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I am extremely grateful to have the chance to speak this evening about the importance of cycling and, more specifically, the Gilligan report. Oxford is famous for being a cycling city. In fact, one of the first early-day motions I tabled following my election was to congratulate the city on its newfound cycling city status and ambitions. That said, it is fair to say that I am a fair-weather cyclist. I use an electric bike with a very pretty basket, and I usually cycle in a skirt and rarely in the rain. One could therefore rightly ask why I decided to become a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on cycling. Well, I did that not because I am not a Lycra-clad, cycling fanatic, but because I am exactly the type of person whom we need to encourage out of the car and into the saddle. While cycling may not be great for my hair, it is brilliant for my health and the environment, and anything that I can do to encourage others to join me is a good use of my time.
Of course, the catalyst for this debate has been the publication this summer of the “Running Out of Road: Investing in Cycling in Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford” report by former London cycling tsar Andrew Gilligan, as part of the National Infrastructure Commission. The report is incredibly welcome. At its heart is a recommendation for £150 million of investment in cycling in Oxford to realise the ambition for a “C change”—a cycling change—with an increase in cycling journeys and a reduction in congestion.
Securing substantially increased funding for cycling in Oxfordshire is key to truly integrating cycling into all local transport and planning projects, to ensuring that cycling provision is ambitious and designed to a high standard, and to ensuring that cycling is integral to other transport networks—my goodness that is not the case at the moment—rather than being isolated or an afterthought.
Does the hon. Lady agree that, by demonstrating what is possible, Oxford and Cambridge could show what will work in other towns and cities of the same size across the country? We should not have just one or two beacon towns and cities; cycling should become part of the total transport fabric of this country.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman.
The report further advocates an Oxfordshire cycling commissioner with powers similar to those Andrew Gilligan held in London. The commissioner’s job would be to hold all aspects of county, district and city councils to account, and the report suggests that local cycling campaign groups should be funded to allow them to examine and challenge planning applications that are not ambitious enough. I have spoken to Cyclox, BikeSafe and Abingdon Freewheeling, which I am sure would all welcome that proposal with enthusiasm.
The report concludes:
“Provision for cycling in Oxford is poor”.
I absolutely agree.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this debate, as it is important that cycling reaches its potential in her constituency. We have done something similar in Strangford with the Comber greenway, which encourages cycling between Comber and Dundonald, and by doing so we have enabled people to see the area’s greenness and environmental friendliness and to experience the health benefits of cycling.
I commend the hon. Lady for what she is doing. Many constituencies across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have done similar things. We have done it in Strangford, and so far it has been successful and we are looking towards other schemes.
There are many good examples across the country, but we need many more.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, cycling is one of the top issues in my postbag, and top of the list of cycling issues is the need for segregated cycle lanes. Why? Because they are safer. Fiona lives off the Botley Road, and she gives examples of regular accidents on that road. She says that
“the road needs to be fit to drive and cycle and to do so with full concentration.”
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for securing this essential debate. As local MPs we are both keen cyclists, which is wonderful. I am not sure whose hair is slicker—I think it is probably hers.
I am pleased that the hon. Lady has raised the issue of segregated lanes, because research conducted by Oxford Brookes University shows that segregated lanes are important for getting more people with disabilities and older people on to their bikes, as well as younger users, too. Does she agree that that needs funding?
I absolutely agree. In my patch, it is Banbury Road and Woodstock Road, as well as Botley Road and the other arterial roads. More than that, it is about schemes such as the B4044 community path, which would provide a safe cycle route between Botley and Eynsham. The path should have happened a decade ago, and the cost is tiny compared with what we are spending on roads. We need to make sure that the commuter routes into the city are well serviced for bicycles, not just for cars.
At a recent student surgery, the biggest issue that came up was potholes—peak Lib Dem. Although the same complaints come from residents in the likes of Kennington, Radley and Kidlington, I find it interesting that students are also interested in potholes. Claire spoke for many:
“cycling along Banbury Road makes my commute hellish—if it’s not riddled with potholes, it’s constantly flooded in wet weather.”
