I beg to move,
That this House
has considered Government investment in cycling.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. As you may be aware, the debate was preambled by an online digital debate, supported by parliamentary outreach. Between us, we managed to reach more than 2.1 million Twitter accounts, the highest number ever for a digital debate. I wish to put on record my thanks to everyone who took part. It created a forum a lot of interesting and important questions about how we can deliver the Government’s ambition to support and promote cycling.
It is important to point out that the benefits of cycling reach across many different areas. There is a strong business and economic case for both local and national Government to invest in cycling. Sustrans has calculated that investment in cycling returns the equivalent of £9.76 for every £1 spent. Cycling also alleviates congestion and will help us cope with the forecast pressure on our roads due to population growth, particularly in northern cities—current estimates suggest a 55% increase in road congestion by 2040. Cyclescheme estimates that the national health service could save £2.5 billion if 10% of car journeys were made by bicycle instead, and that inactivity costs the United Kingdom economy £20 billion every year.
Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the many private sector companies that are encouraging cycling? For example, Evans Cycles, which is headquartered in my constituency, has done a fantastic job locally and nationally to ensure that we all get on our bikes and live a healthier lifestyle.
I agree entirely that the work of Evans and other organisations in the private sector is absolutely key to making sure that we have a healthy society. The contribution of responsible employers is vital to that.
For the reasons that I have highlighted and for many others, it is vital to have investment in cycling and to include it as part of an effective transport policy. I will touch on the benefits in my speech later. I wish to allow plenty of opportunity for other Members to make contributions as well, because I know that this is a really popular debate.
During the past five years, the Government have invested more in cycling than any of their predecessors, through cycling ambition grants and the local sustainable transport fund to name but two measures. I hope to see investment in cycling increase and continue on that trajectory. Despite the increase, more can always be done to improve the situation further. During the last Session, the Select Committee on Transport reported that although investment had increased, the splitting of funding between initiatives can make it difficult to be clear about the total budget for cycling. It was initially estimated at £2 per head, but with further investment it is now £4 per head of the population, compared with an estimated £75 per head for motorised transport.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, particularly as I invested in my fourth road bicycle this weekend, much to my wife’s chagrin—[Interruption.] Only my fourth. Will he reflect on the health benefits of cycling for a moment, considering that the British Heart Foundation has found that cyclists live an average of three years longer than those who take no exercise whatsoever? Admittedly, those extra three years are spent clad in skin-tight Lycra.
I am not sure that I want to comment on Lycra yet, but the health benefits of having an active lifestyle are well recognised.
I am now a member of the all-party cycling group. Its report called for the budget to be increased from its current very low level to a minimum of £10 per head, with the spending then increasing further to £20 per head of the population.
Having been a member of the all-party group, which produced the report on how we “Get Britain Cycling”, I wonder whether my hon. Friend agrees with me, with the report’s findings and with the Select Committee on Health that the benefit of cycling is that active travel is the type of physical activity that people are most likely to sustain throughout their whole lives. We should really focus on that if we really are going to get Britain moving as well as cycling.
I absolutely agree, and this debate is a great opportunity to reinforce that message to the Minister.
The members of the all-party group are not the only ones who want investment at £20 per head; a Sustrans survey suggests that the public want to see investment of £26 per head on an annual basis. More important than pinpointing an exact figure for investment is ensuring that current investment provides good value for money and is adequately utilised by the main practitioner of the funds, which is local authorities. Making cycling ambitions a reality requires collaboration at all levels of government.
The Department for Transport is giving local authorities significant amounts of funding to improve their road infrastructure and to support cycling at a local level. That funding is not ring-fenced and allows local authorities to decide on and implement solutions that best suit their needs. I am pleased that the Government are encouraging all local authorities to have a cycling champion—an official to take cycling development forward in their area and to champion cycling in their area.
My hon. Friend is making an important argument. With regard to the cycling champions and cycling in the north, does he agree that one of the biggest boosts to cycling in the north came from the Tour de France being held in Yorkshire? That boost has now continued with the Tour de Yorkshire being set up. Does he agree that that is pressing the need for cycling and giving a boost to tourism locally?
Fantastic events such as the Tour de France do a wonderful job in promoting cycling. I will mention the different aspects of cycling that we perhaps need to focus on a little bit more.
Following the intervention by my hon. Friend Julian Sturdy, I want to report that the route for the women’s cycling tour in June, which was announced today, includes a stage through my constituency. It is the first time that has taken place in Warwickshire. Does my hon. Friend Chris Green think it is a good idea for such events to be spread throughout the country, as it provides an opportunity to promote the benefits of cycling across the UK?
I absolutely agree. It is vital that we have those events across the country. Seeing the beautiful Yorkshire countryside was wonderful, and I am sure that we will be inspired by the countryside in Warwickshire as well.
I feel greatly honoured not only to be able to participate in this debate, but to sit next to the former Sports Minister, my hon. Friend Mrs Grant, who was there when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire and who did so much to help promote cycling. Importantly, she also paved the way towards making sure that outdoor recreation, of which recreational cycling is a very important part, was fully integrated into our new sport strategy, which focuses on outcomes, including physical activity. Does my hon. Friend Chris Green agree that the new sport strategy in its integrated form will be a major boost in helping to achieve many of the things that he seeks to achieve?
