Cycling — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:55 pm on 10th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Freeman Lord Freeman Conservative 7:55 pm, 10th February 2016

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for securing this debate. His example, originally as the bicycling baronet and now as the cycling Peer, is much to be admired. I am sure he must have influenced the leader of the Opposition in the other place, and perhaps the current Health Secretary, whom one frequently sees on the television astride a bicycle.

I want, first, to talk about safety. Eight cyclists were killed in vehicle collisions in London last year. That is eight tragedies for the families and friends of those cyclists and eight casualties too many. We have had nationally, on average, more than 100 deaths per annum in the last decade, and that is far too many. I am concerned as a parent of a child who travels five miles by bicycle to work each day on crowded roads. I know that my wife and I literally pray for a safe completion of each journey. I think all cycle deaths are tragedies for families.

I want to mention three issues very briefly. The first concerns the equipment that cyclists should ensure that they have: a helmet, proper lights and luggage storage. This is not observed by many cyclists. It is not part of the law and anyone who has travelled by car in traffic in London, and who can see cyclists without those elementary precautions to protect themselves, must be concerned. In particular, the experiment launched by the current Mayor of London, the so-called Boris bikes, has presented a problem. There is no warning to visitors, many visitors who use those bikes are not wearing helmets and at night the bicycles do not always have proper lighting. There should be a warning before those cycles are rented and it should be a condition of operation of sites that helmets are provided.

The second issue concerns drivers. It should be a condition of the award of a driving licence that the potential driver is aware of good practice in relation to cyclists on the roads. As for heavy goods vehicles, the design regulations for cabs, in particular, which were agreed by the European Parliament in 2015, are not due to come into operation until 2022, I understand—perhaps the Minister could confirm this. That is too long. We need urgent action to prescribe nearside mirrors or electronic warning.

The third issue concerns street design on new roads. I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Young: I understand that the Dutch experience allows traffic lights to provide a unique opportunity for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road together. That is a very sensible initiative, which I very much hope the department will consider.

Finally, the Conservative manifesto of 2015 talked about doubling cycling in this country and pledged £200 million for safer journeys. I hope the Minister will comment on progress on these two promises.

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Chris Beazer
Posted on 11 Feb 2016 11:53 am (Report this annotation)

As usual, the debate becomes debased into blaming cyclists for being killed and injured because of "lack of elementary precautions to protect themselves". Can anybody explain how wearing a helmet stops a cyclist from being hit by a motor vehicle? Police statistics show that nearly 70% of collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles are the fault of the motorist, so we should be addressing the real problem which is motorists' behaviour.