From potholes to planning, the report also says:
“Provision in new developments is…disastrous.”
That comment is echoed by Ian in Abingdon, who says that there is an
“urgent need to make cycling much more safe and common with new building developments”.
I appreciate that putting segregated cycle lanes into Oxford’s historic centre and into Abingdon town centre is difficult, but there is no excuse when it comes to new developments. A good example of this is the forthcoming “Oxford North” development, which seems to have no proper cycling facilities designed into it—yet. I am sorry to say that councils do not always have a great track record in this area, despite warm words. The snazzy new Westgate shopping centre, where I am going to be celebrating my birthday soon, is one good example of this; I will not be cycling there because there is no—
Motion lapsed (
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Jeremy Quin.)
As I was saying, what a wasted opportunity there. That same lack of ambition was seen in the development of Oxford Parkway station, where there was no real creation of integrated cycle routes, despite the fact that the station is within easy cycling distance of tens of thousands of people in Oxford and Kidlington. To cross the roundabout one has to get off one’s bike and walk—that is not good enough. Councils are great at rhetoric, yet when the schemes are finally implemented, we rarely see the warm words we often hear come to fruition. So my question to the Minister is: how do we hold councils to account?
I welcome the fact that my fellow officer in the all-party group on cycling has brought about this debate. Does the hon. Lady agree that rather than having insufficient funds available from government for local authorities that actively want to use them, there should be some stronger incentive that forces local authorities to draw down funding and spend it on safe and segregated cycle provision to new and existing developments and transport networks?
I thank the hon. Lady very much for her intervention, because she touches on the crux of the issue. Everyone says that they want to make this happen, but when it comes to implementation, they need a stronger arm to make sure it does. In Abingdon, there is no masterplan for integrating cycle routes between different developments, despite the fact that new housing could and should provide a new route between Abingdon and Radley, where the railway station would make a fantastic cycling parkway station. We need to make sure that when plans for the redevelopment of Oxford station come forward, proper cycling facilities are front and centre of them. Julia Bird points out that the lack of investment and facilities means that she often does not take her bike with her into the city centre because it would get stolen, so she keeps
“a basic one for fear it'll get pinched.”
Connectivity is the key. As the report points out,
“Provision at dispersed employment sites is worse” than in Oxford city.
It also states:
“Provision for out-city commuters is key but barely exists.”
It is crucial that the communities and towns surrounding Oxford are not forgotten.
Another potential wasted opportunity is the upcoming Oxford flood alleviation scheme, which I am not told will not include a cycle path that would connect Oxford to Abingdon, despite repeated assurances at the beginning of the scheme that that would be put in place. May I beg the Minister to have a word with his colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? It would be so much cheaper to do this now than to do it retrospectively. As my fantastic colleague Councillor Emily Smith points out, it is vital that there is more joined up working, not just between Government and the councils, but between the district, county and city councils, and that existing funding for cycle routes that are under threat is not lost. I would be grateful for any support the Minister can give to impress on all the councils to actively work together.
Moving from the local to the national, I would like to see the Gilligan report be a catalyst for action across the country. The importance of mainstreaming cycle-planning, integrated networks, consistent design standards and the wider aim of traffic reduction cannot be overstated. When the Department has reviewed its guidance on cycling infrastructure design, it needs to be applied consistently. It is clear that in Oxfordshire we have the political will, but support from the Government is crucial to reallocating road space from motor traffic to cycling.
So, how do we achieve all that? As Andrew Gilligan himself says, the plans will need money, alongside a change in the national view of cycling as unimportant and unworthy of serious spending. The £150 million suggested in the report sounds like a lot, but it is necessary, and it does not begin to compare to the amounts being invested in new road facilities—for example, as part of the controversial Oxford to Cambridge expressway. Critically, the money must not be a series of taps turned on and off; instead, we need a long-term strategic commitment to improving cycling infrastructure, not just in Oxford but across the country. Investing in road and rail without cycle infrastructure would be the wrong approach.