I absolutely agree. It is so important that we integrate the strategies with other policies and the work that various Departments are doing. It is absolutely vital to have that integration, because things can be so much more effective in that way.
Well done to the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate, and I declare my interest as a long-term cyclist. I have withdrawn my name from the speakers list to allow others to speak.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman to commend civil society as well? That includes the Rhondda Tunnel Society, which is aiming for a huge project to establish the longest tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists in the whole of Europe, connecting the Rhondda and Afan valleys as part of the massive network for cycling that we have in the south Wales valleys. It is a tremendous initiative, just like the one in the lower Llynfi, which is trying to connect up urban settlements along strip valleys. Will he commend all those who put their petitions and their weight behind those campaigns?
I absolutely agree. It sounds like a wonderful idea—imagine going through a tunnel and having a beautiful environment ahead of you. It is such a wonderful thing to see happening.
I was talking about cycling champions, and it would be interesting to hear from the Minister just how many cycling champions are now in place. I dare say that many people do not recognise their own cycling champion; perhaps local authorities have not always implemented the idea.
As we move towards further devolution with the establishment of mayors—as a Greater Manchester Member of Parliament, I particularly appreciate that—we would all do well to follow London’s example of investing in infrastructure to make the roads safer for cyclists. In conjunction with that, we must ensure that our planning system makes cycling and walking an early consideration in any new street design, housing development or business park, and encourages local authorities to design road improvements with cyclists in mind. Although that is contained in the national planning policy framework as a mechanism for sustainable development, the existence of cycle lanes alone is not enough. The quality of cycle lanes in new developments can and should be improved.
A key factor in getting more people into cycling is the condition of roads and the availability of cycle lanes. Badly designed cycle lanes force cyclists to use the road. Too often, they are just half a path, and many cyclists choose to use the road because it is dangerous to weave in and out of pedestrians. Such paths also tend to stop at every junction, but cyclists want to maintain their momentum and not stop and start all the time.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. He talks about cycle lanes on roads. Does he agree that what we need includes investment in cycle trails, such as those around Cannock Chase? They are an excellent facility to encourage leisure cyclists and families.
Absolutely. We need a whole range. Emphasis on the roads is important, because people use them to go to the shops and so on, so there is a lot of functional utility to them, but we also need to encourage families to spend time together on their bicycles. It is a great way of having a sustainable cycling environment and culture.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He gave the excellent example of cycle routes on main roads. Does he agree that in many areas, particularly residential ones, rather than dedicated cycle routes, what works well is quietening back streets to reduce through traffic? My hon. Friend Meg Hillier explains how her local authority has done that. That makes the environment safe for cyclists and pedestrians without the need for dedicated cycle routes.
I appreciate that. It sounds like a great use of local initiative. We must be very careful about prescribing too much and telling local authorities, “This is what you must deliver and how you must deliver it.” They must reflect local circumstances and ideas for the local community, because they can make a huge difference.
Many cyclists see how much priority councils sometimes give to maintaining cycle lanes—if a cycle lane is unusable, is it really a cycle lane? We often see overhanging branches, impassable potholes, large puddles, parked cars and poor-quality surfaces, which are especially noticeable for those on racers. I have a racer, and I cannot use some cycle lanes. I have to go on the road, simply because of the nature of the bike. I wish I had four bicycles so that I could choose one appropriate to the road surface. All cycle lanes should conform to the Department’s design guidance, but too often it seems the bare minimum is done rather that what most cyclists want. The design should be centred on cyclists’ needs. It would be better if more people cycled—if those who made decisions about cycle tracks were cyclists, they would understand better what should be implemented. It is particularly important to have good cycle tracks for disabled people who are able to cycle and use a bike as a mobility aid, but find that the infrastructure is working against them.
As a cyclist, I am acutely aware of the lack of good-quality bicycle racks, which, by their presence alone, promote cycling. If we create the right environment, the cyclists will come. Our local authorities have a duty to provide an environment suitable to support and promote cycling.
Does my hon. Friend agree that good-quality cycle racks, in quantity, are important at railway stations so that people can interact with another form of transport that might take them to London or another city?
Absolutely. It is important that cycling is part of a daily routine, perhaps as part of a journey if not the whole journey. I was thinking earlier about Bolton station, a major station serving many of my constituents, who have to travel all the way through the station to one of the platforms to drop their bike off at the cycle rack. Then on the return trip, instead of just being able to just pick it up at the entrance and off they go, they must make an awkward journey through rush-hour passenger traffic. It is important to have the right facilities at railway stations.
Naturally, interest in cycling naturally peaks with the Olympics and the Tour de France, which generate a great deal of interest in cycling as a sport, but we need to ensure that people feel that they can cycle as part of their daily routine. Good governance is essential in improving investment in cycling and the execution of that investment in local government and communities. Many hon. Members will be aware of the Government’s cycle to work scheme, which operates as a salary sacrifice employee benefit. Employers buy or lease cycling equipment from suppliers and hire it to their employees. Employees who participate in the scheme can save up to about 40% on the cost of a bicycle and cycling safety equipment. More than 600,000 employees have participated in the scheme to date. I have heard anecdotally that councils have a slightly lower take-up rate than the private sector, which is not only a concern for the health of council workers but is perhaps suggestive of councils’ enthusiasm for cycling.
