Critical Mass Pedals on Parliament!

Pedal on Parliament has quickly grown to become a major event in the Scottish cycling calendar. Now in its third year and attracting thousands of participants, the basic principle behind the ride is that by pedalling to parliament en masse, we send a clear message that cycling matters to a lot of people and not enough is being done by politicians to promote it.*

PoP 2014 poster - the emphasis here is on children and the idea that bicycles can represent a viable alternative to cars

PoP 2014 poster – the emphasis here is on children and the idea that bicycles can represent a viable alternative to cars

As regular participants in Critical Mass, we knew that Pedal on Parliament was right up our street – riding together in solidarity is what we do all year round, summer or winter, rain or shine! This being the case, we saw PoP as an opportunity to let other cyclists know about Critical Mass, and to promote the idea that riding together for a shared cause can happen more than just once a year.

I mean, come on! This is what we do all year round!

I mean, come on! We do this every month!

We had our work cut out for us if we were to get our message across, and so we decided to focus on three main areas: music, flags, and flyers.

No party is complete without music, and so a portable sound-system was required. Regular follows of the blog will already know about the evolution of our current system, but we figured that something bigger would be better suited to such a massive event. Flags would also be important so that we could stand out as a group and let others know who we are.
If people seemed interested in us, flyers would be useful for providing more information.

Simple, right?

On paper, yeah, pretty straightforward. In reality, though, it proved to be a little more complicated, so sit tight and I’ll regale you with the story (don’t worry, it’s well illustrated).

To begin with, printing flyers was easy enough: we already had a pretty decent design, and after only a few small changes it was modified to make its message more appropriate for the PoP ride.

In terms of music, Edinburgh’s Critical Mass rides are usually accompanied by tunes from a home-made system composed of car audio components:

A 12Volt lead-acid battery sits atop one of the 6×9 speakers behind an 800Watt amplifier.

This set-up was great for the monthly rides as it was fairly loud and easily portable. We felt, however, that Pedal on Parliament was a much larger event, and so a larger system would be more appropriate. Instead of simply adding more speakers, a subwoofer was acquired and integrated into the system. Although it took a few attempts to get the configuration right…

One of many failed design options

…the final ‘Mickey Mouse’ design was settled upon:

Quite a bizarre artefact when you look at it...

Quite a bizarre artefact when you look at it…

As you can see from the encroaching mess in the photo above, many wires, cables, crimps, and countless other nubbins and gubbins had to be put together before anything would actually work.

My girlfriend has given up on her hope of having a tidy flat

My girlfriend would walk into the room and just sigh at the state of it

Following the technical complexity of the sound-system, flags might have seemed like a relatively simple thing to have to produce; in theory, yes, they ought to have been, but this is the twenty-first century, and basic skills like painting and sewing are hard to come by. Stencils, spray paint, and sewing machines were therefore the order of the day, and thanks to the kind people at Edinburgh’s Hacklab we had use of their laser-cutter to produce some pretty impressive designs:

Seriously, if anyone didn't know better it might look like we were organised or something. How absurd!

If anyone didn’t know better it might look like we were organised or something. How absurd!

With all the clobber falling into place, the morning of April 26th found us congregating near to the start of the ride nice and early so that we could get a good spot and be as visible as possible.

Just getting ready (there were more of us, I promise!)

Just getting ready (there were more of us, I promise!)

In addition to the flags, we also had a rider sporting a rather dashing Critical Mass cape…

caped crusader

It was originally supposed to be a flag, but got superseded by superior materials – ended up looking great though!

On arrival, we took our place in the already substantial queue leading from the top of the Quartermile (past the new cycle counter!), down Middle Meadow Walk, and around the corner.

A view of the queue

A view of the queue (or a small section of it, at least)


I think it's safe to say that we made our mark

I think it’s safe to say that we stood out in style!

The ride itself was fun but pretty short. Photographs are emerging, but this is the only one of us that I’ve been able to find so far:

The flags were a great success, and the sound-system turned plenty of heads

The flags were a great success, and the sound-system turned plenty of heads

The atmosphere was great, and it was inspiring to see so many different types of bike riders…

...including a Penny Farthing!

…including a Penny Farthing!

However, it was especially good to see so many young people on bikes…

easy rider helios
Seeing kids on bikes was a reminder that cycling isn’t intrinsically dangerous, and also a tantalising hint at the idea that roads can be safe spaces for people of all ages (if we commit ourselves to making them safe, that is).

By the end of the ride a good time was had by all, and cheese scones were handed out as we listened to speeches on the grass next to parliament.

Praise Jah the weather held out!

Praise Jah the weather held out!

barely audible speeches...

Some barely audible speeches…

Party on Parliament 2014!

Party on Parliament 2014!

Let’s hope that the thousands of riders and pedestrians who turned out in the name of safer streets will have an impact on the decisions made for Scotland’s future. Although Pedal on Parliament is a fun event, the underlying message is a serious one, and until such rides become superfluous it is vital that we keep up the energy throughout the year with Critical Mass.


*The PoP manifesto makes for good reading and can be found here.


P.S. BBC coverage of the event can be found here and here, and a time-lapse view of parliament during the event can be found here. Other coverage links below:


About Cycle Chic

A student in Edinburgh with a passion for Dutch bikes and Dutch cycling culture.
This entry was posted in Bike Riding, Bike Sound-System, Critical Mass, Edinburgh, Pedal on Parliament, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Critical Mass Pedals on Parliament!

  1. Kim says:

    The thing with PoP is there is more to it than just the ride. Before the ride there was the Manifesto and the petition. It started out as a single ride with a purpose and has grown into a lobbying and campaigning group. If you’d like to meet up for a chat about it, contact me through my blog.

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