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
I congratulate my hon. Friend Dr Huppert on securing this debate through the Backbench Business Committee. I thank him for inviting me to serve on the panel. I suspect that I ended up doing so for one simple reason—that I am a reluctant cyclist. Although I occasionally cycle, the reason I am reluctant is that I do not think it is a particularly safe activity. I fully support The Times’ “Cities fit for cycling” campaign following the case of Mary Bowers, who is still in a coma. I also fully support the implementation of the targets that the Government need to make sure that there is strong political leadership at local and national level and that cycling is safe.
Over the recess I spoke to a number of people in my Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport constituency. Anne-Marie Clark, who rides with the Plymouth Yogis, suggested that the Government should make it compulsory for people to wear helmets. She was appalled that hirers of Boris bikes are not offered helmets. The Mayor of London may want to look at that. She also highlighted Plymouth’s notorious potholes, and I am delighted that the Government and the council are working together to fix them. Anyone who lives in my constituency who wants to have a photograph taken with me and Pothole Pete alongside a pothole is welcome to contact me in order to arrange it.
The chairman of Plymouth’s cycling campaign, Stuart Mee, said that one of the biggest impediments to getting on two wheels is the traffic. He said that all too often cycle routes stop at junctions and do not take cyclists to where they want to go. In Plymouth some routes end abruptly at difficult junctions. He added that cycling can make Plymouth healthier. Several cyclists who watched me do a little bit of cycling through the streets of Plymouth during the sky ride picked up on my comments during the last cycling debate, when I made it clear that if cycling were made safer and I took it up I could put into effect the title of Tom Vernon’s wonderful, well-known radio programme, “Fat Man on a Bicycle”.
Regular health activities can save a lot of money. It is interesting to note that a child born in Devonport—a really deprived community—is expected to live 14 years less than a child from the city suburbs in the constituency of my hon. Friend Mr Streeter.
All parties on Plymouth county council are supportive of this report. It is interesting that the cabinet member for transport on my patch told me recently that over the past four years there has been a 30% increase in cycling. The Sustrans Connect2 project has done an enormous amount to try to connect the west of the city to the city centre. It would be helpful to have a conversation with a Minister from the Department for Work and Pensions in order to make sure that it can provide bicycles to those who cannot get to employment opportunities on the other side of the city.
Finally, I want cycle manufacturers to produce cheaper and more basic cycles. I want to buy one, but I do not want to pay £1,000 for it. I want one a bit like the one Paul Newman rode in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”; I may then notice rain drops falling on my head.