The cycle to work scheme provides a mechanism to change the perception of cycling and sustainable travel and behaviour towards it. The Cycle to Work Alliance’s recent survey showed that 62% of participants were non-cyclists, novice cyclists or occasional cyclists before joining the scheme. Having joined, 79% of respondents described themselves as enthusiastic cyclists.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. In Pendle, a huge number of firms have taken advantage of the Government’s scheme. One is Carradice cycle bags in Nelson, in my constituency. It has seen a huge increase in the number of employees cycling to work thanks to the Government’s initiative, so it is important to continue it in the years to come.
It is fantastic to hear about the impact of the Government’s scheme in the private sector, and about bosses encouraging people to live healthy lives on daily basis, which will make a difference to people. There will be all kinds of other benefits.
In setting out the process and timescales for the first cycling and walking investment strategy, the Government are seeking to ensure that local government and business partners design places and routes for people travelling by bicycle or on foot at a local level across the country. Members will be aware that funding for the strategy, which has not been done before, is to be allocated on the same basis as that for rail, motorways and main A roads, with £300 million dedicated to cycling and walking over the next five years.
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Although a lot more people are cycling, which is good, does he agree that more effort needs to be made to ensure that people from black and minority ethnic communities and deprived communities also have that opportunity?
Absolutely. There is a perception that cycling is for young to middle-aged white men. Those who cycle in competitions and on the sporting side are representative of those who cycle in society as a whole, and we need to encourage people throughout society to cycle. That is why it is so important that London and our cities develop cycle routes.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. I share his passion. In Otley, we are proud to have the women’s road cycling world champion, the wonderful Lizzie Armitstead, who was nominated for sports personality of the year. We welcome the fact that we have the first women’s Tour de Yorkshire starting in Otley this year. We must use that to get more women and girls cycling both recreationally and for sport.
That sounds like a fantastic opportunity to promote women’s cycling. So much more can be and is, I am pleased to hear, being done to promote role models to show that more people from all kinds of backgrounds can and should participate in cycling, both on the recreational side and for its utility in daily life.
I emphasise that the strategy is about a desire for walking and cycling to become the norm for short journeys or as part of longer journeys. Cycling does not need to be reserved exclusively for exercise—in other words, people pursue it as a sport and have to spend a huge amount of money on a bicycle and wear Lycra. In fact, it is the non-Lycra side of cycling that we need increasingly to promote. Cycling should be seen not as an expensive sport, but as a normal activity that people can undertake while wearing normal clothes and on an affordable bicycle.
Through the promotion of cycling, the Government are creating a catalyst for attitudinal change towards modes of transport and an active lifestyle. Integrating cycling into routines for small journeys, whether that involves popping to the local shop for groceries or cycling to work each day, can have a profound effect on health.
Sport England has reported that 27.7% of adults in England do less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. It is now feared that, for the first time, children’s life expectancy will be lower than that of their parents because of physical inactivity. Shockingly, one in six deaths is now linked to physical inactivity, which is on a par with smoking as a cause of death. Only yesterday, in the Select Committee on Science and Technology, we heard Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, giving evidence and describing us as living in an “obesogenic environment”—that does not sound very positive.
I hope that in this short time I have highlighted the considerable benefits of investment in cycling for the national economy, local government and community wellbeing and the considerable health benefits that people of any age, gender, fitness level, income or background can get from cycling. It is encouraging to know that, as a country, we are improving on our investment in and promotion of cycling. However, we must keep pressing the issue to avoid complacency and build on the achievements thus far. There is no quick fix or easy solution to create a change in cycling. We need strong leadership from central Government and commitment from local government. There is a great deal more that we can do to get Britain cycling.
I ask the Minister to respond by giving us an update on the Government’s cycling policy and by explaining his intentions and ambitions for the cycling and walking investment strategy, which will be published this summer, and what more the Government can do to ensure that the aim of a “cycling revolution” is achieved.
Nine hon. Members have put in to speak, and we will try to get through as many as possible. I am therefore happy to impose a three-minute limit on speeches. The House is likely to divide at 5 pm, in which case the sitting will be suspended for 15 minutes if there is one vote, but if we can get back here earlier, we will start earlier.
I shall be brief to allow as many colleagues to speak as possible. I congratulate Chris Green on securing the debate and on the very salient points that he made. This is the umpteenth debate that we have had in the House since I was elected in 1997, and I want my remarks to focus on the financial commitment to this agenda.
The report by the all-party group in the last Parliament was an important report that all the Back-Bench members signed up to. The Prime Minister declared that he wanted to see a cycling revolution in this country. The Minister is a man who, thankfully, has been in the job for some time, so he knows about it. I believe that he is sincerely committed to this agenda.
We made it clear that the essential components of a successful cycling strategy were political leadership and a sustained funding commitment. The hon. Member for Bolton West was partly right when he talked about the level of funding that the Government have now committed, but the figure that he referred to included London, and London massively skews the overall figures. The overall amount that we are currently being offered in terms of cycling investment is still little more than £1 per head per year, in contrast to the £10 per head per year that the all-party group report said was a starting point, leading to £20, which is equivalent to what most other European countries spend.
