Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13 January 1997.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 12:00, 13 January 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what new proposals he has to improve safety on the road for cyclists. [8784]

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

A third fewer cyclists were killed or seriously injured on the roads in 1995 than in the 1981 to 1985 annual average. We will build on this improvement through the national cycling strategy by encouraging local authorities to provide for safe cycling in their transport policies and programmes.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Is the Minister aware that, when I occasionally cycle from Shepherd's Bush to Westminster, I feel like a by-election waiting to happen? As I have no wish to be the person responsible for restoring the Government's majority, will the Minister bear in mind the fact that the majority of people who cycle feel unsafe and that is why the figures are so low? Will he publish a map of cycle routes—particularly in London—that are regarded as safe or can be protected? Will he take steps to restore the minor works budgets to local authorities? It is no good the Government saying that they are encouraging local authorities, when they are taking the grant away.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

Let me not speculate on any absences from this House, temporary or permanent.

The hon. Gentleman knows that, for the first time, we have in place a national strategy for cycling and that we have put serious money into cycling, with some £42 million being spent on Sustrans for the national network. There is also the £4 million programme for the London cycling network this year, which we have extended for the coming year by another £4 million. The hon. Gentleman will also know that most boroughs produce maps of cycle routes. Some 50 local transport packages with a cycling element are planned for this year, with 65 packages planned for next year, and we are providing resources and advice for cycling networks. If our target is to increase cycling, it is important that it is done safely.

Photo of Mr Simon Coombs Mr Simon Coombs , Swindon

Given that the level of cycling deaths is the lowest since records were first compiled in 1927, is it not entirely right and desirable that the Government should continue to encourage cycling on our roads? In that context, would it not be a good idea to revisit the question of cyclists being a danger to themselves by going through red traffic signals, as they are doing more and more frequently?

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

My hon. Friend highlights an important point. Safe cycling is enhanced by responsible cyclists. People who cycle through red lights—or cycle without lights or on the pavement—are not enhancing the good name of cycling and are doing nothing for their own safety or that of other people. It is important that we continue our training programmes for children, and it is good that some 40 per cent. of children now receive cycling training before the age of 12. We must continue our campaigns to improve the quality of cycling, and we are about to consult on the mandatory fitting of bells and lights to cycles at the point of sale.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe and Nantwich

Would it not be a good way of ensuring that more mothers were confident about allowing their children to ride to school if we put money into research into safety, particularly of children? Perhaps we ought to look at the provision of cycle helmets on a mandatory basis. Before any decisions are taken, should we not assess the practical steps that the Government can take to keep children safe on the roads?

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

The hon. Lady is right. We are engaged in research and campaigns to encourage safer cycling by children, and our cycle safe campaign was very much geared towards the wearing of helmets. We can encourage safe cycling from an early age if schools continue to work with local authorities and road safety officers, and mothers can then have confidence that their children can cycle safely. The Department will continue to support local authorities that make sensible plans in that direction.