Saturday 14 September 2013 should be a busy day. Glasgow’s East End will see an open day for its first, women-only gym. In a pink painted building once used as douce offices on Gallowgate near the Forge cinema, Gill’s gym is set to spin, work-out and dance for a long time to come.
On Glasgow Green, a different crowd will gather to work out how to Bin the Bedroom Tax. The United Nations rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, who spent two weeks in the UK gathering evidence on how the global financial crisis has affected housing, found that Bedroom Tax issues dominated her interviews with people who were having to cope with the ‘spare room supplement,’ as it is formally called. She said the policy should be abolished as it was affecting human rights. Introduced by the Westminster government, the tax reduces housing benefit where the person has more bedrooms than it is judged they need.
So Saturday’s protesters will assemble on Glasgow Green for a rally and then head for the SECC where the Liberal Democrat Conference will be in process. The protesters have been curtailed by Glasgow City Council on how they may march. And police have curtailed how many may protest at the SECC. The erosion of these human rights is clouded by the fact that the protesters are seriously split among themselves. One wing is led by Tommy Sheridan and the other wing is bitterly opposed to the disgraced politician.
In the middle are the ordinary folk who are suffering to the point – in some cases - of contemplating suicide.
It is a little solace that the Scottish Government has allocated £20 million in its budget this week to provide help to people affected by this iniquitous Tax. But this same Government has also allocated £20 million to boost cycling as a form of transport.
Much more energy and visionary leadership has to be found to work out how to Say No 2 the Bedroom Tax and how to protect human rights to protest, to march and to speak out.
Maybe, just maybe, if more women get together to socialise in pink gyms, a new spin could be found on strategies to save desperate people from self-destruction.
By Martin Graham
Glasgow’s cycling community gathered at Kelvingrove Park for the launch of the White Bike Plan – a batch of 50 white bicycles that can be used to travel round the city for free.
The ‘plan’ was launched by arts group NVA and is part of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art.
With pinging bells and honking horns, the white bikes led a 100-strong cycle convoy that rode from the park to George Square. At the square, the plan was launched with the symbolic painting of a bicycle and the declaration of the white bike manifesto in English and Dutch.
The bike plan is inspired by a radical 1960’s Dutch group called the Provos (provocateurs) who ‘released’ white bicycles in Amsterdam as a protest against the dominance of the car and its middle class associations.
Glasgow’s White Bikes each have a combination lock with the same number, 6510, and can be uplifted from the art festival hub at 54 Miller Street.
Ok, I must confess that I did very little cycling during the recent snowy conditions. No matter how well I wrapped up my hands always ended up freezing cold. However, I salute the courage of those who kept on biking through the snow. Probably the most reliable transport method compared to delay-prone buses, trains and cars.
Our roads are falling apart, especially in the wake of the recent cold snap. Water gets into cracks, freezes, expands, and then breaks up the road. In eight years of regular cycling I have never seen road conditions as bad as they are now. There are huge craters at Battlefield Rest and Victoria Road / Calder Street, and the hole at Cumberland Street is still there. I will be organising another pothole patrol with cyclists soon, to record pothole locations and make bikers aware of how to report holes. Once again, you can report holes at www.fillthathole.org.uk.
Female Cyclists lobby parliament
A group of female cyclists visited Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson to deliver a nine thousand signature petition supporting the urgent call for safer cycling conditions. Lynn Stocks from Sustrans said: ‘Women have told us that they don’t cycle because they don’t feel safe enough. It’s great to have all these signatures backing our call for safer cycling, but this is just the start. Governments now have to take all these voices seriously and make changes across the country that will mean more people can choose to make everyday journeys by bike, without feeling unsafe.’
The signatures were gathered on Sustrans’ ‘Motion for Women’ petition, which was launched in September in response to research from Sustrans that showed Scottish women are among the least likely in Britain to cycle, with 89 per cent never getting on a bike at all.