We will not deliver the cycling revolution that the Prime Minister spoke about without significant extra resources for cycling. My one request of the Minister is that he explain something that he and predecessors have not really been able to explain to me. We are talking about such a tiny amount of money—a fraction of his roads budget, for example, and a fraction of his overall strategic transport budget. All he would need to do is reallocate a very small amount of money that is already committed to other things—we are not asking for more money from the Treasury—to cycling, and he would deliver the cycling revolution that the Prime Minister says he wants, so my simple question for when the Minister responds is: why can they not do that?
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Chris Green on securing the debate and on his excellent speech. I declare an interest: I am a cyclist and I am a co-chair of the all-party cycling group. But as has already been intimated, the problem is that I am far too typical. The reality of cycling in the UK is that it is disproportionately the preserve of young to middle-aged males. We will be sure that we have done a half-decent job on cycling only when we have as many women as men cycling in our country, and we will know that we have done an excellent job only if the sight of women cycling with their children becomes far more routine than it is now.
The case for cycling is not some ill thought out, muddle-headed notion; it is hard-headed, practical and robust. As we have heard, the economic case is clear, particularly when it comes to utility cycling—by that I mean the daily commute or short journeys. A healthier population places a smaller burden on the NHS and, as has been said, people who cycle regularly in middle age typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to that of someone 10 years younger. That makes my hon. Friend about 25, I think—close.
There are so many advantages to cycling, but I cannot go through them all now. However, when we are calling for more funding, it is in reality a call for investment that over time will yield a good return for our society, for the taxpayer and for the planet. I believe that the Government are committed to increasing cycling participation. We have had very useful and constructive meetings. However, I gently suggest that funding sources for cycling are not as clear as they might be, because they are divided across various pots: the Highways England cycling fund, the Bikeability pot, the cycle city ambition grants, the access fund and the local growth fund. I invite the Government to clarify the available funding, so that we can be absolutely clear on what funding exists for cycling and what scope exists for improving it in our country.
The key ask, the bottom line, is that we will get a step change in cycling participation only if we invest in segregated highways on our urban arterial routes. Cyclists need that physical separation to feel truly safe. There is no way I would take my children out in a cycle trailer without one, and that is a shame. We need to look at segregation and at 20-mph speed limits in residential areas if possible.
I am very grateful for the work the Government have done so far. I urge them to go further and, in particular, to clarify the funding streams, because the prize for our society, for taxpayers and for the planet is great indeed.
It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. I congratulate Chris Green on initiating it and thank him as well.
Cycling has been a somewhat surprising and unsung hero of the emerging leisure industry in Northern Ireland. When I come to this Chamber to speak on anything, I always try to give a Northern Ireland perspective. I know that this is a devolved matter, but we are aware of the importance of cycling. We have come from the dark days to host the start of the famous Giro d’Italia, which went through my constituency, which attracted many people for the charity ride—those who perhaps were not ardent cyclists, but wanted to participate in the charity part—and which attracted many people to watch it as well. There is a plethora of outstandingly beautiful routes, including the Comber Greenway in my constituency. We have one route from Comber through to Dundonald. It was organised by and paid for by Sustrans. The great thing about it was that it gave people on bikes as well as pedestrians a chance to follow their sport in a safe fashion.
We have the Mourne coastal route and a whole host of coastal roads across the area of outstanding natural beauty in my constituency of Strangford. North Down Cycling Club regularly has its races up and down the Ards peninsula. Cycling provides a boost not only to the leisure industry, but to tourism. We are part of the fight against obesity.
Just this week, my party colleague Michelle McIlveen, an MLA and Minister for Regional Development, has launched what has been hailed by local cycle campaigners as a “cycling revolution.” It is always good in Northern Ireland—and, indeed, in Ireland—to say we are having a revolution that involves not guns, but cycling. We have spent some £800,000 on the trial scheme, which includes three cycling routes through Belfast. One route links the east to the west, which is important because it unites Unionists and nationalists. It brings the communities together. Cycling has not just been a leisure activity; it has united the communities of both sides of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Greenways campaigner, Jonathan Hobbs, hailed the plans as a “radical” shift in the right direction, commenting:
“These plans were produced by a dedicated Cycling Unit which is now working across government with a growing budget”.
Belfast Bikes recently received its 150,000th journey, so there is an impending cycle revolution. Cycling lanes in Belfast are clearly used, and cycling is a popular pastime for enjoyment and recreation.
All those things provide the momentum that has led to cycling taking off in Northern Ireland. As well as all the positive developments, the Stormont Assembly has an all-party group on cycling. Only by investing in safe cycle routes, as many of my party colleagues have done in Belfast, can we begin to promote cycling not only as a recreational activity, but as a viable alternative form of transport. I wholly support this debate and congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West on securing it. I look forward to hearing other thoughts from people across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where we are better together.
Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.
I thank my hon. Friend Chris Green for securing this debate.
As a cyclist myself, although I do not wear Lycra, I am fortunate to live in Portsmouth, a compact, flat city in a beautiful setting, with the sea, two harbours and the Hampshire downs behind it. Portsmouth should be a paradise for cyclists, but in fact its casualty rate for cyclists is one of the highest in the country; indeed, it was second only to London in 2014. During a five-year period, 157 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on our streets, and quite rightly local cyclists are lobbying strongly for improvements to our roads, and for cultural change to bring that terrible figure down.
