Active Travel — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:49 am on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth 9:49 am, 9th July 2019

Thank you. I welcome this debate. I co-chair the all-party parliamentary group on cycling, and I congratulate Robert Courts, who introduced the debate, as well as the Backbench Business Committee, which allowed it.

I will try to make points that others might not make, which is difficult as I am speaking at the beginning of the debate. The reasons for active travel are many and have already been mentioned: better air quality, the reduction of CO2 emissions, less congestion and better health. I would add another: productivity. Many of us know schools that do the extra mile in the morning, and children who do that mile run or walk are better learners during the day.

It is no coincidence that a large number of City companies pushed the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to go ahead with the east-west cycle route in London. They pushed for that because they knew that it would make their staff more productive at work, as more people cycling often reduces sickness and absence from work, and increases alertness during the working day. Since I have been more active over the last 10 years, I have certainly felt that I have higher energy levels.

When commentating on the Tour de France a few years ago, Chris Boardman made a YouTube video in which hundreds of people cycled behind him in Utrecht. He said that they were ordinary people going about their day-to-day life, and that he did not see “cyclists”, but normal people going about their life, dressed for their destination and not the journey. The Netherlands did not come by its high levels of cycling and walking by accident; it was a conscious change of policy in the 1970s as a result of parents worrying about their children’s safety. It took decades of serious financial support and leadership from the Government; that is what we need.

Issues in the justice system need to be taken on board. People will feel safe walking and cycling only when drivers are aware of more vulnerable road users and reduce risks such as close passing. We need training for professional drivers, sentencing for those who commit serious crimes, and, most importantly, investment from all Departments.