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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

Absolutely; I completely concur.

My second point, which I think will be seen as equally controversial, is that I am not convinced by the arguments about speed limits, enforcement or the education of drivers. Yes, it may be a laudable aim, but I question whether enough drivers would pay attention to those speed limits in practice, which would be necessary to make cycling a much safer occupation or leisure activity. I fully accept that many drivers are responsible and take care when cyclists are around. They drive appropriately and safely, keeping their distance, slowing down, giving cyclists a wide berth and so forth. On my cycling trips, I noted many car drivers who did precisely that, taking their time and being patient with cyclists. Equally, however, a large number of drivers think cyclists are a nuisance on the road, so they drive too close or too fast and endanger cyclists. From my experience, that is far more common than we would like to think.

I therefore believe that there should be a simple change in the law. In the event of an accident, there should be a presumption in favour of the cyclist over the driver. Clearly, any driver of a car has the right to rebut such a claim and we have to accept that there are irresponsible cyclists who take inappropriate care and attention when they cycle. However, I believe that such a change in the law would mean that car drivers, lorry drivers and other motorists would take far greater care and would make every effort to keep their distance from a cyclist. All of a sudden, cyclists would become road users of whom motorists would have to be very careful and wary, as their insurance claims could be affected and there would be the potential for criminality. Such a presumption is, in fact, accepted in some European countries, and I see no reason why it could not be introduced in this country.

If we want to reduce the number of accidents, we need to alter the approach that many drivers have to cyclists. We have to get to the stage where cycling is seen as safe, and I believe that the only way to do that is to make car drivers far more aware of the dangers of hitting, affecting or coming into contact with cyclists. If we want to make cycling safe and therefore encourage others to start cycling, we have to change the relationship between the driver and the cyclist. With those two simple changes to the law, we could effectively do that; cyclists would be encouraged to cycle safely by wearing a helmet, and they would be given confidence in the fact that drivers would be taking far more care when they pass them on the road.

I congratulate the all-party group once more on its report. It will be interesting to see whether it will take up the two ideas that I have set out.