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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 8:42 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central 8:42 pm, 2nd September 2013

I join colleagues in congratulating Dr Huppert and others, not only on securing this debate, but on the excellent work in producing the “Get Britain Cycling” report done by the all-party group on cycling.

I represent a city that has hills, which can make cycling a bit of a challenge, certainly for those of us who are recreational cyclists. Even in Sheffield, however, cycling rates have doubled over the past eight to 10 years, but we have a long way to go compared with—for a change, I will not mention Holland—hilly Helsingborg in Sweden: 26% of daily commutes into its city centre are made on a bike, compared with less than 1% in Sheffield.

Having said I would not mention the Netherlands, I will do so briefly, although I hesitate to do so. I spent a few days in Tilberg, a fairly ordinary city in central Netherlands, last year. I was struck by the fascinating consequence of the impact of a planning approach that gives as much focus to the needs of bikes as to those of cars. It provides a contrast to the picture of British cycling painted earlier by my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick. In Tilberg I saw a town in which elderly couples, families and young people all saw bikes as the preferred form of transport for commuting, shopping or an evening out. It was a transformational experience.

As the “Get Britain Cycling” report highlights, we need to do a number of things to transform the situation in the UK. Clearly, one is funding. That means not simply providing more funding, but making sure that the billions we spend on our roads have funds earmarked within them for cycling and meeting the needs of cyclists. That will be an important step towards achievements similar to those of the Dutch.

When I invited comments from my constituents on today’s debate, I got a huge response. There were a number of common themes. They pressed for more segregated cycle lanes and for more available and consistent cycle lanes that are not used for parking for large parts of the day and that do not disappear on the approach to difficult junctions or hazardous roundabouts. They argued for road infrastructure to be better designed and for speed bumps that do not have gaps at the side. They argued against routes that follow illogical directions. They pushed for the maintenance of cycle routes with regard not only to their quality, but to their visibility to cyclists and motorists. They argued not only for safe routes to schools, public buildings and places of work, but for more secure places for people to leave their cycles when they get there.

I would like a response from the Minister on one specific point when he winds up: the role of cycling within an integrated approach to transport. I am pleased that south Yorkshire has received funding from the Government for a tram-train pilot, which will see the introduction of a continental model with vehicles that run on both tram and rail tracks. That is a significant development for us and a potential model for the rest of the country. It is important that we get it right. Part of that is ensuring that cyclists are able to take their bikes on to the tram-trains so that both modes of transport can be used on a journey. I have raised that issue with the South Yorkshire passenger transport executive because decisions need to be taken now at the stage of system design. The Department is also a key stakeholder, so I ask the Minister to join me by confirming in his closing remarks that he will seek to ensure that bikes can be carried on to tram-trains in that important pilot.

To conclude quickly, there is clearly strong cross-party support for the report and I hope that this debate secures a transformation in the UK.