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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 9:42 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport 9:42 pm, 2nd September 2013

I welcome the fact that the debate has taken place. It follows the very successful debate in Westminster Hall, which was also engendered by the all-party group on cycling. I pay particular tribute to my colleague, my hon. Friend Dr Huppert, and Ian Austin, on their leadership of that group, and, indeed, to all members of that group for a very good report. I welcome the fact that this has been a well-attended debate, and that the contributions from Members from all parts of the House have, almost without exception, been positive and constructive. I am particularly pleased to hear the news of individual MPs taking up cycling. That is now on the record in

Hansard

, and doubtless their constituents will hold them to that commitment.

The Government wants more people to cycle more often, more safely. We are determined to drive that forward. We have a good record to date, but I want to make it clear that we want to go even further. I believe that we have the most pro-cycling Government that the country has ever had, and we are determined to go even further.

Cycling is good for the environment, good for individual health, and good for the economy. It is good for the environment, because it cuts carbon emissions, noise and air pollution. It is good for individual health, and I am delighted both that the former Health Minister, Anne Milton, has attended the debate, and by the contribution that the Department of Health has made towards to cycling efforts in government, including the financial contribution that it has made to some of our projects. NHS reforms provide an opportunity at local level for the public health function to be discharged in conjunction with the transport function in a way that simply was not possible before.

Cycling is also good for the economy. Last week, I was in Cambridge, where 47% of adults cycle at least once a week. I congratulate the three councils there: Conservative Cambridgeshire county council, South Cambridgeshire district council, and my Lib Dem colleagues on Cambridge city council, who are working together to promote cycling. The lesson there is that whereas the population of Cambridge has risen from 105,000 to 125,000 in a decade, car travel is flat because the councils have incentivised cycling. If the three councils together had not done that, there would be gridlock in Cambridge as a consequence. So the lesson is that those who want to help the local economy will help the local cyclist. Those who advocate anti-cycling policies damage the local economy.

It is worth pointing out that a 20% increase in cycling levels from 2010 to 2015 could save the economy £207 million in reduced traffic congestion and £71 million in reduced pollution levels. Members on both sides of the House who have drawn attention to the economic value of cycling are absolutely right to do so.