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Roads: Cyclists — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:21 pm on 13th October 2010.

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Photo of Lord Palmer Lord Palmer Crossbench 3:21 pm, 13th October 2010

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that cyclists abide by the Highway Code.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Government support a combination of information, education, training and enforcement to ensure that cyclists abide by the Highway Code. The enforcement of cycling offences is a matter for individual chief officers of police. The hazards caused by cyclists who break road traffic laws are recognised by chief officers and action is taken where offences are detected. The Government support action taken by the police to deter and reduce the number of cycling offences.

Photo of Lord Palmer Lord Palmer Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that slightly unexciting reply, but does he not agree that it is a scandal how remarkably few prosecutions are made against cyclists who do not adhere to the Highway Code-most especially driving on pavements?

C

Perhaps the Noble Lord should take a look at the number of pedestrians killed by motorists on the pavement. He would see that about 80 per year are killed by...

Submitted by Chris Beazer Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord. I know that all noble Lords are extremely concerned about that type of offending. It adversely affects noble Lords, because they tend to be a little bit older than the average member of the population.

Photo of Baroness Sharples Baroness Sharples Conservative

Can my noble friend tell us how many successful prosecutions there have been against cyclists who have gone against red lights?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the short answer is no. The reason is that most offences are dealt with by fixed penalties-the penalty is about £30-but detailed records are not kept because that would not be a good use of public funds.

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Deputy Chairman of Committees

Does the Minister accept that most cyclists abide by the Highway Code purely out of a sense of self-preservation from the motorists who do not?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, it is most important that every one reads the Highway Code from time to time, in order that they understand their obligations as road users.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Shadow Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, I ride a bike-in fact, I was riding one this morning-so I declare that interest, but, in balance, I also drive a car. Let us get the issue of bike problems into some kind of perspective. What percentage of the road accidents in which our fellow citizens died last year were due to lawbreaking by cyclists, and why are the Government abolishing Cycling England, which seeks to train cyclists?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we will have to wait for the comprehensive spending review later next week to answer that question.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I speak as a motorist and a cyclist who seeks perfection in both areas and fails miserably a lot of the time. Does the Minister agree that there is a real difference between traffic offences committed by cyclists or anyone else and breaches of the Highway Code? Simply breaching the Highway Code may be impolite, foolish or dangerous, but it does not necessarily amount to an offence. Does he agree that cyclists are far more vulnerable than drivers of cars, lorries, et cetera?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I agree with my noble friend and, returning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, the reason why the police concentrate more on motorists is because they cause more serious accidents than cyclists.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, the Minister said that the Government are keen to educate people about cycling. Could he start with one of his own quangos, the Carbon Trust, which has just put out a circular to its members saying that they must not cycle to or from work or between meetings, especially on Boris bikes, because it has not been able to do a risk assessment on the quality and safety of Boris bikes?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord will be fully aware that this Government are concerned about the overapplication of health and safety regulations.

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench

Does the Minister have any information on how many accidents occur at dusk and at night to cyclists who have no lights or high-visibility jackets?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, it is a legal requirement to have a rear light, a rear reflector and a front light. It is not a legal requirement to carry reflective clothing, but the Highway Code recommends that proper clothes-reflective clothes at night and fluorescent clothes during the day-are worn at all times when riding a bike.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

Will the Minister be assured that the All-Party Group on Cycling, of which I have the honour to be a member, sets an example for all to follow?

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Labour

My Lords, will the Minister speak urgently to the Mayor of London? A consequence of his cycle hire scheme is a dramatic increase in the number of cyclists on the roads in London not in the correct attire, with no helmets or reflective clothing. Such circumstances dramatically increase the risk of serious injury or even death.

G

I am unaware that there is a 'correct attire' for cyclists. Both helmets and hi viz gear are not compulsory and indeed not needed. Throughout the world the safest places to cycle also have the lowest rates...

Submitted by Gerhard Weiss Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, it is very easy to overestimate the risk of accidents when riding a bicycle. The health benefits of riding a bicycle are very great indeed. For every year of life we lose to a cycling accident, we gain 20 years of life. Therefore, the bike hire scheme has great health benefits.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench

My Lords, may I put in a plea for the pedestrian? A lot has been said about cyclists, but is the Minister aware that the group most vulnerable to cyclists is pedestrians? The reason why there are not so many accidents is that pedestrians have to jump out of the way on pedestrian crossings and when the lights are green for pedestrians on red lights. It is a scandal.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I fully understand where the noble and learned Baroness is coming from, but in 2009 no pedestrians were killed, 66 were seriously injured and 14,000 suffered slight injuries on our roads. This is a 21 per cent reduction on all pedestrian casualties hit by cyclists compared to the 1994-98 average.

Photo of Lord Brookman Lord Brookman Labour

Following on from the previous question, I recall that this House, in which there are a lot of new faces, had a solution: the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharples and Lady Trumpington. Give them the legislation, and they will sort the problem.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I think it is a little bit late for the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, to start riding a pushbike.

Noble Lords:

Oh!