Cycling — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:59 pm on 10th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Scott of Foscote Lord Scott of Foscote Crossbench 7:59 pm, 10th February 2016

My Lords, I, too, add my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, for promoting this debate. I agree with everything that has been said but I must declare my own interest in cycling. I have used a bicycle in London for many years, mainly to get from my flat in Camden to my place of work. Originally it was Lincoln’s Inn, then the Royal Courts of Justice, and for the last few years it has been the Palace of Westminster. So I come and go on my bicycle, and every now and again, something happens and I fall off. It is always a lesson, because it is nearly always my fault—I have not seen a hole in the road, or something of that sort.

The question is on what action the Government should take to promote cycling as a safe means of transport. I do not think that this is a matter for the Government. Cycling will never be absolutely safe; not many things in life are. The rider can take many more steps than the Government can to ensure his or her safety. He can, as has been said, make sure that his bicycle is in good condition and that if it is dark he has functioning front and rear lights. When I bicycle in London I always wear a highly-coloured fluorescent overshirt thing—I do not know what the right name for it is. It is an appalling-looking garment but at least it makes me visible.

Two other things that strike me as important are that the cyclist should have good eyesight and good hearing. Your eyes protect you against dangers in front of you and your ears protect you, to a large extent, against dangers coming up behind you that you can hear. Many cyclists in London, particularly the young, wear earphones so that they can listen to music while they cycle. I am sure that that is fun for them and makes their journey more enjoyable, but it is highly dangerous. If you cannot hear what is coming up behind you, you are not making use of one of your important senses. But there it is; I suspect that they know this. One can always see what is coming towards one and can take appropriate steps and ought to be able to hear what is coming up behind—motorbikes in particular make a huge noise and often come very close.

This debate asks the Government to take action to promote safe cycling. I do not know that it is their job. I think that it is the job of cyclists to look after their own safety and to take the steps that are necessary for that purpose. They should ensure, as has already been said, that their bicycle is in good condition. They would be well advised to wear clothes that cover their arms and legs with material that will protect them against grazing when, as may always happen, they fall on to the tarmacadam. If these precautions are taken, the risk from riding a bicycle in London will reduce to an acceptable point.

There will always be some risk: there is some risk in practically anything that one does that is fun. But I have found bicycling in London, from Camden to the Inns of Court, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Palace of Westminster, highly enjoyable and a very convenient method of travel. There is some risk, and there always will be—but it has to be measured and for my part, I enjoy the experience and I would not want to stop it.

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Chris Beazer
Posted on 11 Feb 2016 12:11 pm (Report this annotation)

So your hearing being impaired is a danger when on a bicycle? A person piloting metal box weighing over a ton and capable of over 100mph with pillars which obscure vision, windows which insulate the driver from the outside world and in-car equipment which can drown out any noise which may percolate from outside is, I suggest, extremely dangerous yet I note is not acknowledged by Lord Scott. There is no consistency when debating responsibility for safety.