|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
the strongest success story in walking and cycling
in that very walking and cycling action plan of 2004. That is one good example of action to improve safety and security, and to reassure cyclists that their activity is safe as well as healthy. We must consider other ways of giving the same reassurance and support to cycling. Part of that strategy will mean more dedicated cycle lanes.
My hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, North and Leith and for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Charlotte Atkins) touched on the revisions to the highway code. In any collision between a car and a cyclist, it is inevitable that the cyclist will come off worse than the driver of the car. The onus is much more on the driver of the vehicle to take care, and cyclists worry about revising the highway code is based on unscrupulous drivers and insurance companies using the highway code to try to make spurious counter-claims against cyclists who get hurt in collisions. They are right to possess that fear. The law on driver insurance needs to be changed so that non-motorised road users can claim injury damages from drivers who hit them, unless it can be shown that they were reckless in causing the collision that led to their injury.
When I was a solicitor, which is an increasingly long time ago, I experienced making claims in countries other than Britain for people who were injured in road collisions. Countries such as France already have rules that put the onus on drivers and their insurance companies to compensate other people who are injured by the actions of vehicles. Their pedestrians and cyclists have stronger protection by law, and I urge that approach on our Government.
Another important consideration for the protection of cyclists is the education of motorists. We heard about the bad habit of driving while using a mobile phone, and about drivers who do not see cyclists even though they are in front of their eyes. In my constituency, I have seen drivers driving too close to cyclists as they try to pass them, and opening their car doors as cyclists go past, because they forgot their duty to look over their shoulder. We must draw motorists attention to their responsibilities.
Recently, I saw some Government-sponsored advertisements on the television that were successful in drawing attention to the presence of motorcyclists on
our roads. We need much more of the same for cyclists as part of the Governments publicity campaign. I should also like more use of 20 mph zones, where all traffic slows down. They give cyclists a fairer chance of a safe journey.
the one critical success factor underpinning best practice in promoting walking, cycling and public transport as alternatives to the private car.
Living Streets, a charity that promotes safer streets, is part of the Safer Streets Coalition, which comprises organisations including CTC. It wants safer roads for all road users. When I met Living Streets, it argued that there are three big reasons for making 20 mph the default speed in most streets. It said:
It is the one thing that will do most to cut casualties, make streets vibrant and people centred, boost sustainable transport.
I also received the great sheaf of letters that my hon. Friends mentioned, objecting to the highway code changes. I have had letters about another campaignCTC-inspired, I thinkto integrate cycle and rail transport. It is a policy, as one of my constituents called it, of doorstep to destination. It was urged on me that the Government should have a national policy framework that puts cycling and rail use together, covering things such as station access and parking, and storing cycles safely at stations. In the nine years that I have been going to platform 1 of Stafford station to catch my train to Parliament, I have seen the growth of a safe parking area for cycles on the platform. As it has grown, so has its use, and there is a large number of bicycles there every Monday morning when I am waiting for the train to Euston.
The letters that I have received also urge that the national policy framework should cover on-board cycle carriage facilities, information about cycle use and carriage, the possibility of cyclists reserving places on trains for their cycles, and the wider use of consultation and monitoring. Again, I ask the Minister to consider those options.
We already have policies on safe routes to schools, and those should clearly include cycling. It is particularly important that we reassure parents that it is safe for their children to cycle to school. That is why 20 mph limits are important, particularly around schools, and why safe parking and storage for childrens cycles is vital in schools. In my constituency, I speak to students in schools and listen to representatives of schools councils, and there is tremendous interest in safe parking and storage facilities for cycles. However, there is not always enough money for every school that wants such facilities to have them, and I hope that we can put that right. It is also important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands said, that pupils have proper, structured instruction on safe cycling.
My hon. Friend also mentioned employers, and I have seen examples of good practice in my constituency in terms of green travel plans. A small number of employers have taken the issue on board enthusiastically and developed plans to reduce demand among staff for coming to work in their own cars. Staffordshire county council gives good support and advice on that and has a small amount of money to assist employers in making changes, such as giving priority to parking for cycles, providing showers for people who cycle to work and so on. However, a bit more money to get such schemes up and running would be useful.
Mark Lazarowicz: Would my hon. Friend care to speculate on ways in which we in the House of Commons could improve the record of employers and, indeed, Members on cycling to work? How could we assist and encourage them to do so?