We have some great national groups fighting for cyclists, such as the CTC, but the figure I have just quoted comes from our excellent local cyclists group, the Portsmouth Cycle Forum. It has produced a strategy document called “A City to Share”. The vision of that document, and mine, is to make Portsmouth the cycling capital of the UK, and given what I said a moment ago about the city’s geography, people will see why that makes sense. The strategy document identifies five goals: a safer city; improved health outcomes; a stronger local economy; a better environment; and a more liveable city for everyone, not just cyclists.
Another source of inspiration for everyone is the Tour de France, which Portsmouth City Council hopes to bring back to our streets. We were lucky to be visited by the Tour over 20 years ago, and I know that the cyclists and organisers had a fantastic time touring our historic streets in Portsmouth and the beautiful Hampshire countryside. Since then, Portsmouth has seen a huge amount of renewal and the city would like to have le Grand Départ in 2019, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. Any help the Minister can give to ensure that that event comes to Portsmouth would be helpful, not least to tourism. Any help—financial or otherwise—would be great.
I hope that, through the access fund, it will be possible to get support for a thorough survey in Portsmouth, so that we can match up the vision set out in “A City to Share” with the city council’s road strategy. We need to do that because the roads in Portsmouth are under growing pressure.
Finally, while we are debating cycling here in the context of what the UK Government can do, I want to remind everyone that there are all sorts of cycling schemes operating across the EU. Having recently pointed Portsmouth City Council in the direction of one such scheme, called FLOW, I want to make sure that everyone is getting the best out of the various programmes in Europe. We can learn a lot from best practice on the continent but, as with many other areas of policy, I am not sure that we are yet very good at ensuring that we tap into all the resources that are available through the European Union.
I congratulate Chris Green on securing this important debate and I look forward to working with him and all hon. Members to push this agenda forward.
I am very proud to represent a region that has clearly become the UK capital of road sport cycling, with the incredible success of the Tour de France being followed up by the Tour de Yorkshire. We also have the inspirational Lizzie Armitstead, who is from Otley and who has become the women’s road race world champion, having won the silver medal in the women’s road race at the London Olympics; in fact, hers was the first medal won by a Team GB athlete in the 2012 games. Of course, we also have the Brownlee brothers in the triathlon, one of the three disciplines being cycling. To see them out cycling inspires local people.
One message coming out very strongly today is that we need to invest in cycling, both at the sporting level and in terms of infrastructure and recreational cycling. They are linked, because one leads to the other, if the first is properly inspired. However, the infrastructure must be there.
The “bang for your buck” that comes from investing in cycling is really quite remarkable. The cost of staging the three days of le Grand Départ of the Tour de France was £27 million, of which £10 million came from a Government grant, which was much appreciated. The staggering boost to the UK economy from that investment was worth £130 million.
Regarding infrastructure, I was delighted that the coalition Government backed the Leeds and Bradford Cycle Superhighway. When that route is completed, it is expected that 9,000 trips will be made on it every single day. The coalition Government put in £18 million towards it. Again, that shows the change that such investment can make.
Of course, we need to make sure that the success in the sport of cycling, which is welcome, leads to more people just getting on their bikes to go to work, to school or to the shops. I pay tribute to the Leeds Cycling Campaign for the work it does, because that work is part of the real legacy when it comes to changing the culture in a society, which is what we need to do. We need education as well as investment in infrastructure.
Where we can have cycling lanes, we should have them, and we should plan them into both road schemes and light rail schemes. I want to see more of those schemes as well. However, where that is not possible we need more innovative solutions, such as the Superhighway and cycling-friendly routes across medieval cities.
My final plea to the Minister is this: will he back the four-day Tour de Yorkshire next year, because that event will make a huge difference and get even more people in our beautiful county and our wonderful country on their bikes, which is clearly what we all want to see?
It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Bone.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Chris Green on securing this important debate. I wish to follow on from my hon. Friend Alex Chalk, who talked about women and children cycling. In my constituency, I have literally hundreds and hundreds of cyclists, but they are not families. Families are frightened to go out on bicycles. The most amazing world heritage site—the Derwent Valley Mills—is in my constituency, but cyclists cannot get to it. We cannot encourage tourists in, because they cannot get to it. To reach it, cyclists have to go up the main A6. There is no sensible place to put a cycle route, so we need an off-road, dedicated cycle route, but one that can be used by walkers and others as well, so that it is multi-use.
I have got a group of local people working towards plotting such a cycle route. They are working with all the local authorities, who are mainly on board, apart from Derbyshire County Council, which does not like to do anything in a Conservative area. Everybody else is on board.
We need that cycle route, so that we can encourage tourism into Belper and other places. We can get people cycling for leisure, instead of having to put their bikes on their cars to drive out into the countryside to go on the various trails. I do not have a cycle route in my constituency at all, which is a real deficit for people who genuinely want to get out and take their families out, without having to make a major journey to do it. They want to be able to just take their kids out for a cycle on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. That dedicated route would help that happen and encourage more and more people to cycle.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Chris Green on securing this debate. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend Pauline Latham on this point. It is great that we get the investment—in Greater Manchester there has been £40 million of investment in 100 km of cycleways, and there have also been smaller schemes, such as the cycle friendly district centres scheme—but it is crucial that we also have the feeling of safety. Perhaps we could increase driver awareness —their consciousness of cyclists on the road and their safety.
My hon. Friend is right that we need to raise awareness, but with a road such as the main A6, which is just a two-lane road with huge lorries—sometimes those lorries are coming from quarries and going all over the place—it is dangerous for anyone, whether man or woman, and definitely so for a child.
