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Lord Bradshaw: I support the amendment. It is slightly wrong; it should read "National Trails", of course, not "National Trail". I think that there are 14 national trails, with three more in the offing. They are very well defined—we are talking about very specific places—because they are nominated in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. They are all long-distance trails that go right across the country, and are a considerable source of enjoyment. However, principally so far as the Bill is concerned, they are becoming extremely unsafe to use. I live on the Ridgeway, as does the noble Viscount, and I can vouch for the fact that they are appalling. We have some photographs that we can give to the Minister afterwards.

I hope that we have drafted the proposed new clause correctly. If we have not, we are perfectly willing to take advice. It is not a case for piecemeal traffic orders. We are trying hard in Oxfordshire to get them, but they take years, are lugubrious, and deal only with parts of the trail because they go from county to county. One needs to keep changing traffic orders. I hope that the Minister can at least hold out some hope that something will be done on the issue.

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Lord Berkeley: I have seen the photographs. They were not needed to convince me, but they have certainly convinced me that something has to be done, and I support the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I want to add my support, too. I live in the countryside and, from time to time, motorcyclists can be a problem. I sympathise with them to the extent that, if they enjoy the sport, they need somewhere to enjoy it. However, as my noble friend said, there are places that set themselves up specifically to provide that facility.

I am sure that the Minister can give me the assurance that I seek that nothing in the CROW Act would actually permit the vehicles to start running around on moorland above the height of 800 metres, or whatever it is, where there is free access. I assume that to be the case but, to be honest, I cannot remember the answer, and nor can my noble friend.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am very glad that the noble Lord referred to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, as we debated the issue at great length and very passionately during its passage. It is under that Act rather than a traffic safety Bill that we shall make improvements. The issue, which does not really belong in this Bill, is not about traffic safety, but amenity. I feel very strongly about it, as it is important and genuine.

We have 189,000 kilometres of rights of way in this country. Unambiguous rights for mechanically propelled vehicles exist on only about 2 per cent of them, which are classified as "byways open to all traffic" or BOATs. There are a further 3 per cent classified as "roads used as public paths" or RUPPS, on which the current legislation is unclear as to whether vehicular rights exist. That was the matter discussed under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

Under the provisions in that Act, we are reclassifying all RUPPs as "restricted byways". They will have rights of passage for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles but not mechanically propelled vehicles. The Government will undertake public consultation on proposals for implementing the restricted byways provisions in late July, with a view to bringing them into force late this year or early next year. That means that 5,000 kilometres of RUPPs will become restricted byways.

It is on my next point that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, will not agree with me. Where rights exist for mechanically propelled vehicles, they may be regulated by local traffic authorities making traffic regulation orders under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. I should like to talk to him and to anyone else who is interested between now and Report stage about how adequate that is and whether it can be improved in any way.

We are taking positive action under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act to achieve the purpose of the amendment. I do not want to be picky about the amendment but the national trails are really long-distance routes in legislation. We are not clear what is

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meant by a non-essential vehicle and that might be a defect in the amendment. Hearing the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, I recognise that there are particular problems about the Ridgeway. There was a traffic regulation order proposed but the inspector, after a public inquiry, said that it was not justified on public safety grounds.

It is already an offence to drive on a footpath or bridleway under Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Apart from the Ridgeway, half of which has vehicular rights, only a small proportion of long-distance routes have motor vehicle rights. Let us talk about the detail.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I am grateful to the Minister for making that offer. In the 10 years that I have chaired the rights of way committee in Suffolk, it has proved to be very difficult indeed to use traffic orders to have the effect that he says. The practical obstacles are immense. I assure the noble Lord that certainly in my case it is not from lack of political will. However, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with the Minister and discuss this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 65B not moved].

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 65C:

    After Clause 107, insert the following new clause—

(1) The Secretary of State shall within one year of the coming into force of this Act, make regulations providing that, in any accident involving a road vehicle and a bicycle, the driver of the road vehicle shall be assumed to be at least 50% liable for any injury caused to the cyclist.
(2) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: In this Railways and Transport Safety Bill I thought that cycling should be discussed, very briefly. The Government have a very welcome policy to encourage cycling in its 10-year plan both for health and traffic reasons. However, as a cyclist I am struck by the fear factor which cars engender when they get too close, especially speeding cars. From many discussions I have had, it is clear that fear puts people off cycling.

There is the fear of parents, probably the lost generation who do not cycle and who prevent their children cycling. There is evidence that if children cycle, particularly to school, they carry on doing so in later life. We are all aware of the road congestion caused by people taking their children to school, but it is a vicious circle. The fear factor stops them cycling to school so they go by car, with some justification. Transport statistics show that something like 670 pedal cyclists were killed or seriously injured in 2001 compared with 32 per billion passenger kilometres. Without going into detail, cyclists are 20 times more at risk per kilometre, even more so than pedestrians per kilometre. So, it is pretty serious.

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Sadly, the fear factor has been reinforced by the Department of Transport's advertising campaign on the web to make cyclists wear their helmets. I believe it is meant to encourage child cyclists and teenagers. In a letter from Philip Darnton, President of the Bicycle Association to Steven Norris, Chairman of the National Cycling Strategy Board, he complains, quite rightly, about "cranial x-ray pictures" on the web: your brain cut open after an accident.

The advertisement then goes on to state that 3,000 cyclists between 12 to 16 were killed or seriously injured on the roads in 2001. The department has got the figures wrong. Its own figures state that it is not 3,000 but 699. That is really putting the fear of God into people who might be thinking about cycling. I think it is putting people off. I wonder what the department's policy is. It wants to promote cycling and is doing great work in that respect. However, the same department puts the fear of death into those who cycle or who might think about it. I think that a clarification of policy is required.

I cycle in Paris and Brussels quite often, as well as on other parts of the Continent, and find it much less threatening. I get more respect from cars and I have been inquiring why. I find that drivers take great care to avoid cyclists, not only when they are turning left where cyclists and pedestrians have priority, but because apparently they are automatically liable to at least 50 per cent of the damage or compensation if they hit a cyclist.

I firmly believe that the best way to ensure that cycling is encouraged is to carry on what the department is doing to promote cycling but to put a little fear into those who are safely cocooned in a nice, comfortable steel box and take away some of the fear that is currently there among those who cycle which, sadly, is exacerbated by the cross-section of smashed skulls. I believe that the best way to put fear and respect into drivers is for them to know that they will be automatically liable for at least 50 per cent of the damage.

I recognise that this is very much a probing amendment. However, this is an important issue which will need to be discussed in the coming weeks. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: This is an entirely proper issue to raise but it is an entirely wrong amendment to deal with the problem. To make cycling safer we need to improve cycling lanes and cycling routes, as the Government have done recently. We need to encourage people to wear safety equipment and safety helmets and encourage other safety measures. That is what will make cycling safer.

As regards making car drivers automatically 50 per cent liable, one can understand why the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, got the idea in France or Belgium because under Napoleonic law one is usually guilty until proven innocent. This is against natural justice. Some racing cyclists go through London a great deal

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faster than some cars. The noble Lord has raised an important issue but I believe that the amendment is entirely the wrong way to deal with it.

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