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 Unfortunately for those of us in Cambridge, it contains a number of inaccuracies, is rather out of date and misses some key issues for our city.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.