I implore the Minister to look at how we can get more people off the road in my constituency and on to cycle routes, because I know that there is demand. That would not only help the leisure cyclist, but commuters coming into or going out of Derby—some do commute out for work. Removing cyclists from the main road could benefit the whole population by making cyclists’ lives safer and helping prevent traffic congestion caused by cyclists weaving in and out. They can cause hold-ups. I would like to see that dedicated cycle route happen, so I hope that the Minister will give us a crumb of comfort that he might look at investing in that route in Mid Derbyshire.
It is a pleasure to serve for the first time under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate Chris Green on securing this important debate, which is on an issue we can all get behind. Time does not allow me to go into a lot of detail, but the Scottish Government are committed to the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen. That includes investing in cycling infrastructure. Cycling is beneficial, not only for the local environment but for health and wellbeing, too. There were pilot schemes in Scottish towns between 2008 and 2012 under the “Smarter Choices, Smarter Places” programme. Under those schemes, which aimed to encourage cycling, it was found that attitudes towards the local community and neighbourhood became much more positive and ratings of the area improved, too.
Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating community initiatives such as CamGlen Bike Town in my constituency and organisations such as Healthy n Happy and Cambuslang Community Council on the work they do in promoting cycling and safe cycle routes?
I certainly will. I hope to mention briefly a couple of such schemes in my constituency, but there are many such schemes in all the nations of the UK, and they are to be congratulated. Studies have found that cyclists spend more in local shops. They are good at consuming locally, because they pass those places.
This is a life and death issue. I was pleased to be present when Sir Harry Burns, a former chief medical officer of Scotland, gave us a presentation on the causes of early death. We might expect those to include a range of diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, and those are important and should be tackled, but by far the biggest factor is a lack of exercise. Cycling is a great way to challenge that and to get people to be healthy again. We must encourage people to live healthier lives. In Scotland, cycling as a main mode of travel has seen a 32% increase since 2003. The UK Government published their own strategy in December, but I hope that they will also look at the successful work of the Scottish Government in this area.
Inverness aims to be Scotland’s cycling city. Some 5.6% of people make their journeys to work by bike. We have four out of the top 10 council wards in Scotland for cycling to work. Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey schools have received funding for projects through the Scottish Government’s “Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets” initiative, and that has also helped. Some 64,000 people have used the Millburn Road cycle route since November 2014, which is a massive indication of the importance of that route.
In my constituency, we have the Velocity cafe and bike workshop. It is a social enterprise running several projects, such as “Women’s Cycle to Health”. The bike academy teaches mechanics in its shop. The Go ByCycle project works with four Inverness schools and offers workplace sessions on bike mechanics and safer routes to encourage people to get on their bikes. Kingussie was selected by Cycling Scotland to help develop a new cycle friendly community award. Next week I will be attending the launch of a new vision, “Cycling INverness: Creating a City Fit for the Future”, and I hope the Minister will join me in welcoming that initiative. Finally, I make a plea to him to protect the salary sacrifice scheme. It is a tax-efficient and beneficial scheme, which helps create better outcomes for health and wellbeing. I hope he will commit to ensuring that it is protected.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my hon. Friend Chris Green on securing this important debate and other Members on their contributions.
In the time I have represented Pendle, cycling has become an ever more important part of everyday life, whether that is as an activity that people participate in or through events that provide amazing spectator opportunities. In my maiden speech back in 2010, I made reference to the national road race championships, which showcased Pendle’s wonderful countryside and villages to potential future visitors. That major sporting event paved the way for similar events, such as the Colne grand prix that sees my home town centre turned into a race track for a night of racing every July. Most notably, stage 2 of the Tour of Britain last September showcased Pendle and Ribble Valley in all their glory.
Such events are more than just fun memories; they contribute to the local economy. The Tour of Britain itself brought more than £3 million into Pendle and Ribble Valley. Pendle is lucky to have many vibrant businesses linked to cycling, such as Hope Technology in Barnoldswick, which the Prime Minister visited in April 2013. It is a fine example of a firm that is benefiting from the increased interest in cycling in the UK. More than 2 million people now participate in cycling at least once a week. The interest is so great that the company has ambitious plans to build a velodrome to aid its research and development and to create an amazing facility open to the community. I think it would be the first velodrome built in the UK outside a major city.
I cannot let the opportunity pass without mentioning our Olympic hero and gold medallist, Steven Burke. His success at the London 2012 Olympics continues to be an inspiration to many aspiring riders, young and old, in Pendle. That is nowhere more evident than at the Steven Burke cycle hub, a 1 km enclosed floodlit cycle track that opened in 2015 thanks to funding from British Cycling and Sport England’s inspired facilities fund. From that excellent community facility, Cycle Sport Pendle continues to train the next generation of cyclists.
Cycling is of course much more than a spectator sport and an enjoyable pastime; it is a mode of transport. That is why I particularly welcome the Department for Transport’s announcement in December 2015 that £50 million would be provided to fund Bikeability training in our local schools. I had the pleasure of attending a Bikeability session at Sacred Heart Primary School in Colne, where I spoke to the young people involved. They told me how important it was to learn how to ride safely on our roads. Teaching young people to ride safely is important. The Government’s Cycle to Work scheme, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West mentioned, is also important.