SQA Wins cycle friendly employer status
The Scottish Qualifications Authority has been awarded Cycle Friendly Employer Status by Cycling Scotland in recognition of their support and encouragement of staff who choose to cycle to work. SQA Chief Executive, Dr Janet Brown, said: “I’m delighted that we have achieved this prestigious award, which recognises the facilities and systems that we have put in place to make it easier for our staff to cycle to work. We are very pleased with the numbers of staff who have got involved and hope the numbers will continue to rise.
Government response to Cycling Action Plan
The Scottish Government recently published their response to the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. There has been a fairly strong reaction to the idea of making cyclists pay road tax. Activist Peter Hayman summed it up nicely: ‘Every cyclist means one less car on the road, and every cyclist means the road gets less damage.’
Five adventurers who left the comfort of the Liquid Ship, their favourite pub in the West End, for the windswept and interesting climes of John O’ Groats, have raised more than £5,000 for Maggie’s Centre.
The team – Martin Johnstone, Adam Alexander, Lee Vickers and Glen Marrilier – buddied up with Kevin McLelland, whose wife, Chantelle, has successfully battled thyroid cancer, to make the gruelling 400-mile cycle trip North in five days.
Looking back on a journey that had more than its fair share of sun, rain, bumps, bruises and punctures, Kevin said: ‘We were inspired by the sense of achievement, absolutely exhausted, looking forward to the next challenge whatever that might be, and in need of a cold pint.’
He added: ‘Chantelle had cancer a couple of years ago. At the time we were provided with fantastic care by the NHS. However, the real need for support came well after the surgery.
‘Both of us were unaware how big an effect cancer would have on us after the event. We turned to a fantastic organisation, the Maggie’s Centre, who offered us so much help and support.’
I joined Councillor Danny Alderslowe on pothole patrol outside Queen’s Park just after 7.30 am recently, writes Martin Graham. The idea was to make cyclists aware of the Council’s commitment to repair potholes within 24 hours on main roads and within 5 days on side roads. We handed out leaflets and free bike maps to over 50 people and the response was tremendous: people were delighted that someone was taking an interest. Also, there was an element of camaraderie which let cyclists know that there were other folks out there concerned about their issues.
If you spot a pothole you can call the council on 0800 373635 to report it. You can also let Danny know via email at email@example.com
Pedal for Scotland
This year’s Pedal for Scotland took place on 14 September, and was the biggest yet, with over 5000 people making the 55 mile journey from Glasgow Green to Victoria Park in Edinburgh, via Linlithgow and South Queensferry.
There were plenty of refreshment stops on the way, and Avonbridge Parish Church laid on their usual home baking tent for the ravenous cyclists. The pit stop was needed as one of the biggest hills on the route is just after that village. At Linlithgow, Sustrans had a huge tent serving pasta, soup and sandwiches, the queue was massive!
Participants ranged from experienced cyclists to complete novices and special mention must be made of Patrick, aged 5, who was enjoying the day with his dad.
Bad Luck in the Clyde Cycle Tunnel
I’ve had a run of punctures recently, then a broken chain out at Mugdock Park. To trump it all, I was out on a ride with my brother and we went through the Clyde Tunnel. My bro ended up crashing just at the bend on the southbound cycle path. Luckily he was wearing a helmet and his wheels took the brunt of the force, but it could have been much worse, as the tunnel is a very enclosed space with a metal barrier running down it.
The tunnel is a great route linking Govan and Yoker, and is the only way to negotiate the river between the Science Centre and the Ferry at Whiteinch.
Glasgow City Council has recently secured funding to progress some upgrades to the tunnel, including a controlled entry system supported by CCTV cameras. Hopefully, this should discourage anti-social behaviour in the tunnel and make it a more pleasant environment for cyclists and pedestrians.
There is also talk of a new ferry between Govan and Partick which would re-instate a centuries-old link.
The Council has a service commitment to repair potholes on main roads within 24 hours and on side roads within five days. Potholes are particularly hazardous for cyclists as they often occur at the edges of roads where cyclists usually ride. Swerving to avoid them can place cyclists in danger as they can come into contact with passing traffic. Danny told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘It’s great to see so many people cycling these days, but if the roads are in poor condition it discourages people from using their bikes. And it is especially difficult for new cyclists. Potholes are a serious hazard.’
The council’s pothole hotline number is 0800 373635.