Mr. Kidney: I entirely adopt my hon. Friends comments about making it easier to get cycles into this place and making the streets around the building more accessible, and I would certainly like more Members than Ministers to have access to showers here if they cycle to work. In fairness to our colleagues, however, I should say that I see a lot of them cycling to Parliament each day as I walk here from my flat in London, and I congratulate all those who do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) mentioned wearing cycle helmets, which is the final thing that I want to raise. I always wear my cycle helmet when I am cycling, but a resident who lives just around the corner from me, in Newport road, went out on a recreational cycling run with some friends without wearing one. Sadly, he fell over the handlebars, landed on his head and received a dreadful injury, as everybody can imagine. I therefore urge all cycle users to wear a helmet and all parents to encourage their children always to wear a cycle helmet. When my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) introduced a private Members Bill to make it the law for everybody to wear a helmet, it was disappointing that there was a split in the cycling lobby over whether that was a good or bad thing. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, I urge the Minister to bring the cycling organisations together and to try to reach a consensus on a law to make helmet wearing the norm for all cycle users.
Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): I begin by congratulating my hon. Friendthe Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith(Mark Lazarowicz) on giving us the time and space to debate this important issue. I speak as a cyclist and chair of the all-party cycling group.
I shall speak on behalf of an oppressed minority who spend much of their time in the gutter, who always seems to be in the wrong, and who are told that they are a danger to themselves, and possibly to pedestrians, and that they are definitely an annoyance to taxis and
should get out of the bus lanes. However, we are clean, green and healthy, and cycling is the future of transport. The number of cyclists has doubled in London since 2000. Indeed, we have reached a critical mass in the capital, and motorists know that we are there.
The more cycling there is on the roads, the safer they become, because the real danger is the metal boxesthe cars. We must encourage cycling and change attitudes to it. Cycling presses so many policy buttons. It helps with the environment, helps to make our lives easier, helps to ensure that our roads are no longer full and helps with the obesity epidemic. Cycling is the answer to so many of our problems, and I urge the Government to give greater priority to this important policy issue.
Mr. Drew: I am pleased that my hon. Friend is now chair of the all-party cycling group. Cyclists have always been ahead of their time and the Clarion cycling clubspeople forget that they were the early socialistsformed the wedge that allowed us tohave freedom of access. Going back 100 years, which would help socialism in this country, would give predetermination to the vital role of the bike in our society. Does she agree that that is a jolly good thing?
I was talking about London, and particularly how things have changed there and how in so many respects it shows the way. The speed of transport in central London is 9 mph, which is the same as it was at the turn of the last century when transport consisted of horses and carts. The statistics from Transport for London show that the time it takes to travel 4 miles is 22 minutes on a bicycle, 30 minutes on the tube,40 minutes in a car and 62 minutes on a bus. It is much faster to make a 4-mile journey in London by bicycle, and cycling in London has already doubled.
Another problem is that we are victims of some of the wackier suggestions and criticisms that are levelled against us. Unfortunately, some of those come from another place. A recent suggestion was to ask the Government whether they would be willing to consider carefully whether
a new requirement that cyclists display on their clothing a clearly readable personal registration number and carry a registration card containing relevant information would confer benefits that outweighed the bureaucracy and costs that sucha system would entail?[Official Report, House of Lords,27 April 2006; Vol. 681, c. 256.]
May I urge the Government to ignore that advice? It is crazy to suggest that cyclists should carry numbers on their clothing so that they could be identified, and it would be equally insulting and crazy to expect pedestrians to do that. Cyclists are a special class and we need support. We do not need that eccentric criticism.
There was also a suggestion in another place that 1,000 pedestrians in London were injured by cyclists last year. May I put an accurate defence of cyclists on the record? Last year, more pedestrians were hit and injured by mopeds than by bicycles. In 2004, one
pedestrian was killed in a collision with a cyclist, but that is the only recent known death. Motor cyclists, of whom there are a similar number on the road as cyclists, killed 20 people and seriously injured another 200 last year. The number of direct pedestrian deaths caused by cars in the same year was 388, with another 5,000 people seriously injured and 20,000 moderately injured. On top of that, there were another 2,000 deaths on the road, all caused by motorised transport. It is a simple fact that the more cycling there is on the roads, the safer our roads become.
May I take this opportunity to put in my hapenny-worth on the highway code campaign? More than 11,000 cyclists contacted their MP about the matter. Several thousand sent in responses to the highway code consultation last weekend and succeeded in jamming the Driving Standards Authoritys e-mail server, so several hundred cyclists have been unable to submit their views. However, I presume that I know what they are saying. They are asking the Government, Please do not make it our responsibility if we are injured or hurt by cars on the roads, because without the cars there would not be those injuries.
In fact, if there were to be a policy initiative to help and protect cyclists, I would still strongly recommend that the Government continue to put money into cycle training, which is important, and not only for children. I had cycling training a few months agoI have been cycling on the roads in London for nearly 30 yearsand I was amazed at how helpful it was. I was told that it would simply be assertive cycling training, and those who know me were surprised that I needed that, but assertive cycling made me think about cycling in a different way.