I urge the Minister to ensure that we take the opportunity to improve our cities, towns and villages for cyclists, so that we continue to see an increase in the number of people taking to two wheels.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. Along with Alex Chalk, I co-chair the all-party parliamentary cycling group, and I refer the Chamber to its 2013 report, “Get Britain Cycling”.
I want to try and resist using the term “cyclists”, as it might imply that people who ride bikes are in some way a protected category. Most households have at least one bike in their shed or garage. Many people cycle occasionally and some cycle regularly. Many more would cycle regularly if they were encouraged to and if they felt their route was safe.
The advantages of cycling for people’s health, the economy and the public purse are clear and have been alluded to by other speakers today. However, to increase cycling, we need to see not only financial investment from the Government, but investment in political leadership and policy development and the setting of a good example. If the Dutch Government can make the journey that they have made over the past 30 to 40 years, there is no reason why the UK Government cannot follow.
Safety is at the heart of the investment strategy, for people will not get on their bikes unless they feel safe. There are a number of examples of improvements that need not cost the public purse anything but which could be described as investment in cycling. Transport for London has trained 20,000 heavy goods vehicle drivers in cycle awareness and many thousands of cyclists in HGV awareness. The “Exchanging Places” programme educates HGV drivers and cyclists in London about the problems of visibility from the driver’s cab of a cyclist trying to pass. That is now being rolled out in other cities.
There has been work in London to improve the mirrors installed in drivers’ cabs, and also to install alarms, but we ask the Department for Transport to make those mandatory. If TfL can enforce such standards in London, the Department and police authorities can surely work together to do that nationally. It would be really helpful if the DFT required all HGVs to install full-length windows on their left-hand cab doors—a small expense if it can save a life. While waiting for EU law to catch up, the DFT could set an example by requiring all contractors on major transport schemes to use such cabs.
The all-party group on cycling has invited the Secretary of State for Transport to see for himself a new generation of HGVs—I invite the Minister to see them too—as used by a company called Cemex; the lorries are made by Mercedes. We hope to bring a demonstration model into the precincts of the Palace of Westminster so that all parliamentarians can see it.
Many Members will join me in expressing deep concern about today’s story from Nottinghamshire that the Crown Prosecution Service is unable to prosecute the driver of a hire car who was filmed carrying out a brutal and deliberate hit and run attack. There is not a good defence. Nottinghamshire police can surely work out who drove the car and enforce the law.
We seek a single, national set of design guidelines, building on the excellent work of TfL and the Welsh Assembly. I hope the DFT will put aside a modest budget to house a repository of good practice knowledge.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Bone. Like other Members, I congratulate Chris Green on securing the debate this afternoon. In his opening remarks, he noted that cycling is an important part of transport policy, and he is absolutely right to mention that. Although there is a good story to tell on cycling across the UK, it could be so much better, as has been highlighted by every contribution made.
There might be a question as to why Scottish Members wish to contribute to a debate on an issue that is entirely devolved, but I hope the fact that Sir Chris Hoy comes from our part of this island puts to bed any question over our interest in cycling.
We are meeting here in the great cycling city of London. On Friday morning, I will take the Eurostar train to Paris. To take my bicycle, I would have to box it up and pay a fee of £30 to get to another great European cycling city. That would cost me more than the ticket cost me to get there in the first place—I happened to find a good deal in a sale, but it is more expensive to take a bike on Eurostar, so I hope the Minister will have discussions about that.
In my constituency in Glasgow we had the Commonwealth games, as a result of which there has been an enormous interest in cycling. Cathkin Braes in my constituency overlooks the entire city of Glasgow. There is a fantastic new development there involving the national lottery and Ardenglen Housing Association to create a new mountain biking facility. The great thing about it is that there is a special interest in making sure that it is available to local people and not just the middle-class, middle-aged men who we have heard about this afternoon. I invite all Members in this debate to come to Menock Road in my constituency and look at some of the hellish cycle lanes put down by Glasgow City Council. They will have to cycle through bins, bus stops, lamp posts and people’s driveways to have a safe cycle up and down that street.
The ambitious target in Scotland of 10% of all journeys being made by bike is an example to the UK Government. My hon. Friend Drew Hendry has already outlined some of the things the Scottish Government are doing and the fact that cash has been put in place to get more people on to their bikes. There is therefore no need for me to rehearse that, but it is something that central Government and devolved and local government can work well on, so that we start to look more like European cycling cities than we do at the minute.
Ruth Cadbury rightly mentioned the Dutch example, which has been an excellent example of a cycle-friendly place for many years. I think Members of all parties want to see the UK Government catching up with that.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate Chris Green on securing this debate.
We have heard a wide range of strong contributions today, including from my right hon. Friend Mr Bradshaw, who asked the Minister exactly the right question: why can’t we do it? Let us hope the answer is “Yes, we can”. We also heard from both co-chairs of the all-party group. I want to follow up on the comments that my hon. Friend Ruth Cadbury made about safety.
I recently met Kate, who is here watching the debate today. Her husband, Martyn, died in 2011, while on a charity cycle ride, after hitting a pothole and ending up in the path of a car. The Government said in their recent road safety statement:
“Behind each and every collision statistic there is an individual story.”
