Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I, too, congratulate Dr Huppert and my hon. Friend Ian Austin on all their work in the all-party group. I also congratulate my constituent Adam Coffman on all he has done to raise the issue of cycling in our national life. In these debates it is easy to get a sense that people are paying lip service to cycling, but the profound and cultural change we need in this country has not yet happened and now has to arrive. It is important that we recognise that the debate about cycling, certainly here in London, is being had against the backdrop of people having to wrestle with issues of not only quality of life, but the cost of living—petrol prices, transport costs, and rises in bus and tube fares. Transport costs beyond London mean that people want cycling to be a serious option.
For many of the reasons hon. Members have raised, and for some that I will touch on, cycling does not feel like a realistic option. I think that hon. Members want the Government to get behind the vision behind this report to make it one. We need long-term commitments and aims, not simply the short-term and headline-grabbing initiatives we have had in the past. The target of a 10% modal share for cycling by 2025 is good, but that will not happen by itself. Shockingly, just 6% of people in Britain cycle for more than 30 minutes once a week and only 2% use a bike to get to work.
Hon. Members will recall that, sadly, the Labour party lost the election in 2010. It has been said about Ministers, “You know you’re no longer a Minister when you get into the back of a car and it does not start.” I found myself in that situation, but at that point, when I was 30-whatever, I was not a driver. When I hit 40, I decided that I would learn to drive and I could be found driving up Barnet high road trying to do so. On my third attempt, I recently got my driving licence—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.] But I hate driving, and I have not really been back in a car since.
What I like doing is cycling. I, too, took my family to Holland this summer on a cycling holiday. I took a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, and we did about
80 km in 10 days. I do not think I could do that in this country. I certainly do not think I could do it easily in London, because I simply would not feel secure enough about the safety of a five-year-old and a seven-year-old on their bikes on the cycleways. Parents up and down the country want this report to be taken seriously, because they want to see their children cycling.
Nobody has touched on this next point, but I am concerned that the cycling proficiency training, which many hon. Members will recall from when they were younger, seems to be patchy across the country; it varies from school to school, and from local authority to local authority. We have raised this debate about helmets, but we also have to invest in proper cycling proficiency training if we want cycling to increase among young people.