Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Cyclist Safety

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 14th May 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons) 10:30 am, 14th May 2009

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of measures to ensure the safety of cyclists.

Watch this
Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website

Hide

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

While local highway authorities are directly responsible for assessing the effectiveness of cycle safety measures, the Department for Transport is strongly involved in promoting the safety of cyclists. The Department has commissioned a cycle safety research project that will assess the effectiveness of various measures, including road user safety and cycling data, cycling infrastructure, attitudes and behaviour, and cycle helmets.

Watch this

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

I am sure that the Secretary of State knows that I used to be the chairman of the all-party cycling group—until I was deposed in a very new Labour putsch in 1997, which installed Mr. Clarke, as an excellent chairman. I think I am still the vice-chairman, but I am not sure.

The Secretary of State may know of the Cyclists' Touring Club "Safety in numbers" campaign, which makes the valid prognosis that cycling becomes safer when more people do it, not only because motorists have to slow down, but because cyclists like me know when driving a car how dangerous cycling is. In his project, will he ensure that local authorities realise that the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling becomes, and that they should not simply try to get cyclists out of the way?

Watch this

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

I am sorry that 12 years on, the hon. Gentleman still feels such personal resentment about the operation of democracy in the House, but it is a clear testament to his commitment to cycling. I hope that every day when he thinks about that terrible injustice, he will nevertheless reflect on the great success of the all-party cycling group in promoting cycling. No doubt, he will continue to play a part in that.

More seriously, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is important that we continue to encourage cycling and, indeed, walking, and that they should be done safely and securely. I strongly support his suggestion and I take a keen interest in this area of Government activity. We want to promote cycling and we want more people to take advantage of it—safely.

Watch this

Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud

As a fellow cyclist, I commend the CTC campaign. At the same time, last week an important National Audit Office report drew attention to the threat to cyclists and pedestrians. I have always worked on the basis that one out of 10 motorists does not behave safely with regard to cyclists, and that one in 10 of those is a homicidal maniac. Is it time, particularly in rural areas, that we trained motorists to be far more responsible in their treatment of cyclists? Surely the Department could take that up.

Watch this

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

My hon. Friend makes some important points. We welcome the findings of the NAO report and will carefully consider its contents. Concern has been expressed about the apparent recent increase in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured, but over the trend period, the reduction is clear: cycling is becoming safer. The reasons for the very recent increase are not entirely clear to us, but we are looking into it.

It is important that we continue to promote safe cycling. We invest significant sums of public money in cycling training, which we are expanding across schools. We need to continue to support that work, so that we have safe cyclists in future.

Watch this

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

The Secretary of State will understand that an increase in cycling can lead to a lower risk for each cyclist but a greater number of casualties among cyclists—that is one of the consequences of modal shift.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that his study, when it is published, shows both that crashes are a consequence of conflict, and that secondary protection makes a difference?

Will the Secretary of State ensure that a comparison is made between the Netherlands, where cyclists tend not to wear energy-absorbing helmets, and this country, where cyclists do tend to wear them, even though the CTC has not got around to recommending it?

Watch this
M

A decrease in cycling would lead to greater danger for each cyclist, and more obesity and early deaths. Consequently it would be a bad thing for the government do discourage cycling. However one of the biggest ways of discouraging cycling is due to the dangerisation of cycling by helmet promotion, and the threat of mandatory helmet laws. When Australia introduced mandatory helmet laws a few year back, the number of...

Submitted by Martin Dann Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

The hon. Gentleman makes some good points and I will certainly take them into account when the report is published. I would like to spend a little more time studying the success of cycling in the Netherlands. Safety is clearly important, and I believe that we should campaign to encourage people to wear cycle helmets, which can help in especially serious conflicts between cyclists and motor vehicles.

Watch this
M

Study the results and you will find that few people in the Netherlands wear helmets on a bike. Please concentrate on road layout and driver behaviour, which makes more of a difference.

Submitted by Mike Hartley Read 3 more annotations

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Shadow Minister (Transport)

As a heavy-goods driver and a cyclist, I understand all too well the hazard caused to cyclists from the rear wheels of large vehicles, particularly at junctions. Does the Secretary of State think that the proposal from our brilliant Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to allow cyclists to turn left on red and thus get out of the way before the lights change might improve matters?

Watch this

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

I am grateful for that suggestion from the multi-talented Front Bencher. I shall certainly carefully consider the proposal, although there are some concerns about the safety implications of such a relaxation. As one who has lived and worked in the United States, where turning on red lights is routine for motor vehicles, I know that the idea has been considered for motor vehicles generally in the UK. What is important is that we put the safety criteria first—we have to assess whether it can be done safely. If it can, I would certainly take a positive view of it.

Watch this