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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes 7:01 pm, 2nd September 2013

I thank my hon. Friend. Rural speed limits are important. In fact, the introduction of networks of 40 mph speed limits on rural roads had a great benefit in Holland. There is a lot of evidence to support their use, but this is about money. I welcome the £10 a head in the eight cities that will benefit and the spending in, for example, the Dartmoor national park in my part of the world, but that is not what the report called for. Our report called for £10 a head nationally and for us to think of the benefits—a real, lasting legacy—that that could achieve.

However, this is also about speed, as my hon. Friend pointed out. Let us look at the benefits we would see if we had 20 mph speed limits in urban areas. Too often, highways departments look at accident data before making decisions about speed limits. However, we all know that parents will not let their children cycle in the first place if they do not feel they are safe, and the perception of safety is strongly linked to the speed at which the traffic is travelling. We should look at speed limits across the board. I recently visited Falcon Park in Torbay, which is a park home development with many elderly residents who cannot walk down the road, let alone cross it, because of high-speed traffic. In any other residential area, the speed limit would have been reduced to 30 mph.

This is not only about 20 mph limits in towns and cities on a network of roads; it is about reducing speed across the board and assessing our priorities. Whom do we prioritise? Are we prioritising vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists, or are we prioritising the motorist and speed? We need to change our priorities completely to achieve that. It does not take a great deal of money to reduce speed limits—everyone recognises that there is a financial imperative—but the issue is not just reducing the speed limit, but enforcing it. We heard shocking evidence in our inquiry about a level of complacency towards enforcement. What discussions have taken place across Departments to ensure that welcome changes in the issuing of fixed penalty notices for careless driving will be extended to penalising people who breach speed limits directly? It is immediate consequences that will drive change.