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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 7:31 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 7:31 pm, 2nd September 2013

I have already given way twice, so I shall continue, if I may.

There has been some discussion today about the use of helmets. I made my decision about whether to wear one when I hired a bike in the Lake district. When I told the young gentleman who served me that I should be more than happy not to bother with a helmet, he said “Sir, how many brains have you got?” I know that there is a Member who goes by the nickname “Two Brains”, but it is not me, and I found the sales assistant’s case very persuasive.

If we are to make progress towards achieving the aims of this debate, the targets should be not people making my journey of six miles or so, but people making journeys of up to three miles in towns such as the one that I represent. It is far too easy, indeed instinctive, for people who need to travel from a suburb such as Hillmorton or Bilton to the centre of Rugby—a journey of no more than a couple of yards—to get into their cars. Those are the people whom the cycling campaign needs to target. We have already heard about the health and cost benefits that accrue to those who decide to cycle, and the benefits to the environment if more people do so more generally.

Planning has also been mentioned. Rugby borough council has launched a green travel plan. During the recess, I visited a business that had been forced by the plan to include a cycle shed in the development that it had built recently, but regrettably there was not a single bike in it. It is clear that the policies need to be “joined up”.

There are, however, some fantastic cycle ways in my constituency. Last Thursday, the mayor officially reopened a 173-year-old railway viaduct that had previously been derelict. It had been 60 years since trains last travelled on the route. It was opened by Sustrans, using a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, as a new cycle way linking northern parts of the town to the railway station and town centre. That is a fantastic initiative that supports Rugby’s regeneration strategy, and I am sure that the route will be used by many more cyclists.

We have heard about cyclists sharing their road space with other users, and in particular about the problems created by heavy goods vehicles. One Member asked whether something could be done about them. Their impact on cyclists is taken seriously by the logistics industry and the country. I draw the attention of hon. Members to Cemex, a company in my constituency that ships cement around the country. At last year’s Conservative party conference—I hope it was at other conferences, too—Cemex parked one of its vehicles and allowed people to get into the cab so that they could see exactly the blind spot that lorry drivers suffer from when driving. I hope that more and more logistics companies will do precisely that; another one did it at a fête I attended.

I thank the all-party group for bringing about this debate and I look forward to progress on cycling in the years to come.