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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 8:08 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation, NATO Parliamentary Assembly (President) 8:08 pm, 2nd September 2013

The House has a fairly rigid dress code, and I think I inadvertently broke it earlier today because, for the first time in my career, I wore a pair of cycle clips in the Chamber. That was not because I was trying to celebrate the debate, but because I had rushed here from one of my two bicycle visits today so that I would be in time to ask my question during Defence questions—[Interruption.] I got no answer, but that is the nature of parliamentary questions. I make the point because I have been cycling to Parliament and to meetings near Parliament for more than 20 years. As other Members have observed, in that period there has been a huge growth in the number of people who cycle—not just the number of people working in the Palace of Westminster but the number of people in general on the roads of London. That increase has not just happened—it occurred as a result of public policy and public spending. That is the first thing that I would say to the Minister: we need an increase in Government spending to promote cycling and make the roads safer for cycling, but it needs to be long-term and predictable funding, which is why I particularly welcome the proposal that there should be spending by his Department on cycling measures at the rate of £10 per capita.

There are environmental and health benefits from cycling. It is a convenient and time-saving way to travel short distances. No one has mentioned the fact that it is a cheap way of travelling. For MPs, there is one more advantage. I sometimes use a car in my constituency, and when I do, no one notices me driving round. However, when I am cycling round my constituency people notice me all the time. They point, they probably laugh, but at least they see that I am in my constituency—that is a tip for Members on both sides of the House.

Between 2008 and 2010, York received £3.68 million as one of the 12 cycling cities designated by Cycling England. It had a number of goals, including increasing the use of cycling by 25% from 10%—a relatively high level—at the beginning of the period to 12.5%. In fact, it increased the use of cycling by twice the target—by 50%—to 15%. Interestingly, in York, as many women cycle as men, and that is a goal that we ought to try to roll out nationally.

Under the scheme, we pledged to increase commuter cycling by 10% from 12% at the beginning of the period to 13.2%. Although there was no national survey of the number of people who commute to work by cycle, looking at the big employers in York, the increase in that period ranged from 17% to 35%. Achieving an increase depends on whether employers provide incentives such as safe cycle parking, cycle workshops where people can repair punctures for instance, and cycle loan schemes. The House could do a lot more for the people who work here, and I hope that that is something the all-party group will press for.

I welcome the proposal in the report for a goal of increasing cycle use to 10% by 2025, but we need different goals for different local authorities. Dr Huppert, who introduced the debate, has in his city a cycling participation level far above 10%, and so does my own city. We will not achieve 10% national usage unless we set challenging goals for those local authorities that are in the lead.

Finally, greater efforts should be made to employ trained personnel in local authorities to supervise the safety of transport schemes, and for institutes such as the—