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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 7:17 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle 7:17 pm, 2nd September 2013

It is good to know that these things are happening, and it demonstrates the role for both national and local government in improving cycling.

I would describe myself as an irregular but enthusiastic cyclist with a tendency to go for the long cycles rather than the daily commute. Prior to the general election of 2010, I made a pledge to my local constituents that if I were elected, I would cycle from my constituency to London. After being elected, the very first question I received from a reporter was, “And when do you intend to cycle to London?” I finally carried out that cycle, and this year I took an even longer cycling trip from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. On both those trips, the experience was very good. I got a bit fitter, lost a little weight and found it to be a great social activity, doing it with friends. It is a great way to see the diversity of our own country and, indeed, to raise a little money for charity along the way.

I want to make two serious observations coming out of those two cycle trips. First, there were potholes everywhere, and it would be helpful if local governments could do their best to try to rectify that, which makes it so difficult for cyclists. Secondly, I have mixed views on fellow drivers when cycling along the roads. I shall come on to that later.

I appreciate that many Members will speak about the report, its views and its recommendations, but I want to make two specific observations and suggestions, both of which will, I suspect, be highly controversial. First, cyclists must take responsibility for their own safety. We must ride our bikes sensibly and appropriately. It is vital for cyclists to respect other road users, especially cars and lorries, as well as pedestrians and other cyclists. I also believe that we cyclists should wear a helmet.

On that last point, I would go further. Some have campaigned to make it compulsory for children to wear helmets. I believe that that should be extended to everyone: everyone who uses a bike should use a helmet. If adults are seen to wear helmets, that will encourage children to do so, but I see no reason why that should not be made compulsory in the interests of safety. I appreciate that there are counter-arguments and that some take the view that it would reduce the number of people taking up cycling. I am of the view that safety is important and that, gradually, the opposition to wearing helmets would be overcome as people get used to the idea. We have all got used to wearing safety belts in cars and helmets on motorbikes.