Given that officials are already starting to prepare for the Treasury’s next cross-departmental spending review, I am keen to do anything that I can to support the Minister in his bid to secure a better national funding settlement for cycling and walking. For example, I would like to see realised the 2013 “Get Britain Cycling” report’s ambition of there being spending of £10 per person annually, rising to £20 per person later. I of course welcome the Government’s cycling and walking investment strategy, but it could and should be much more ambitious. Rather than small investments that double the number of cyclists nationwide from 2% to 4%, we need to get the proportion to a fifth at the very least.
Of the £340 million that has so far been allocated specifically for walking and cycling, does the Minister know how much has been spent, where and how? I am told that he does not. If he does not, how do we know that any of the various schemes are going to work? The report was clear that it is better not to spend money at all than to spend it badly. Will the Minister also say how much of that money is left, so that all the rest of it can be spent in Oxford?
The report concludes that congestion in Oxford is close to unmanageable and brings pollution and health problems. In the longer term the investment will pay for itself; will the Minister confirm that his Treasury colleagues will take that into account in the spending review? Cycling not only benefits people’s physical health but reduces air pollution. Investment in cycling benefits policy aims in not only the Department for Transport but in the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—win, win, win, win.
In conclusion, we have a huge opportunity in Oxfordshire. With a cross-departmental, long-term approach from the Government, better working between councils and local organisations, and the funding boost recommended by the Gilligan report, we can be ambitious for the future of cycling in Oxford. I hope that the Minister and his Department will help Oxfordshire to realise its ambitions to be a world leader and the country’s greatest cycling city.
I thank Layla Moran for allowing me to use a couple of her precious minutes and congratulate her on securing this debate. It is really good that we have the opportunity to discuss cycling in our great cities, even though the debate was triggered by a curiously mixed bag of a report. Unfortunately for those of us in Cambridge, it contains a number of inaccuracies, is rather out of date and misses some key issues for our city. We absolutely agree with the headline—Cambridge is indeed the country’s cycling capital, where cycling is a key mode of transport—but of course more can be done and needs to be done.
The first of two obvious omissions in the report is that it contains nothing about the key issue of bike parking in the city centre. Like many people, I find that I spend as much time looking for a space to leave my bike as I do riding to the city centre. The report gives no consideration to some of the imaginative automated bike-parking systems that have been developed in other parts of the world, as well as in London. Secondly, the report also fails to mention the enormous and as yet largely untapped potential of electric bikes. I love my electric bike—I am a very a big fan of them—and there is much more that can be done.
It is surprising that the report contains no mention of dockless bike-sharing schemes, which have been very much in the news recently. Along with other colleagues, I have had discussions with the Minister about the opportunities and challenges of dockless bike sharing. Unfortunately, in the absence of legislation, councils lack legal powers and are left to clear up any mess made by damaged bikes or cycles left in dangerous situations. Many of the operators believe that we need a regulatory framework—something like a franchising agreement with the local authority—if dockless bike sharing is to become a long-term, sustainable transport solution. In Cambridge, we still have Ofo, although it does not serve the whole city now. In recent weeks, we have seen other such companies withdrawing from Norwich and Sheffield. That cannot be part of our long-term solution if there is no certainty.
Reflecting very briefly on the report, I do take issue with some of the negative comments made about current transport plans in and around Cambridge, where the Greater Cambridge Partnership is working very effectively, not least in developing the Greenways in and out of the city. The simplistic dismissal of a tunnelled metro, when new tunnelling and vehicle technologies finally make such ideas possible in small cities, is just crass. The report also completely fails to understand the needs of many city residents who absolutely rely on good bus services and are unlikely ever to turn to cycling, however good the facilities.
