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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 7:54 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 7:54 pm, 2nd September 2013

My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Comparisons are odious, but sometimes they are essential. Everyone in the Chamber would agree that there is neither the focus on nor the strategy for cycling that exist for other areas of transport. I hope that the Minister will set out how he intends to address the clear lack of leadership.

The report notes that successfully increasing cycling in many towns requires not just leadership and political will but investment. The report notes the relative underfunding per head for British cycling, which many hon. Members have spoken about today, but the Department for Transport’s response to the report was disappointing, as it did not deal with long-term funding. On most other issues, the buck was passed to local authorities and there was no commitment to appoint a national cycling champion. That is not the leadership that we need. I welcome the fact that Newcastle was awarded £5.7 million from the cycle city ambition fund, which was on top of £1.3 million from the cycle safety fund, but those amounts are relatively small compared with those received by European cities.

As several hon. Members have said, it is not just the amount of funding that is important. Whatever the spending per head, Government investment must be continued, steady and sustained if councils such as Newcastle are to plan to achieve their goals and all the associated benefits we have heard about. While much of the legwork in getting Britain cycling does and should fall to councils, there is plenty that the Government can do to support them. Newcastle is working hard to make the city’s road cycle-friendly and installing better cycling infrastructure. It is one of the leading local authorities on 20 mph zones, with the majority of residential areas and much of the city centre now covered by that limit.

The Department’s response to the report rightly says that things such as planning cycling routes and speed limits are local matters, but what about putting in place national standards for cycle infrastructure design or educating more people with design skills? What about reviewing sentencing guidelines for careless and reckless drivers?

Investment is important, although having a long-term pot is almost as important as the amount that goes into it. Above all, however, Transport Ministers and their colleagues across Whitehall must step up and show national leadership if we are to meet the goals set out in the report.