I also congratulate my co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on cycling, Andrew Selous, on securing this debate. The purpose of the APPG on cycling is not to be a cycling club; we seek to engage with Government and stakeholders to get more people cycling more often, and safely.
As has been said, cycling has many benefits, public and personal. It reduces congestion, improves air quality, improves personal health, improves mobility for people who are frail or disabled and reduces journey times for those who, like me, are London-based. It improves street design and local trading in town centres and town environments.
I am also a new convert to e-bikes; like the hon. Gentleman, I also trialled an e-bike over the Easter recess, thanks to the Green Commute Initiative. As somebody who cycles fairly regularly and has two and a half bikes myself, I was a little bit purist about such things and wondered if it was cheating, but I am definitely converted. It meant I could do the nine-mile trip between here and home without breaking too much of a sweat, but still get more exercise than I would have done sitting on a train. It was quicker and easier, and the few hills there were certainly seemed a lot less. It meant pottering around my constituency was much easier, and the main thing was that I did not have to wear different clothes, which I normally would if I were getting on my road bike and riding any distance.
I would advise all hon. Members to test an e-bike. Transport for London, through a range of London cycle stockists, is running a test scheme at the moment, and there is nothing in the blurb that says that people must be London residents—although, in fact, most Members of Parliament are London residents some or all the time. I advise them to try it and have the same experience that my colleagues have already mentioned.
On top of cycling, e-bikes in particular will get different people and different users cycling. Hon. Members have already mentioned older people, those with mobility problems or health problems for whom the energy of a main bike would be too much, and people with balance problems. E-bikes are good for cargo, particularly in cities, and for people in hilly areas for whom cycling is just too much effort. They also extend the commuting distance that normal people can do on a bike. Men in Lycra around London are a different issue, but we are not trying to get those people on to e-bikes; we are trying to get everyone else on to e-bikes.
There is no doubt that the extent of cycling and e-bike roll-out in other countries in Europe has been massive and that the UK is behind the trend, so I have some recommendations for the Government that could help us to catch up. First, OLEV should recognise e-bikes as low emission vehicles, which would unblock some subsidy options that are available to other types of e-vehicles. Secondly, the Cycle to Work scheme limit should be increased to £2,500 for e-bikes, since very few e-bikes come in below the £1,000 current limit. Thirdly, for registered disabled people, cycles and e-bikes, including e-trikes, should be incorporated into the Motability scheme to provide more mobility opportunities for people with disabilities. Only through a step change in the number of people cycling and using e-bikes will, for instance, Transport for London be able to achieve its target of taking non-private vehicle transport options up from 63% to 80%. If we do not do that in London, with an increased population it will grind to a halt.
I will go back very briefly to electric vehicles. Tesla’s showroom is in my constituency and I have also had the pleasure of looking at the new electric black cab. I have had a test drive in a Tesla, which was absolutely fantastic. I cannot afford it because they are very expensive—they are nice cars—but Tesla is also bringing out a mid-range car soon. Its big concern is the shortage of three-phase electricity. The barriers are not necessarily blockages by local authorities per se. There is an issue about getting three-phase electricity to the roadside or to industrial estates such as Tesla’s base out at Heathrow. There are issues of way leave, common-law problems of getting access over land and issues of getting access to the high-voltage transmission network.
However, I have to say to Sir Greg Knight, who was concerned about long-distance travel, that with an adequate network of fast charging points, one can take an electric vehicle several hundred miles—across to mid-France—without the journey taking any longer, because with fast phase charging one can charge the car in the time it takes to have a comfort break, something to eat and a cup of coffee. That is perfectly possible.