Let me conclude on a positive note. The Greater Cambridge area has invested £18 million of city deal funding on cycling infrastructure and a further £50 million is committed to 2021. Our Labour council has provided strong clear leadership and has supported the wonderful Camcycle, the excellent local cycling campaign which is organising the Cambridge Festival of Cycling this very month. I also hope that the combined authority mayor will put money where his mouth is and use some of the resources from the transforming cities fund on cycling infrastructure. His interim transport strategy statement, published in May 2018, speaks of
“creating new pedestrian and cycle-friendly infrastructure and facilities,” but, sadly, its list of proposals includes no cycling or pedestrian schemes.
Cycling is already a key transport mode for Cambridge. We are an inspiration and exemplar to others. Now we need the Department for Transport and the combined authority to unlock the resources so that we really can get our wheels in motion and reach our full potential.
I can only congratulate Daniel Zeichner and his talent for inaccurate precis when he makes the point that he has two minutes of the time of Layla Moran when in fact he has four minutes of my own, which means, I am afraid, that I have limited time to respond to the main motion. I am very grateful to have a chance to talk on this issue surrounded as a I am by a phalanx of cycling gurus from the all-party cycling group, and it is a delight to congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this debate on the Gilligan report.
As the House will know, Andrew Gilligan was an outstanding cycling commissioner when he was in London—he was punchy, energetic, fearless and highly effective. This report is a very serious and useful piece of work. It may contain inaccuracies and infelicities, but its general thrust is extremely constructive, detailed, gritty and intelligent, and I hugely welcome it. Many of its suggestions, ideas and insights, as the hon. Lady has mentioned, have much wider potential applicability across the country. What is so exciting, as a Cycling Minister, is to see how the local entities—in this case one hopes that Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes will swear by this report, but previously Manchester through Chris Boardman and there are other cities—have picked up the baton of using cycling and walking to create better places in their own cities and environments, and I absolutely welcome that. I look forward to other authorities coming forward with the same kind of vision and energy that they have shown.
It is obviously wonderful to see Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes having these great plans, but will the Minister say a little bit about market towns such as Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Houghton Regis? How will we get cycling into some of our market towns? It cannot just be the preserve of people who live in our larger cities, can it?
That is absolutely right. I would not have expected a man geographically located as my hon. Friend is to fail to pick up the linkages. The fascinating point here is that, although some things are being funded at the moment through energies at a civic level, there are opportunities nevertheless—and we have seen this through other pots of funding—for smaller authorities to take the opportunities that this whole sequence of events requires, but they have to step forward. One thing that we are trying to do with our local cycling and walking infrastructure plans is to reward and encourage local authorities that are prepared to think creatively and constructively about these opportunities in the way that they take these things forward.
It is important to say that I personally am very strongly committed to increasing cycling and walking and making our roads safer for vulnerable uses, and of course that includes cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and the rest. When the cycling and walking investment strategy was launched in April 2017, it was an attempt to gather together and create a coherence out of a wide range of existing pots, the purpose being to proclaim an ambition to make cycling and walking a natural choice for short journeys or, indeed, as part of a longer one. Interestingly, the Gilligan report says that there are many advantages to cycling, as the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon and for Cambridge have mentioned. Cycling always brings cheaper travel, better health, better air quality, increased productivity, increased footfall in shops, better community and lower congestion, and it creates vibrant and attractive places and communities. These are all things that Andrew Gilligan recognises in his report.
It is striking that Andrew Gilligan’s report rams home the point that cycling is a serious mode in all these cities, particularly in Oxford and Cambridge—less so in Milton Keynes, although the figures are rising—but he says that it is not taken seriously enough. It has been suggested that the Government do not take cycling seriously enough, which I certainly do not think is true; we take cycling very seriously. The report also points to the importance of local leadership. Now, Oxford has a growth deal and Cambridge has a city deal, so there is plenty of scope for those local authorities to continue to show leadership in responding to the kind of challenges that have been articulated by Andrew Gilligan in his report.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way in the limited time he has left. I just wanted to make the point that Oxford City Council has a cycling champion and it is doing the very largest amount it can within the existing funding packet. To do more, it really does need funding, so will he please give us an intimation of where that additional funding will come from?
