city, including Millburn Road and the new West Link.
“In addition, the Council has reached the final stage in the Community Links Plus funding competition, which if successful, will further increase and complement existing cycling infrastructure in the Highland capital, with the overall aim of achieving the Scottish Government’s target of 10% of all journeys by bike by 2020.”
Pedal on Parliament Inverness will set off from Bellfield Park on Saturday, April 22, at 11.30am. For more information, see: pedalonparliament.org/pop-goes-inverness/