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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 8:02 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Graham Evans Graham Evans Conservative, Weaver Vale 8:02 pm, 2nd September 2013

I am delighted to speak in this important debate. As a fairly recent convert to cycling, I have personal experience of its many benefits, although I am also conscious of its dangers, especially for those who, like me, are new to the sport.

The Evans household has become an enthusiastic cycling family with new bikes for the children and not-so-new bikes for mum and dad. I was interested to hear the debate about helmets because I insist that we all wear helmets although, for some reason, when I put my helmet on, the children point and laugh—I have no idea why.

There is a fantastic grass-roots movement in my constituency to encourage residents to get on their bikes. I give credit to the Northwich Guardian’sPedal Power campaign for drawing my constituents’ attention to the importance of cycling. Its cycling ambassadors, with profiles ranging from teenage pro bikers to blind nonagenarians, show my constituents that a bike is for everyone at any stage of their lives. I welcome the all-party cycling group’s “Get Britain Cycling” report and its target of one in 10 journeys being by bike by 2025. Road safety is also important to me, and I shall be presenting the Drug Driving (Assessment of Drug Misuse) Bill—my private Member’s Bill—to the House for its Second Reading on 18 October.

The benefits of cycling are clear, with better health being the obvious starting point, as a regular cyclist in mid-adulthood has the fitness levels of someone 10 years younger. We have heard many comments suggesting that we all want to be 10 years younger.

When we consider Britain’s transport system, it is clear that there must be a better way. Most of us find ourselves sitting in long traffic jams when we make the quick run down the road to the shops to pick up some milk and a loaf of bread. Some 66% of all trips made in Britain are less than five miles. However, if one factors in the process of getting to the destination and then hunting down a parking space, that seems daft, given that one could reasonably often nip down to the shops on a bike. There are also economic arguments in favour of cycling because regular cyclists are associated with lower health costs, while the cost of congestion goes down and productivity increases.

What is stopping people cycling? The main reason is safety. The Department’s “British Social Attitudes Survey 2012: public attitudes towards transport” showed that 48% of cyclists, who were defined as someone who had cycled in the past year, agreed that it was too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads, whereas the figure for non-cyclists was 65%. It is also worth noting that there is a significant gender divide regarding cycling safety because 60% of women said that it was too dangerous compared with 53% of men. I am therefore proud to be involved in Northwich Breeze rides, which are designed specifically to introduce more women in the area to cycling and to improve their confidence in safety.

What can be done to improve safety? There are basic steps that everyone should take when getting on a bike. Putting on a helmet and ensuring that reflectors and proper lights are fitted are all ways of making someone safer and more visible. It is only logical that local authorities should take simple and automatic steps to improve—