They are right: these are real policies that affect real lives. That is why investment in cycling infrastructure and safety must never be an afterthought. Kate is here today because she is passionate about making sure that we do everything possible to make sure that what happened to Martyn does not happen to others.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that we really do need concerted action to make sure that urban design guides—street scene manuals—factor in safe and, wherever possible, segregated provision for cyclists, because it does not happen enough?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right.
A few years ago, buoyed up by the fantastic British cycling achievements in the 2012 Olympics, the Prime Minister promised a cycling revolution, but as so often he has failed to deliver on that promise. He has back-pedalled. There is a real gap between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality for cyclists.
The Government say that funding for cycling in our country has risen to £6 per person per year, and that it is at over £10 per person in London and the eight cities that secured cycle city ambition grants. The figure of £10 was recommended by the all-party group in its excellent report, “Get Britain Cycling”, and I pay tribute to my predecessor, Julian Huppert, along with my hon. Friend Ian Austin, for their work. So far so good. What the Government will fail to mention is that while funding levels in London and the cycle cities lift the country’s average, funding for cycling outside those areas, after the spending review, is projected to be around just £1.39 per person.
Furthermore, the cycling and walking investment strategy is slowly making its way forward not at a cycling pace, nor at a walking pace, but at perhaps a snail’s pace. How will it be funded? Cycling has apparently been allotted £300 million in funding until 2021, but as we push for further detail, we seem to repeatedly run into a brick wall when attempting to get from the Government how much they actually intend to spend. In fact, in answer to a written question that I tabled about funding levels outside of London and the cycle cities in November, the Minister said:
“It is not possible to predict the geographical distribution of other funding for cycling at this stage.”
It therefore seems that the Department for Transport is unable to predict the outcomes of its own spending commitments. Indeed, funding has been disconnected, as others have said—split between various initiatives, bundled into grants, not ring-fenced—and data on local authority spending are no longer centrally collated.
What we do know is that the £300 million that has been promised for cycling over this Parliament includes the £114 million for the cycle city ambition grants and continued funding for Bikeability training, which we support. What funding, if any, will be left over to fund the investment part of the cycling and walking investment strategy?
There is a real danger that the Government are drawing up an investment strategy with no investment. That matters, because the strategy to improve infrastructure, which was included in the Infrastructure Act 2015 after a powerful campaign, is key to increasing cycling safety. The Conservative party promised in their election manifesto,
“to reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year”,
but the Government have failed to set national road safety targets, claiming that it is a matter for local authorities and thereby trying to absolve themselves of responsibility.
This debate is really important, because cycling safety is a key factor in encouraging people to get on their bikes in the first place. Anxiety and fear about safety stops many people cycling, especially women and older people. In London, three quarters of those aged 65 and over can ride a bike, yet only 6% ever do. Two thirds of non-cyclists and half of all cyclists say that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the road. We must put in place the right measures to make cycling a safe, accessible mode of transport for all, whatever a person’s age or gender.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Chris Green on securing this important debate on investment in cycling. Indeed, as part of the Greater Manchester cycle ambition programme, new cycleways are being built in his area: there will be some in Bolton town centre and a route towards Salford along Archer Lane. I also congratulate the hundreds of Twitter users who helped to instigate this debate.
This subject is as close to my heart as it is to the public’s, as I am a self-confessed sprocket head. Indeed, I have made three cycle journeys already today, and before joining the Government I was an active member of the all-party group on cycling. Last week, I spoke in front of that group for an hour, so although my time today is very limited, many of the Members present will have heard what I had to say on that occasion. Also, I was proud to be at last year’s Tour de Yorkshire finish line in Scarborough.
The short answer to the questions asked by Mr Bradshaw and the shadow Minister is: yes, we can. But we are of course in an era of devolution of power and budgets. We need to trust the people in the local enterprise partnerships, local authorities and combined authorities to understand the importance of cycling. The evidence so far is that that is working. Indeed, I had a meeting with some LEPs today and made it clear that cycling should be central to some of their work.
The Government want to create a walking and cycling nation, where cycling and walking become the norm for short journeys or as part of a longer journey. Our vision is of streets and public places that support walking and cycling, and a road network where infrastructure for cycling and walking is always being improved. The evidence tells us that more people would cycle if cycling on the road was made safer—incidentally, the risks in London are about the same per kilometre for cycling as they are for walking, but we do not hear people saying, “You must be crazy to walk in London.” The evidence also suggests that the greatest opportunity to increase the levels of cycling in England is to focus investment on providing infrastructure in dense urban environments and towns. Cities that have invested in infrastructure have seen significant increases in cycling.
The cycling and walking investment strategy will go some way to delivering our vision for cycling. In February 2015, the Government introduced through the Infrastructure Act 2015 a duty on the Secretary of State to set a cycling and walking investment strategy in England. Our first publication, “Setting the first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy”, was published on
In 2010, under the Labour party, for every person in this country £2 was spent on supporting cycling. Spending on cycling is currently around £6 per person across England and, as we have heard, around £10 per person in London and our eight cycling ambition cities. In future, long-term funding will be available from a wide range of sources, including the new access fund, the integrated transport block, the highways maintenance block and the local growth fund. That means that everywhere that wishes to invest £10 per head will be able to. Local enterprise partnerships are also doing what they can.
In conclusion, the Government understand the importance of a cycling revolution. We absolutely back the Prime Minister in wanting to have that revolution, and we are delivering it with both money and policies.