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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 6:44 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Mike Thornton Mike Thornton Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh 6:44 pm, 2nd September 2013

May I keep going?

We need more areas where people can leave their bicycles safely when they go to work.

The report of the all-party group on cycling sets out perfectly why the status quo is maintained. Nearly half of all Britons own or have access to a bike, but we do not use them. Safety is the No. 1 concern. We are still frightened for ourselves and our children, even if not for a rational reason. Extending 20 mph zones, as the report proposes, is therefore extremely important.

As other hon. Members have mentioned, we need to do something about HGVs. We cannot always blame HGVs for not seeing cyclists. We need to ensure better visibility and sensors to minimise the risks to cyclists, and make cyclists realise that they cannot necessarily be seen. That is particularly difficult with children, who do not have the same road sense as grown-ups.

Many of my constituents have told me how dangerous road surfaces are. Trying to swerve around a pothole or street furniture can cause all sorts of problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester mentioned indicative lines that do not tell us anything. When one comes into Winchester—it is outside my constituency, so I apologise—there are some nice pictures of bicycles. One says, “Yes, that’s a lovely picture of a bicycle. What good on earth is that doing?” Segregated bicycle lanes, as has been mentioned, are vital.

I agree entirely that new developments should be cycle-proofed. Cycling should be incorporated into all planning policies. When there is a new development—we are getting one in my constituency—it should be cycle-proofed. I think we would all agree that that will pay for itself. The report states that cycling demonstration towns saw a 27% increase in cycling from 2005 to 2009. The financial benefits were estimated to be nearly £64 million, from a cost of £18 million—a particularly strong piece of evidence. The report also shows that every pound spent on cycling can save the NHS £4—again, economics wins the argument.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to increase funding for cycling, but the lion’s share will go to eight select cities, seven of which already exceed the national average for cycling. In addition, the funding has been earmarked for only two years. The announcement was welcome, but what about the rest of us? My constituents in Eastleigh could do with some dosh. We need a nationwide commitment to increase the per head cycling budget. I think we are looking for £10 per head by 2025 and up to—what is it?—£50. That is vital.

What I have heard today is a remarkable degree of consensus among cycling organisations, cyclists, local authorities and hon. Members about what needs to be done. That is extremely positive. We must ensure that we capitalise on that and that something is done. I fully support the motion and the report’s recommendations, and I thank the group for its hard work.