Cycling — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:14 pm on 10th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 8:14 pm, 10th February 2016

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, on securing this debate.

The number of pedal cycle deaths a year currently stands at 113 and has remained between 104 and 118 since 2008. The most recent annual figure for the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured stands at 3,514, which was an 8% rise on the previous year. Those figures on fatalities and serious injuries also need to be looked at in the context that the most recent annual figures show that, while 36% of cyclists cycled mainly on the roads, 28% cycled mainly on pavements, cycle paths or lanes; 22% mainly off the roads, such as in parks; and 13% on a variety of surfaces. Thus a considerable percentage of cyclists are cycling mainly in an environment that one would not normally associate with posing a considerable potential risk of either fatalities or serious injuries to cyclists.

The Government have said that they will reduce the number of cyclist fatalities each year—by how many? What is the target reduction in the number of such fatalities against which the Government, and we, can judge the success or otherwise of their policies on safer cycling? How much do the Government intend to invest each year specifically on cycling safety improvements as opposed to general road safety improvements benefiting all road users?

The Government have said that they are committed to creating,

“an environment which encourages cycling and where cycling, along with walking, is the norm for short journeys or as part of a longer journey”.

The Government intend to bring forward a cycling and walking investment strategy in England, with publication scheduled for the summer, following public consultation. Can the Minister say to what extent this investment strategy will address improving safety for cyclists and thus promoting cycling as a safe means of transport?

The value of improving safety is considerable, not just in financial terms but, perhaps rather more importantly, in human terms. When I was on the police service parliamentary scheme, I spent a day with the traffic police. Part of the day was spent at the scene of a cycling fatality in central London, where an adult male cyclist had ended up under the wheels of a lorry. Identification was found on the cyclist, including a photograph of, I believe, two young children. As one of the officers said to me, it was going to be a heart-breaking moment for his family when they were told what had happened, but also a very difficult moment for the officer who had to go to the home address and break the news.

A Department for Transport paper, Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety, stated that,

“Of all interventions to increase cycle safety, the greatest benefits come from reducing motor vehicle speeds”.

The paper identified the potential benefits of segregated networks for cyclists but also noted evidence that,

“cyclists may be exposed to heightened risk where cycle networks intersect the general highway network”.

Do the Government have a view on what measures give best value for money in terms of improving cycling safety, and will the cycling investment strategy to be published in the summer address this question?

I am sure that we all welcome the increase in the number of cyclists and the number of journeys being made on a pedal cycle. But as the title of the debate implies, one of the biggest boosts to cycle usage will be to take measures to increase the public’s perception of cycling as a safe means of transport.