For example, I was taught not to cycle in the gutter; we are entitled to cycle on the road like anyone else. I was told not to cycle right by parked cars, but to move away from them, so that when a parked cars door opens, the cyclist does not get hit. When cyclists stop at traffic lights, they should stop in the middle of the road. They should make eye contact with drivers behind them, because once eye contact is made, drivers begin to think of the cyclist as a person, rather than an annoying blob. That is what is taught through cycle training, and anyone and everyone can benefit from it. It is a way for us to convince people that cycling can be safe, clean, green, healthy and good for us all.
Finally, I would like to plug a couple of events. This afternoon in Room 8, at 4 oclock, John Grimshaw is talking about his vision for enabling access to cycle paths by bike and for leaving permanent routes available after the Olympic games to cyclists who want to cycle round east London. Everyone is welcome at that meeting. I must also plug bike week, Bike2Work and the parliamentary bike ride on 21 June, which starts at 9 oclock outside St. Pancras station. We chose St. Pancras to highlight the importance of integrating transport, including rail and bike transport, and to highlight the unfortunate lack of facilities for bicycles at Europes largest rail hub. Everyone is welcome.
We cycle to Parliament, but, unfortunately, visitors to Parliament will have difficulties parking their bicycles, although the all-party cycling group is working on that, too. It has had meetings with Westminster city council and the parliamentary authorities, and we keep our fingers crossed that we can make some progress.
Once again, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith for giving us the space to debate this issue, and I look forward to the Ministers response. I hope that cycling continues to go up the agenda.
Mr. John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) on securing what has turned out to be a very interesting debate on cycling. I confess that I had hoped that my first transport debate would be on something very specific, so I was alarmed when I saw the title Cycling, and I thank him for giving me some idea of the issues he wanted to raise.
I would like to comment on a few issues. Thehon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Stafford Mr. Kidney) raised concerns about proposed changes to the highway code. I add my support to the campaign to avoid those changes, which could discourage people from cycling. The hon. Members for Stafford and for Stroud (Mr. Drew) raised important points about the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets. In the short term, making helmets compulsory would probably reduce the number of people cycling, although a debate is needed on whether such a move would improve the safety of cyclists in the long term. That is an important question.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith made a good suggestion about forcing local authorities to audit their cycle facilities, but if there are no additional resources, we might find that although local authorities recognise that cycling facilities seriously need to be installed, they might not be able to install them.
On the point about resources, the hon. Gentleman raised concerns over funding cuts for cycling in Scotland and made special mention of the Liberal Democrat Minister for Transport and Telecommunications. However, I should point out that, thanks to the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment of 2003, the new ScotRail franchise has been negotiated so that bikes can be carried on trains, which will encourage the use of bikes.
Similarly, under that Liberal Democrat Minister, spending on public transport as a proportion of overall transport spending will rise by 70 per cent. between 2003 and 2007, compared with an increase of less than 50 per cent. under Labours stewardship. Perhaps the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith ought to speak to his colleagues in Scotland as well as preaching to the Liberal Democrats about their commitment to cycling.
No one will dispute that we should encourage more people to cycle. The benefits are clear: cycling keeps people fit and healthyit is nice to see so many fit and healthy Members here today, who are all committed to cyclingcuts congestion, reduces pollution and makes our streets safer because there are fewer cars out there. Unfortunately, cycling has been in decline since Labour came to power. During the first two terms of the Labour Government, bicycle trips fell by 22 per cent. Equally worryingly, the length of the trips that people
make has gone down. According to figures produced by the CTC, which were mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, only 2 per cent. of road trips in Britain are made by bicycle. We all agree that that must change.
To be fair to the Governmentno one has mentioned thisone of the main reasons for cycling rates not being as good as they are elsewhere is our pretty poor weather. According to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney), the sun is always shining in Stafford.
Mark Lazarowicz: I am not going to dispute the hon. Gentlemans description of the British weather, but it is important to do away with the myth that one musthave a perfect climate to encourage cycling. The Netherlands does not have a climate drastically different from that in much of the UK for much of the year, but it has a much higher cycling level. Before anyone says that that is because the Netherlands is flat, plenty of places in urban areas in the UK are pretty flat too. Let us not get caught up with the idea that bad weather is the reason for people not cycling more in the UK.
Mr. Leech: I accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman, but he will accept that more people are encouraged to cycle during better weather than during poor weather. I vividly remember when I was only a cyclist and not a car driver, always dreading the thought of waking up
Mr. Leech: I take the hon. Ladys point, but she did not let me finish mine. I was going to say that when I was only a cyclist, as opposed to a cyclist and a motorist, I used to dread waking up and hearing rain on the window before I prepared for my 6-mile cycle ride to work. It certainly discouraged me from getting up in the morning when I thought the weather was going to be poor. I am sure that poor weather is the only reason that the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has a car following him to work with his suit and shoes, because he does not want to spend the rest of the day in a soggy suit and shoes. Instead of having a car following him, perhaps he ought to get a wardrobe
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|