As I said, Oxford already has a growth deal. There is considerable scope within that to allocate funds to cycling if the local authority so wishes. I have not met this cycling champion; I did not know of the Oxford cycling champion’s existence, so they might not have been quite as high profile as Oxford might like. However, they are welcome to come and talk to me about their priorities, and we can discuss them as I have done with metro Mayors and other key figures around the country in this area. The hon. Lady focuses on Oxford—and rightly so—but it is also important to mention Milton Keynes as well as Cambridge, as this report covers all three areas.
According to the 2016 Active Lives survey, the local authorities with the highest prevalence of adults cycling at least once a week were Cambridge at 54%, followed by Oxford at 37% and then South Cambridgeshire. The figures compare to a national average of 11.9%, so these are vanguard authorities that are thinking about how they can take their measures forward.
From a Government standpoint, I have talked about the growth in city deals, but it is also important to flag that, in addition to the moneys that were discussed in 2017—since the strategy was launched—the Department has also announced considerable amounts of additional funding potentially available. This includes the £1.7 million transforming cities fund, of which, as the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon will know, £250 million has been provided for Manchester, of which £160 million will be used for the Chris Boardman cycling and walking scheme. We are providing £77 million for local road schemes that support cycling and walking projects through the national productivity investment fund, £30 million to improve road and cycle safety for cyclists and pedestrians along the HS2 route and £220 million of capital and revenue funding through the clean air fund of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The hon. Lady rightly asked how this all pans out. The answer is that these pots of money are available for different authorities to bid for; as they bid for them, so the allocations are made. It is impossible to say in advance what the allocations will be, but we can give a retrospective account of the funds that have been delivered. It is important to try to balance a national strategy with specific opportunities to improve and respond to local leadership in particular areas.
Colleagues know that I take cycle safety and the safety of vulnerable road users extremely seriously. The point made by Andrew Gilligan and by the hon. Lady—a point that has been made many, many times—is the importance not merely of improving safety, but of doing so through segregated infrastructure, and that is a very well taken point. One does not have to look at all far—even in this country, let alone to the countries of Europe that are very advanced in terms of cycling—to see the effect.
Earlier this year, we published a call for evidence on cycling and walking safety. We have had 13,000 responses, and the Department will publish a summary of those shortly. Before the end of the year, I plan to set out the final findings from the review. A lot of attention is focused on some changes we are making to the treatment of offences by cyclists, but the focus of the review, overwhelmingly, will be on improving safety of cyclists and pedestrians and on setting the terms for an expansion of cycling and walking, to combat some of the concerns about obesity and air quality that we have described.
It is important to recognise that even without that, the Department has taken an important wide range of interim steps. We have given over £7 million of funding to local authorities to support safety improvements, including over £500,000-worth of improvements to the Fendon Road roundabout in Cambridge. We have launched a new UK-wide initiative to help the police to crack down on close passing, which we have taken seriously in central Government for the first time. We have announced a £1 million sponsorship agreement between the Bikeability Trust and Halfords. We are taking measures to improve standards for infrastructure and to incorporate guidance on close passing into the Highway Code, as well as supporting pathfinder projects to upgrade the national cycle network. There is a wide range of different measures, with much of the focus on infrastructure, but obviously we would like to go considerably further.
I am very pleased that £18 million of Cambridge’s city deal funding since 2015 has been spent on new cycling infrastructure, with a further £50 million committed to 2021. Cambridge and Oxford—alas, not Milton Keynes—are among the eight cities that the Government have supported through the £191 million Cycle Ambition Cities programme. That shows our desire to reinforce the success that they have had and to try to give additional support. In thinking about this kind of infrastructure development, we have tried to respond to specific initiatives. Oxfordshire County Council has put forward a proposal entitled, “Oxfordshire Innovation Corridor”, which will receive a lot of attention. We take these issues very seriously. I congratulate the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon on calling this debate.
Question put and agreed to.