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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 8:34 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Labour, Feltham and Heston 8:34 pm, 2nd September 2013

I congratulate Dr Huppert and my hon. Friend Ian Austin on their leadership and drive on this issue. This has been a refreshing debate. I am delighted to continue my support for safety for cyclists, inspired, as were many other Members of the House, by The Times’ “Cities fit for cycling” campaign. Cycling has many advantages: increasing health, providing a fitter population and work force; saving energy; reducing the degradation of road surfaces; reducing congestion and air quality; and, last but not least, it is also jolly good fun.

It is great to speak today on what could be the cusp of a big change in Britain to transform life and the experience of roads for future generations—to get Britain cycling not just in individual pockets of the country and to have a holistic vision. I congratulate the all-party cycling group on its excellent report, which advocates the dream of having 10% of all journeys made by bike by 2025. I am glad that it does not mince its words on the need for leadership to start with politicians because we, as politicians, have to think long term in supporting cyclists with a shared commitment across Whitehall, councils, schools, employers, and public transport providers.

I pay tribute to Hounslow Cycling, particularly to Tim Harris and Brian Smith, who have been strong advocates and campaigners for improved facilities for cyclists. Their excellent strapline is “Looking for a mini-Holland in Hounslow”. Together with Hounslow council they have an exciting longer-term vision for safer cycling, but they have raised some issues that I would like to share with the House. First, there is funding.

The Government’s response to “Get Britain Cycling” does not provide any assurance of funding for cycling infrastructure in future. It is a shame that when Ministers recently set out annual budgets for road and rail investment for the next eight years they failed to do so for cycling infrastructure.

Secondly, 20-mph speed limits should be adopted on residential roads as standard. Hounslow Cycling makes the very effective point that we should not have to fight campaigns in each neighbourhood to get safe speed limits and good-quality cycle lanes and design standards governing how roads are built. This should not be done for cyclists; it needs to be done with cyclists, whose input at the design stage can have a real impact on the quality of the result. We know that 20-mph speed limits can make a big difference. In 2009 the British Medical Journal published a review of road casualties in London between 1986 and 2006 having found that 20-mph zones reduced casualties by over 40%.

Thirdly, it is important to have a national cycling champion—a proposal that has not been accepted so far. Perhaps the Minister might want to say whether that is still the case. Fourthly, we must ensure that where we have rules they are effectively enforced. Some of the behavioural changes that we need, such as cyclists not going through red lights, must be looked at in the interests of their safety as well as that of others.

Cycling has the potential to be a huge British success story. We can see many more Olympic gold medallists coming through if we encourage good behaviours, start them young, and make sure that everyone feels they can cycle in future.