Active Travel — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:19 am on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Labour, Cambridge 10:19 am, 9th July 2019

I join my fellow members of the Transport Committee in thanking Robert Courts for bringing the debate. On walking, when we took evidence, it was clear that the original cycling and walking investment strategy was woefully unambitious in its targets. I hope that today the Minister will confirm much stronger targets for the future.

On cycling, I agree with the points made by my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood, the Chair of the Select Committee, and Dr Wollaston on the £1.2 billion figure, which is frequently wheeled out when in fact only a quarter of that is genuinely available for cycling. I also agree on stop-start funding; there is too much competitive bidding. Local authorities spend time setting up teams and then running them down after only a brief period of effectiveness.

I have two new points to introduce. However good a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan might be, our major strategic roads are run by Highways England, and sadly its relationship with cycling is not as good as it should be. We heard evidence from the Office of Rail and Road that that is one area where Highways England certainly needs to improve. Sadly, there are examples from my patch of Cambridge; one is from just a few days ago. People think of Cambridge as an exemplar, but Highways England does not seem to have noticed that if it shuts down a major cycleway but gives people only five days’ notice and does not provide proper diversions, people will be, quite rightly, very unhappy. Sadly, negotiations with Highways England over cycling-safe-and-friendly roundabouts and road junctions continue to be difficult. Although Highways England is good at building bridges and roads, it needs to be an agency not just for road building but for mobility. It really needs to improve its communications.

My main point is to echo the call by Andrew Selous for an electric bikes revolution. I have had my electric bike for four years, and it is transformational. I am grateful to Dr Lynn Sloman, the Transport for Quality of Life team and the Bicycle Association for highlighting how well other countries in Europe are doing, and how we are falling so far behind. A million electric bikes were sold in Germany last year; just 60,000 were sold in our country. By head of population, the Dutch are doing 25 times better than we are. Electric bikes are a simple solution to the transport crisis, so why on earth are we not doing better?

Although I welcome the improvements to the cycle to work scheme, that only benefits people who are in work, and many, many others need to be helped. The French offered a simple subsidy to encourage people and promoted it.

My mantra for many months has been revoke and remain. It is now revoke, remain and recharge.