I am pleased to be the first non-lawyer to take part in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) on presenting this admirable Bill and hope that the House will forgive me if I do not stay for the entire debate; I have a constituency engagement. I look forward to the increased provision for cyclists which the London borough of Ealing envisages is possible under the Bill. I hope that there will be greater provision for cyclists all over London, because by their nature cyclists do not restrict themselves to boroughs or areas.
Perhaps my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister of State will take on board some positive suggestions. Could the Bill include a provision to encourage motorists to be more aware of cyclists whom they must pass, especially in relation to the driving test? The man who tested me told me that I nearly failed my driving test because I did not give adequate room to the first cyclist that I passed, although subsequently I did give enough clearance to cyclists. I cycle regularly in London and I am a member of the all-party cycling group in the House. I am often alarmed by the lack of room given to cyclists by motorists, especially by the drivers of juggernauts. Lorries are so long and wide that, especially in narrow streets, cyclists can be flattened against the kerb. Once or twice I have had to jump off my bicycle and get on to the pavement just to get away from a lorry. The Minister is a regular cyclist in London and a treasured member of the all-party cycling group, and I should be glad to hear her sympathetic response to that suggestions.
Hon. Members have mentioned the need for safe cycling. The cyclist has a responsibility to ensure that he knows the rules of the road, that he gives clear signals and that he keeps as close to the kerb as is reasonable. It is also important to keep the roads clear of potholes. The GLC has signally failed to do that in London, and cyclists are battered round terribly on streets not far from here.
We must do something while children are at school to ensure that each child who wishes to cycle to school passes the cycling proficiency test first. I had a rule in my last school and in other schools where I worked of not allowing children to bring their bicycles to school unless they took and passed the cycling proficiency test. I conducted regular tests, and the children knew that they could sit tests at least once a week. I also sent letters to their parents so that they would know that the facility was available. It is important that children should start cycling safely at an early age. One thing that city children especially enjoy is receiving a new bicycle. In the schools where I worked many children whose parents were fairly hard up managed to receive new chopper bicycles. Cycling was often their only recreation. Once they get bikes, children must learn to ride them safely, and they need facilities other than the pavement. Cycling tracks would be welcome, and the Bill takes us very much in that direction.
There must be areas other than Hyde park where we could have near dual use of facilities. The cycle track in Hyde park was mentioned by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness. I was in Hyde park this morning and had the pleasure of galloping a horse alongside cyclists who were using the cycle tracks. Indeed, the horse overtook several of them, and it was not going flat out either. The Army regularly uses the riding track in Hyde park, and other people take the air or use Hyde park for recreational purposes, walking alongside the cycle track that my children have used purely for pleasure, but which others may use as a means of getting to work.
This morning many people were cycling through the park on their way to work, and I should have thought that the principle could be extended to national parks and other areas. I do not see why it should not be. It would be nice if horses, cyclists, pedestrians and hikers could have reasonable use of the same facilities, while at the same time having regard for the safety of all, as that is important and needs to be thought about.
I regret that Members of Parliament no longer travel by horseback to work. Just a week ago, at the memorial service for that great man the Duke of Beaufort, I met a gentleman who said that he was the nephew of the last Member of Parliament to ride to work. He travelled to Parliament by horseback until 1942, and I was told where the horse was tethered. Indeed, the tethering rings still remain.
The facilities formerly available in Parliament to horse riders have now been turned over to cyclists, and it is good to see row upon row of cycle racks in the precincts of Westminster. It shows that hon. Members realise the value of fresh air and of the exercise achieved through cycling. Anything that can advance such values is to be welcomed, and I warmly support the Bill.