I have no interest to declare, and I feel rather like a member of "athletes anonymous", in that if any of my colleagues are feeling energetic I usually talk them out of it. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill, and I know that it will also be welcomed by many of my constituents, particularly the members and supporters of the Derby cycling group and the Cyclists Touring Club.
I support the Bill basically for two reasons. First, cycling is growing in popularity, so it is only right that we should see that proper provision is made for it. Secondly, the present procedure for converting a footpath into a cycle track is extremely complex and militates against many local authorities making provision even though they may be considering doing so. I understand that one needs to obtain planning permission for a cycle track, first, under the Town and Country Planning Acts. Secondly, planning permission is needed to stop up the existing footpath. A cycle track then has to be constructed under the Highways Act 1980, and often that may involve having to issue a compulsory purchase order. Local authorities have to follow a tortuous and complex procedure. Therefore, I welcome clause 3, which I believe amends the Highways Act to allow a local authority to convert a footpath into a cycle track in one step, without the additional need to apply for planning permission. That is most welcome.
Several hon. Members have spoken of the need to educate cyclists. However, if any road user needs to be educated it is not primarily the cyclist or motorist, but rather the pedestrian. I hope that in due course pedestrians will pay a little more attention to the needs of other road users. I fear that that may not be the case unless we eventually introduce a system similar to that in continental countries, where pedestrians are sometimes prosecuted for jaywalking.
I accept that that is a debate suitable for another occasion, but some of the criticism levelled against cyclists is unjust. Quite often, if anyone is to blame for an accident, it is the pedestrian who walks into the road or across a cycle way wholly oblivious of the fact that others may be using it.
This is an overdue measure. I support and welcome it, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading today.