Active Travel — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:13 am on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:13 am, 9th July 2019

It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey. I congratulate Robert Courts on securing the debate.

Let me start by mentioning horse-riding. I have to say this, because my horse-riders have been on to me. Pat Harris of the Mid Cotswolds Tracks and Trails group tells me that there are 2.9 million regular horse riders and half a million carriage users. They do not like being left out of debates about cyclists and pedestrians, because they feel they are an important part of the group of non-motorists.

On cycling, a couple of weeks ago we had a very interesting session upstairs, which was led by members of the science community. They mentioned that the number of cyclist and pedestrian accidents had flatlined recently. That is sad—obviously, we want the number of accidents to reduce considerably—but they reminded us that there are ways in which side-on accidents can be prevented. If we “think bike” when we come to a road junction, we should always be looking to avoid anything coming into conflict with us.

I am a keen cyclist. The problem is that it is getting increasingly difficult to cycle, particularly during the winter. Sadly, our roads are deteriorating beyond all recognition. Potholes are a nightmare for cyclists, but my biggest bugbear is leaves. Because we do not sweep up leaves any more, they all get pushed to the side of the road, where cyclists cycle, and they get wet and freeze. I challenge anyone to stay on a bike while going over such a slippery surface. My plea to the Minister is to ask local authorities to undertake decent road maintenance so that cyclists are prioritised. I suspect that an awful lot of accidents involving cyclists—notwithstanding the even more serious accidents involving other road users—occur because people come off their bike as a result of the road surface.

The real reason why people do not walk nowadays—the reason they do not walk their children to school in particular—is air quality. Particularly in built-up areas, the quality of the air leads people to use their cars. That is counterintuitive and wrong. We have to get children back to walking as their main way of getting about; otherwise, we will have increasing issues with obesity, which has been mentioned, and all the things that come from that. We must ensure that the Government address and prioritise these issues.