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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales) 9:06 pm, 2nd September 2013

We have already heard this evening about the health and environmental benefits of cycling, through the reduction in pollution, congestion and pressure on city parking, and about the economic benefits from a cheap form of transport. In recent years we have seen some fantastic recreational facilities provided, such as the coastal path in my constituency and a fantastic cycle path that goes from Llanelli up to Tumble along a disused railway that has a very gradual gradient.

However, this evening we are not just talking about recreational facilities; we are talking about how to get people cycling much more in their everyday lives, and not just on holiday. It needs to be practical and safe for people to go by bike wherever they need to go—whether to work or to the shops, the doctor’s, the leisure centre or the cinema, and so forth. That means making routes everywhere safer and more pleasant for cyclists. We need proper investment—at least £10 a head, as the report suggests—to ensure the infrastructure. We need the political will to prioritise spending on cycling. We need joined-up thinking across Departments. We need thinking at the initial stages of planning for any infrastructure, but we also need to look at retrospective measures.

There have been some adaptations in our cities, but there is a lot more to do. Some of our out-of-town shopping centres, for example, are a disgrace when it comes to providing for pedestrians and cyclists. There is a lot of work to be done there. We need to think imaginatively about some of our rural roads. How do we get better visibility? How do we warn that there are cyclists about? How do we make some well-used stretches of rural roads, on which people want to get from one facility to another, practical on a bicycle? We have heard about encouraging children and young people through training programmes in schools, but we also need training programmes for young adults—possibly at university—and for adults when they start work. We talk about encouraging people to cycle, particularly young children and school pupils, but we also need to be aware that designated cycle areas, such as along canals or old railway tracks, might not be suitable if they are not well lit and visible. Those areas need to be in the public domain and within easy contact of a lot of people; otherwise they will not be suitable for use by children going to school.

There are all sorts of ways to encourage people, whether though special events, such as “Get your bike out” days, or giving them opportunities to have their bikes looked at, maintained and working again, and getting back into the habit of going by bike. We also need to sort out the issues with other forms of transport.

Although there has been a lot of progress, there are still times when people cannot take their bikes on trains and awkward incidents when there seems to be no joined-up thinking.

I would like quickly to mention the Welsh Government’s Active Travel (Wales) Bill, which will go through stage three of the legislative procedure on 1 October. The Bill aims to encourage non-recreational active travel routes for walking and cycling, which are used by people for work, school or shopping. The Bill would require local authorities in Wales to produce and distribute comprehensive maps showing all the active travel routes in their areas and, most importantly, to make continuous improvements to the range and quality of active travel routes. They will be expected to make year-on-year improvements, either by expanding the number of facilities or by upgrading existing ones.

On that note, I would like to ask the Minister, who has now heard the tremendous cross-party support for increased investment in cycling, whether he will try to convince his colleagues across Government that this is the right way forward, and that we want better investment as well as clear, directional thinking and the real political will to put cycling right at the heart of Government.